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The Consolation of Israel

Date: Dec. 25, 2016

Author: Michael Mark

Luke 2:22-35

Key Verse: Luke 2:25

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.”

Merry Christmas!  After a month of anticipation, the day is finally here – Christmas day, on which we celebrate the birth and first advent of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Last week, we heard about the message given by angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem, “Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”  The angels testified that the child Jesus was the Messiah.  In today’s passage, taking place a few weeks later, we see Simeon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, also testify that Jesus is the Messiah.  While the angels testified out in the open fields of Bethlehem, Simeon testified in the temple in Jerusalem.  He was a man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel.  Consolation means comfort, and he received great comfort when he saw Jesus with his own eyes.  Are you in need of some peace and comfort?  Would you like to receive that as a gift the Christmas?  Want to know where to get it?  There is only one, namely God, who can really give you true peace and true comfort.  This Christmas, may the Lord open your eyes to see his Messiah, so that you may receive peace and comfort, just as Simeon did.

Our passage begins with Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to the temple.  Look at v.22, “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.”  There were three rituals in Jewish tradition that had to be followed for the firstborn son, according to their Law.  On the eighth day after a boy is born, he is to be circumcised.  This was a mark showing he belonged to God’s people.  Second, the Law required that every firstborn male was to be consecrated to the Lord (v.23).  This tradition comes from the event where God struck down every firstborn man and animal in Egypt, in order to powerfully deliver the Israelites from slavery.  Every firstborn Israelite male therefore belonged to the Lord.  After 30 days, the child can be redeemed for the price of 5 shekels, which is about $30 in today’s money.  So for all of you parents, if you kept your son, you would have to pay the temple $30 to redeem them.  But all this was done to remember and commemorate that great salvation.  The third ritual is the purification of the mother.  40 days after the birth of a child, she would have to come to the temple and offer a lamb and either 1 pigeon or 1 dove as a sin offering.  If the family could not afford a lamb, they could bring two pigeons or two doves instead.  We see in v.24 that the parents Joseph and Mary brought a pair of doves or pigeons, indicating that Jesus was born into a poor family.  The purification ritual shows how deeply ingrained sin is in the human race – that even childbirth causes defilement!  It was a reminder to Joseph, Mary and to all of us that we need to be cleansed of our sins by the grace of God.  So 40 days after the birth of Christ, Joseph, Mary and the child went to Jerusalem to go to the temple.

It was here we meet Simeon.  The Holy Spirit had moved him to come to the temple at the same time Joseph and Mary were bringing Jesus.  We are not told if he is a priest, but we do know that he was considered righteous and devout by God.  He was devoted to God.  We also learn from verse 25 that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel.  As mentioned earlier, consolation means comfort.  You could also say he was waiting for the comfort of Israel.  Israel needed comfort for many reasons.  They were oppressed by the Roman Empire.  A census was taken and everyone had to register, no one was exempt, not even pregnant women.  Mary had to walk 90 miles while she was pregnant, to register to be taxed!  The Jewish people, the people of God, were subject to much humiliation.  What’s more, before Christ was born it had been about 400 years since God sent a prophet to speak to them.  We say 400 years because that was time before the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament.  We need comfort even in our day.  The world we live in is corrupted by sin, death and disease.  Last week a driver accidentally swerved and hit our car while Mary was driving, but it drove away.  People are killing other people over minor disputes.  There are stories of people shooting others in a parking lot just because they were angry.  A road rage incident involved a man killing a boy while his grandmother was driving.  Imagine the pain and anguish of that grandmother.  Our day to day lives give us enough troubles every day.  Our relatives or children, or we ourselves may be sick, or struggling with school or making friends.  Some times when I hear about issues with my family members I don’t even know what to pray, except to write and cry out mercy Lord, mercy Lord, have mercy Lord!  I cry out, even for my own sins, and my inability to help.  From time to time, we all need consolation, and comfort.  But we will not find true consolation or comfort in this world, this world is what gives us grief.  The true consolation is the consolation that comes from God, and found in the consolation of Israel.

