Thursday, December 16, 2021

Israel’s Consolation


 

One of the often overlooked characters in the cast of Christmas is Simeon. Mentioned only in Luke’s Gospel, this man somehow recognized the baby Jesus as the promised Messiah. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to be presented to the Lord; this was in accordance with the Mosaic law’s requirement concerning firstborn sons. It was while they were at the temple that Simeon perceived that Jesus is the Christ. 

 

From his statement we learn that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had the opportunity to see the Messiah with his own eyes. Having now held Jesus in his arms, Simeon said he could die in peace because he had seen God’s salvation. Although we do not know much about Simeon outside of this passage, I love the way Luke describes him: “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him (2:25).”

 

What does it mean to wait for the consolation of Israel? This is part of how Luke proves Simeon was devout, for a common prayer that Jews prayed was, “May I see the consolation of Israel!” The phrase referred to the Jews’ hope that the Messiah would come. The word consolation carries the idea of comfort and encouragement, and one of the titles for the Messiah was the Comforter. The idea goes all the way back to the prophet Isaiah. 

 

In 40:1 we read, “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Then dropping down to verse ten the prophet identifies the Lord as the one who would be sent by God to bring comfort. Based on this, Jews looked forward to God sending the Lord who would be the comforter, or the one who would bring consolation to Israel. The nation needed consolation because it was the silent era and God had not spoken through a prophet in 400 years. More than that, they needed consolation because they needed saving from their sins. Isaiah 40 was written as a promise that, even though Israel would be exiled to a foreign land, God would one day restore them. 

 

That served as a metaphor for humanity being captives to their own sin, but God’s Comforter would come and set them free and put them in a right relationship with God. 

 

If the world needed a soldier, God would have sent a five star general. 

If the world needed a monarch, God would have sent a dynastic king. 

If the world needed a fighter, God would have sent a heavyweight champion. 

If the world needed a teacher, God would have sent a wise scholar. 

But the world needed a Savior, so God sent His perfect Son, an innocent baby. 

If the world needed a thinker, God would have sent Plato. 

If the world needed a mathematician, God would have sent Einstein. 

If the world needed an inventor, God would have sent Edison.

If the world needed an artist, God would have sent Michelangelo.

But the world needed a Savior, so God sent Jesus. 

 

Simeon got to see the consolation of Israel because He recognized Jesus as the only Savior for mankind’s spiritual captivity, and you can do the same. We can sing along with the great hymn writer Charles Wesley: 

 

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee. 

Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear Desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

 

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King;

Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;

By Thine all sufficient merit raise us to Thy glorious throne. 

 

No comments: