The God Receiver
Are you holding onto a promise that has not yet been fulfilled? Are you still hopeful that God is going to do just what He said He was going to do?
Reading the familiar Nativity story, there are a lot of surprised people. We first think of the shepherds who were minding their sheep and were interrupted with the first recorded broadcast “Breaking News” alert. Mary and Joseph themselves were also a little taken back with their roles in the story when they were first notified. Even King Herod had to hurriedly mobilize his forces. The birth of Christ was a divine encounter kept under wraps from everyone and taking everyone by surprise—with one notable exception.
It’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible how old Simeon was but one orthodox tradition places him around 200. The man described in Luke 2 as “righteous and devout” was, by divine providence, in the temple when the new parents brought their baby for consecration. He was carrying a promise the Holy Spirit gave him that before his life was over and his heart stopped beating, he would behold the Son of God, the Christ child. “It had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts,” (Luke 2:26, 27 NIV).
Perhaps he received that word from the Holy Spirit as a young man, carrying it for years, always trusting that God was going to come through. His eyes would behold that glory! Is it possible that in times of illness, he rested in that promise, knowing his time to die had not yet come? Having possibly lived for two centuries or more, if he himself didn’t struggle with doubts, maybe others around him were not as confident, watching his frail body deteriorate with each passing day. “Please don’t bring the will for me to sign again–I haven’t seen God yet. I have a promise. It’s not over until He says it’s over.”
During an afternoon volunteering at a nursing home, I couldn’t help but notice a bed-bound frail man who could no longer formulate words. His face was frozen into a shocked look and he communicated nonverbally by raising hands and uttering grunts and sighs. A staff person referred to him as “Doc” and explained he’d spent a good portion of his energetic young life as a missionary medical doctor in foreign lands. He had given God the best years of his life and was now waiting for the final promise. In that home, he may have been forgotten by the world. But he still had God’s attention. His promise was coming.
Simeon had a word from God, a priceless treasure that others would only dream about. It was like a golden ticket to be among the first to meet the most amazing person who ever lived. But this was not a typical red carpet event.
Because Jesus’ journey would take such unexpected turns, his arrival was humble and quiet. There was a party and worship on the hillsides and the manger, but not in the halls of power. It was all kept on the down low and still God couldn’t help but whisper it to Simeon. He gave this righteous man advance notice. “Keep a look out for my Son. He’s going to change everything.”
How would you like that have that type of relationship with God where He gives you that type of preview? Thirty years later, God would once again show His Fatherly pride, boasting to everyone at the Jordan River, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Even God gets to do some bragging at times.
Simeon took the Christ child in his arms and worshipped the Lord:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).
Holding the Son of God, Simeon, who had spent his life as a righteous man and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, changed that day from being a God chaser to what Alexei Egorov called “The God-Receiver” in his painting from the early 1800s. What a title! In all of the characters of the gospels, God-receiver, to me, is up there with the superlatives “the Rock” and “the Beloved.” Bottom of the list, as we know, would be “the Doubter” and “the Betrayer.”
Today, in the age of cell phones and social media, newborn babies are quite the celebrities. Your friends or family members are having a baby and one of the most fun things to do is to get there and welcome that child to the world. Then you make a call or send a picture or make a social media post, boasting to others, “Look who I’m holding! My sister had her baby!” “Really? Well, you know old Simeon from the temple? He just texted a selfie with the newborn Son of God!” Okay, Simeon, you win. What an awesome privilege to hold the Savior of the universe in your arms and to bless His name face-to-face. “Oh, I want to see him, look upon His face, there to sing forever of His saving grace.” Simeon did that.
In his heartfelt song of praise, Simeon acknowledged the universal ministry of Christ, which transcended just being a leader of the Jewish people. He would be a light to all. After his song, however, he prophesied, “This child is destined to cause the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed” (vv. 34, 35a). Then, foreshadowing the crucifixion and the loss Mary herself would experience, he added “And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (v. 35b).
On this day, God blessed Simeon with the fulfillment of a longtime promise. But he also used this opportunity to bless God and this family by confirming the future ministry of the child. This “light of revelation” and “glory to Israel” would also be a divisive figure, sifting the righteous from the unrighteous, spotlighting the shameful thoughts of phony holy rollers. It wasn’t going to be an easy road and Simeon was most likely the first one to truly acknowledge that. Pastors, try mixing in a little harsh reality into your next baby dedication and see what happens.
Then Simeon disappears. His biblical story finishes there and I would imagine his life ended shortly thereafter, as he seemingly acknowledged by the word “dismiss.” The promise had been fulfilled, his number had finally been called, and he was faithful to the very end.
What has God promised you? Did the Holy Spirit speak life into a situation that seems hopeless right now? Hold on to that word. Did he tell you that “all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord?” Believe it. There will be a day of fulfillment, where you behold the glory of God just as Simeon did. Trust Him.