Verse 25 says Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel.  He was waiting for it.  He believed the promises given to him by the Holy Spirit.  He was looking for it.  He hoped for it, as evidenced by his joy when he saw it.  Let us also wait for the consolation that is from heaven.  Simply put, to wait for the consolation is to have faith in Christ, but I’d like to elaborate to show what that faith looks like and compare with Simeon.  Simeon believed, looked, hoped for the consolation of Israel.  The Holy Spirit helped him do all this, and by faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit will help you too.  Believe in the promises given by the Holy Spirit.  These promises are found throughout the Bible.  There are promises of the redemption of our bodies, of ourselves, and the redemption of the whole world.  There are promises of the complete destruction of sin and death.  There are promises that God will walk among us once again.  Look for the promises in the word of God, the Bibles found in your homes – search them to see what God has said through his Holy Spirit.  Have a living hope in the permanent comfort that is to come, and bear patiently.  There were very few such as Simeon.  The Israelites knew about the prosperity that the Messiah would bring, but there were few that were found faithful, righteous and devout in difficult times.  We need patience, we need strength.  Endure and bear patiently the hardships that afflict you, rely on the assurance of God’s consolation.  Seek the Lord for help, whenever you need.  Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Those who hope in the Lord will never be disappointed.

See how Simeon responded when his hope of seeing the Messiah was fulfilled – in verse 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.  He was overjoyed, and overwhelmed that he burst into praise.  We can find much consolation in the words of his song.  Look at v.29, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.”  One of the great sources of consolation, or comfort, is to know that God is sovereign.  Simeon says, “Sovereign Lord.”  God is Sovereign.  He is in control.  He calls the shots.  Sometimes he does things that we cannot fully understand, but his own purposes are always good.  In the end God will always be justified, because he alone is perfectly holy and righteous.  He is ruler over all, over good and evil – the devil cannot even do anything without God’s permission.  Find comfort in knowing that God is sovereign.  Next Simeon says, “as you have promised.”  We can find consolation in the fact that God is a man of his word.  God always keeps the promises that he makes, and thousands of years are nothing to him.  He still keeps his word.  He made a promise to Adam and Eve to crush the head of the serpent.  2,000 years later, he made a promise to Abraham that the whole world will be blessed through him, by an offspring of his.  1,000 years after Abraham, he made a promise to King David that a descendant of his will reign for ever.  All of these promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  All of these promises, fulfilled in this little child that Simeon is amazingly holding in his arms.  And he has made a promise to us that Jesus will surely come again.  The last part of the verse says “you may now dismiss your servant in peace.”  This is another way of saying, “I can now die in peace.”  Sometimes you get that feeling right, when you eat some amazing ice cream, or tres leche cake?  But here you can see the impact of the consolation of Christ.  The fear of death is gone.  Simeon has no fear of death.  In fact, death would mean something better – it would mean salvation and eternal life.  When he saw Christ, he could agree with the apostle Paul, who wrote, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Php 1:21)” 

Simeon continues his praise in v.30-32, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”  Simeon could die in peace now because his eyes have seen God’s salvation.  God’s salvation refers to Jesus Christ.  You could think of salvation as a person – salvation is Jesus, because salvation only comes from Jesus.  He once said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).”  The resurrection is a person – Jesus is the resurrection. In Acts 4:12 Peter declares this about Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  To be saved you must repent and believe in Jesus.  Jesus is God’s salvation, prepared, as Simeon says, in the sight all nations.  This was not done in a corner or some isolated place in the world.  When Jesus was crucified, the world saw.  Romans and Jews from all over the world that gathered for Passover witnessed God’s plan of salvation.  The word traveled so far and so high that in 380AD, Christianity was made the only state religion of the Roman Empire.  Jesus is the light for revelation to the Gentiles.  As John says, he is the light of the world.  What Simeon is referring to in his song is that Jesus’ salvation extends to the ends of the earth, and this light for revelation is the knowledge of salvation.  The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin, but Jesus is the light that reveals the way to salvation.  He is also the glory of Israel, because his physical lineage traces back to Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel).  In this salvation we can find comfort and consolation.  The salvation we receive is salvation from sin, from death, and from the wrath of God.  Salvation is eternal righteousness instead of sin, eternal life instead of death, and eternal peace instead of the wrath of God; and this salvation is found only in Christ.

