Marvin Derksen, Nfld.
If a LIFE Magazine photographer had been there, he would have "captured the moment!" It was a "study in contrasts;" an old man holding a wee babe, wrinkled hands cradling the "baby soft" form of an infant, a timeworn traveller about to "exit" gazing into the face of the One who was just commencing the journey to the cross. There was no mistaking the wondrous awe that radiated from the old manís face as he held the babe in his arms. He was holding none other than the mighty Creator who by grace had willingly stepped into His own creation. The Eternal One had entered time. The apostle would later write of Him "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). This was no ordinary moment - for the plan of the ages was about to be fulfilled and the subject of prophetic pens was now here.
Simeon had long lived for this moment. The land of Palestine had been plunged into spiritual silence and darkness for centuries. The God of revelation had not spoken for 400 years. Vital spirituality had been replaced by bustling commercialism with long prayers and empty ritualism, all of which was evidence of a cold, sterile heart toward God. It was a day when men "drew near to God with their mouths but their hearts were far from Him." There was constant talk about "deliverance" and a "deliverer" but it had nothing to do with spiritual conditions. Bankruptcy of soul was hardly given a thought. What Israel wanted most of all was to rid itself of the bondage of Rome.
The old man himself stood in marked contrast with his environment. Luke records four simple but outstanding features of Simeonís life and testimony. He was a JUST MAN. In an unjust society, there was a righteousness to his life that revealed a depth of character. There were no facades - no spiritual pretenses. What he was in public, he was also in private. Isaiahís words "The way of the just is uprightness" (Isaiah 26:7) embodied his pathway, for Simeon understood that testimony for God before men always involves integrity.
He was also DEVOUT. Simeon was part of the small, godly remnant in Israel that lived under the "all-seeing eye" of God. His heart had been tuned to hear the voice of God and he had lived his life in the conscious presence of the Almighty. His very name means "hearing" or "heard"- a reality that speaks of dealings with God. Centuries before, Leah, understanding that the Lord had heard of her despised position, had named her second son "Simeon" (Genesis 29:33). Now, a namesake would also appreciate the great blessing of having been heard of God. His devotion had found its focus in the great affirmation from heaven, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word" (Isaiah 66:2).
A third feature of Simeonís life was that he was WAITING for the "consolation of Israel." The future was not only of interest to him but it had captivated his heart and his hope. The great fact revealed to him in the past by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lordís Christ now lived with him in the present and motivated him in power. Every day began with the great possibility "Perhaps this will be THE DAY!" Nothing else really mattered to Simeon. This alone was his focus.
A similar reality faces every believer in these closing days of grace. Our Lord is coming - and we wait for His return. But how do we wait? Itís been said that there are three different classes of "adventists"! There are those who BELIEVE in His appearing and know the facts. Prophecy with them is a subject to study and discuss but little affects everyday life. Secondly, there are those who LOOK FOR His appearing. Facts are focused and they begin to have a sanctifying effect upon thoughts, habits, and life-style. Finally, there are those who LOVE His appearing. These saints "live in the fact" and the prospect warms and beautifies their lives and infuses every aspiration and dream. Such a man was Simeon who longed for "the moment."
Luke concludes his portrait of Simeon by saying that "the Holy Ghost was upon him." These are simple words, but of great significance. The Spiritís workings with Simeon that had begun with salvation also included the revelation of the coming Messiah and his own personal witness. It had not been by a "sign in the sky" but by a "communication to the heart." Ungrieved and unquenched, the Spiritís power was now about to be revealed in wondrous direction and guidance, for Simeon came "by the Spirit" into the temple. Unlike Old Testament saints where the Spirit was "upon them," New Testament believers enjoy the great reality of the Spirit "within them." His work is a work of conviction, of guiding into all truth, of revealing things to come, and of glorifying and revealing Christ (John 16:8-14). The scripture exhorts us to be "filled with the Spirit" and to "understand the will of the Lord" (Ephesians 5: 17-18). Sadly, there is the great potential in every believer to quench the Spirit in His directives to us and to grieve Him by a sinful life-style and an unresponsive heart. Simeonís life was marked by the blessing of the Spiritís presence and power.
The moment had come! Prompted by the Spirit, the old man made his way to the temple for the fulfillment of the promise given to him in the past. He was to see the Christ, the Sent-One, His Redeemer. Patiently he stood, eagerly waiting for the sight that would thrill his heart. A young couple drew near, holding a babe in their arms. Simeon, knowing that this was The One, put out his hands and tenderly gazed into the face of the Christ of God. With holy reverence, his lips moved with adoration and praise, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation - a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." It was enough. The Saviour had really come. Simeon could depart in peace.
That moment, so long anticipated, was filled with eternal significance. In a very similar way, the moment of our Lordís return for Whom we wait today is linked with identical realities. Godís promises are true - and in only a little while, "he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry" (Hebrews 10:37). What did that moment mean for Simeon?
It was a MOMENT of MANIFESTATION, when faith gave way to sight. For years Simeon had lived in anticipation, but now the Saviour was in full view. John would write years later that "our hands handled" the Word of Life. Others would handle the Christ with treachery and betrayal but Simeon held the babe with worship and awe. What will be our response when we see our Saviour face to face? What will be the thoughts that course through our souls as we see the One who died for us? That moment is not far off.
It was a MOMENT of REVELATION concerning his departure. The Spiritís promise was that he would not see death until he had seen the Saviour. Now he could depart in peace. Lifeís greatest blessing had become personal and eternityís prospect was filled with the glory of his Lord. Simeonís prayer, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace" finds an echo in Paulís words as the apostle states, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). Life had nothing greater to offer - no one greater to embrace.
Heavenís greatest blessing allowed Simeon to face death with joy and peace. Wonderfully, contact with Christ always brings peace. Is that not the same reality that faces every believer? His imminent return will result in our immediate departure. Snatched away - raptured home -caught up from a restless, sinking world to be with Him forever.
It was finally a MOMENT of CONSOLATION for a burdened soul. Simeon had been waiting for the true Comforter to come. A soul in tune with heaven can never find rest and comfort in a corrupt world. Like the dove sent out by Noah, which ultimately returned having found no resting place, so every believer must finally turn again to heaven to find true rest for the soul. The world of injustice, selfishness, hatred, arrogance, hypocrisy, unbelief and heartaches only crushes the spirit and we long to be comforted by our God. Such was Simeonís age and such is ours.
The need for comfort is pressing and God, in His grace, moves to meet that need sometimes through the ministry of a believer like Barnabas, the son of consolation. At other times, the Spirit of God, Himself the Comforter, uses the "comfort of the scriptures" (Rom. 15:4) to give us hope and assurance. In the depths of our sorrows and tears He has promised to be with us as the "God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3). But ultimately, our eternal comfort will be centered in the Christ of God who will draw us to Himself and thrill us with the comfort and love of His heart for the ages to come.
Simeonís moment had come. Ours will soon be here. We still walk by faith in anticipation. But the day will soon dawn when we shall see Him. No wonder John wrote "Even so come Lord Jesus."