Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Consolation of Israel

I am thankful that we have a celebration each year that compels us to think on the wonder of the incarnation. It is as helpful as the yearly reminder on the crucifixion we get at Easter. Of course, the two are bound together intimately, obviously, but no harm is done by enjoying each individual facet of the jewel that is Christ. Today, I want to point out one of my very favorite characters in Scripture: Simeon.

Simeon's story is found in Luke 2. Here is Luke's description of the man:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (Luke 2:25-26).

Picture Simeon as one of the last of the Old Testament prophets for indeed he was a prophet. He and his brothers the prophets had endured pestilence, plague, war, bondage, captivity, persecution and martydom for the sake of the gospel. Yes, the Old Testament prophets suffered for the sake of the gospel. The were men of sorrow, anguishing over the sins of Israel. They held on through the steadfast hope that someday, God would change the hearts of His people and rescue them from their sins.

Here is Isaiah's hope on the cusp of impending doom:

For to us a child is born,to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this
(Is. 9:6-7).

And here is Daniel's hope:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed
(Dan. 7:13-14).

This precious promise of God is what kept the prophets from despair. This hope is what kept Israel together as they languished under the tyranny of Egypt, Phillistia, Babylon, Assyria, and Rome. They waited, in mourning, for their Emmanuel. The faithful remnant waited and years turned to decades which turned to centuries. And still they waited.

Until one day a prophet named Simeon awoke full of the Holy Spirit and went up to the Temple. Today was the day that he would hold the Lord's Christ, the consolation of Israel. Finally, the prophets could rest in peace.

Ever wonder why Luke calls the Messiah "the consolation of Israel"? What is a consolation? It is a comfort, an encouragement. All the horrors that Israel has endured will be comforted by the Messiah. All her trials will be vindicated. And what is the consolation? Simeon's God had come to him as He had come to no prophet before him, not in a whisper or a dream or a fire or a whirlwind, but in flesh. Simeon beheld his God in the form of babe. He held his God in his arms. He circumcised his own Lord. He who was the fulfillment of the covenant promise was Himself under God's covenant. God had come as an Israelite, born of a virgin, born of the tribe of Judah, born as the son of David.

Can you imagine one gift that would put an end to complaint and end all suffering? Can you imagine a gift that would set the world free? Jesus Christ is that gift. Simeon held him and declared: Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).

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