Look at Joseph and Mary’s response in v.33, “The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.”  They were amazed, and in awe.  Even though an angel appeared to both of them regarding the child, they still had a lot to learn about their divine son, and they were amazed by what they heard from Simeon.  May your faith in Christ grow in the same way – that you may constantly be amazed by what you learn about Christ through the Bible.  Simeon blessed them, and said this to Mary, because part of it relates specifically to her, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  Jesus is the difference between eternal life and eternal death, he is the difference between salvation and condemnation.  Those who fall are those who will be judged, and those who rise are those who will be saved.  He is the precious cornerstone, on which the church is built.  But he is also the stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall (1 Pet 2:6,8).  1 Cor 1:23 says, “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  It is a stumbling block to the Jews because they could not imagine their Messiah to be a suffering servant punished to death, and it is foolishness to the Gentiles because they do not understand how the death of someone can spiritual save souls, or that there is only one way to God.  Most probably do not even believe in the God of Israel in the first place.

The world hates God.  Ever since sin entered into the world all humanity has been at war with God.  Jesus is the sign that is spoken against because he has declared himself to be God and to be equal with God.  This is also the reason he is a stumbling block.  He is God in human flesh, and because God is in him, the world has violently opposed him.  Jesus said “whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:23).”  This is how the thoughts of many hearts have been revealed.  Many people will say that they are good people, and they do good things.  They donate to charity, give food to the poor, recycle – but when it comes to honoring Jesus as God they refuse.  Is this not the same as rejecting your parents?  But it’s more serious – they have rejected their Creator.  Christians should also examine their hearts.  Is your faith in Christ?  Do you honor the Son, and is your life, are your actions consistent with your belief?  Lastly Simeon says a sword will pierce Mary’s soul.  He is referring to the death of Jesus on the cross, and Mary, his physical mother will witness this.  She will be filled with sorrow, to see her own son killed, it will be like a sword piercing her soul.  But Simeon tells her this in advance, so that when it happens, she will not fall away.  She will still feel the deep pain, but this will help her to remain faithful.  How are these words any comfort and consolation to Mary, and to us?  These are in fact, and it sounds foolish, incredible words of consolation, because they tell us that Jesus will die for us.

Jesus came to die to pay the penalty for all of our sins.  That’s why he came, and the cross is where our comfort comes from.  Isaiah 40:1,2 says, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  Our sins have been paid for, there is no more punishment but an expectation of comfort.  Jesus is God’s gift to you, and he came to fulfill the Law, all for you.  Do you remember in the beginning of the passage – Jesus went through circumcision and redemption, and his mother through purification?  Jesus fulfilled all of these things for you.  In Christ, you are circumcised in the heart – set apart as God’s people.  In Christ, you have been redeemed, bought by his body to be set free from slavery to sin and death.  And in Christ you are cleansed, washed clean by his blood.  He was the sacrifice for your sins.  He fulfilled God’s Law for you, he did it perfectly, so that you are not saved by your own works of the Law, but by grace.  Jesus is God’s grace to you.  Thank God for sending his Son, who is the consolation of Israel, the comfort and salvation for all people.  Thank Jesus for sending the Holy Spirit, who is also called the Comforter, to help us.  The consolation of Israel brought comfort to Simeon, and comfort to many in Israel who received salvation through Christ.  May the consolation of Israel also bring you comfort and help you in all your struggles, to know that God is with you through Christ, so that you may wait on Christ until he comes again and have hope for your redemption, restoration and salvation, and have life eternal and everlasting.  Christ is God’s gift to you, and with him comes real comfort and real peace.  Praise God for Jesus Christ!  Merry Christmas!

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The Result of Complacency and Pride

Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

  “I abhor the pride of Jacob
    and hate his strongholds,
    and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

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