HOPE in the Consolation of Israel

HOPE in the Consolation of Israel

TEXT: Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 49:8-10,13

Have you ever had to wait for something good? I was going to just ask about waiting, but the first thing that came to my mind was the DMV, so I wanted to clarify: Have you ever had to wait for something good? I remember being a kid and waiting for Christmas morning… it was like time ran slower and slower and then I couldn’t fall asleep. I remember waiting to hear about college acceptances – a mix of not knowing who would say ‘yes’ and who would say ‘no’ and also not knowing for sure where I wanted to go. I remember waiting for our children to be born, though some came earlier than others!  😊 

Then there’s the kind of waiting where things are hard while you are waiting for some hopeful news. Maybe that’s waiting for test results from the doctor. Maybe that’s waiting for your family member to get home safely while there are storms or traffic backups on the road.

Today and over the next several weeks we are going to look at the story of two different people who knew what it was to wait. This is what Advent is about. It is about waiting expectantly for what God is going to do. We wait expectantly for the celebration of Christmas and Jesus being born into the world. We also wait expectantly for what God is yet to do. Waiting is hard, but it is one of the things most talked about in scripture. Psalm after Psalm talks about “waiting on the Lord.” I believe Simeon and Anna will help us with some of the waiting periods we go through as human beings.

What Faith Looks Like (vv. 25-26)

Today I am going to focus on the first two verses of Simeon’s story: a man in Jerusalem who was “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (v.25) It had been revealed to him by God’s Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ, God’s Messiah. (v.26)

From those verses I want to lift up three things about Simeon:

He was faithful with what he knew
He was hopeful for what God had promised
He experienced God’s presence in his life

I think there is a logical order to those things. While God might re-arrange the order on occasion, this is the usual way faith manifests in a person’s life. Let’s consider them in order.

1. Simeon was faithful with what he knew

Luke describes Simeon as righteous and devout. He was a faithful Jewish man and kept the Law. He observed the sacrifices, kept the festivals, and frequented the Temple. He knew the Hebrew scriptures – the Law, the Writings, the Prophets. He knew the story of God and the covenant promises to Abraham. He knew the prophets, especially Isaiah, because we read that he was waiting for the “consolation of Israel” – Isaiah’s language for God’s Messiah.

2. Simeon was hopeful for what God had promised

Simeon’s faithfulness led him to trust and wait on the Lord for what God promised in the scriptures. God had made a covenant with Abraham to bless his children and through them to bless all the nations. God had renewed that covenant with King David to promise an eternal King and Kingdom. And God had spoken through prophets like Isaiah to promise an “anointed one” or Messiah who would at once be Deliverer, Redeemer, and a Servant who would save God’s people and the world. Isaiah, in particular, spoke of this Messiah as the Comforter or Consolation of Israel. I used one representative passage from Isaiah in our first reading today so you could see some of that language of salvation, help, covenant, restoration, release, compassion, and joy expressed as God’s “comfort of His people” (Isaiah 49:8-13). This was Simeon’s hope!

3. Simeon experienced God’s presence in his life

In this hopeful life of faithfulness Simeon experienced God’s presence, God’s Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit God revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. And as we’ll see in coming weeks, the Holy Spirit seemed to lead Simeon and Jesus’ family together at the temple. Simeon was listening to God and looking for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

What are you Waiting For?

What are you waiting for? And what does God have to do with it? Are your hopes focused on God?

Let’s be honest – no they aren’t, at least not in many situations. We wait for the stock market to go up or gas prices to go down. We wait for a miracle cure or for COVID to go away. We wait for Mr. or Mrs. Right (that’s ‘Right’ without a ‘W’). We wait to grow up, then we wait for retirement. Especially when things are hard and we are struggling, we wait for some kind of salvation or hope to make it all better. And that’s human; I do it and I imagine each of you do it.

What I love about Simeon, and what challenges me about Simeon, is the purity of his faith and hope. And if it helps, I’m sure he had other hopes and dreams that were not as perfect and pure. But I see in him a mature faith, one that had been cultivated through learning and obeying the scripture, demonstrated in a life-long hope and trust in God’s goodness and God’s faithfulness, and manifested in God’s presence in his life. That’s the kind of faith that shapes and re-shapes and re-defines all those other waits and hopes that we latch on to. That’s what I want and what I want to hold out to you today.

It’s okay and right to want things to change, healing to come, help to arrive. But are our hopes paper anchors like lotteries, internet answers, and wishful thinking? Or are our hopes increasingly anchored in the wisdom, power, justice, compassion, and goodness of God? That’s the kind of hope I want. And that’s the kind of hope I want for you!

If Simeon is any example for us – and I think he is! – we can begin by being faithful with what we know, daily seeking to learn more and be more faithful to God’s Word. That will lead us to a more sure hope in God’s promises and provision for us and an experience of God in our lives. That’s what I want and that’s what I want for you!

Coming Next

We’ll look at more of this story in the coming weeks. Next week we will consider the LOVE of God described in this passage and in Simeon’s prayer. In later weeks we’ll look at what it means to experience JOY, even in the midst of sorrow. And we will look at Anna’s story and the PEACE of a prayer-filled life. I hope you will not only join us for those stories, but take them to heart and implement them in your own lives as we prepare once again to come to the story of Christmas and the birth of Jesus the Messiah into the world. Amen.

Now That I’ve Held Him in My Arms
Michael Card

An old man in the temple waiting in the court
Waiting for the answer to a promise
And all at once he sees them in the morning sunshine
A couple come and carrying a baby

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can now come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace

‘Cause I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles

And the glory of His people Israel

Mary and the baby come and in her hand five shekels
The price to redeem her baby boy
The baby softly cooing nestled in her arms
Simeon takes the boy and starts to sing

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can now come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace

‘Cause I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles

And the glory of His people Israel

Now’s the time to take Him in your arms
Your life will never come to an end
He’s the only way that you’ll find peace

He’ll give you salvation
‘Cause He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel

Some Music Used

  • Preludes
    • O Come, All Ye Faithful
    • Joy to the World/Unspeakable Joy
    • O Come, O Come Emmanuel
    • Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent (Travis) – Cathy Youngblood, organ
  • Choir: Let All Mortal Flesh (Young)
  • Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus (HYFRYDOL)
  • King of Kings (Hillsong)
  • Sermon-Song: Now that I’ve Held Him in My Arms (Michael Card)
  • Great are You, Lord (Bethel)