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. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law…
… And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:25-38)
Most of the worshippers who crowded the temple on that day when the infant Jesus was dedicated and the service of purification was performed for Mary, had no idea that on that day the scripture was fulfilled, that “The Lord whom you seek shall come suddenly to His temple …”.
There was no way other than a revelation from God himself, to discern in the poor couple squeezing through the crowds with a swaddling babe in their arms and the poor person’s offering of two turtle-doves; that it was the Messiah himself that they held in their arms. Flesh and blood could not reveal this mystery but, the Father in heaven did to those who were ready and had ears to hear.
Simeon was an aged man whose life embodied those qualities which exemplified the pure and simple piety of the true remnant of Israel. He feared God, and was just towards all men, and longed expectantly for the hope of the promise to Israel. The 25th Psalm proclaims, that “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him…”, and true to his word God shared a secret with Simeon.
Simeon was told that He would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
As Simeon passed through the temple on that day, He saw Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in their arms. Quickened by the Holy Spirit, the aged man began to prophesy, as he took the child up in his own arms.
* Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation … Jesus takes the sting out of death; seeing him who had come to die for us, allowed the aged saint to pray to “depart in peace”, having seen God’s salvation.
* Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Jesus would either make or break all of Israel, depending on her response to Him. He would be a stumbling stone, a contradiction, even a crisis to the nation. The nation will be divided by him, neutrality towards him would be an impossibility.
The remnant of Israel who would recognize in him, the salvation of God, and consequently would fall upon him in humble faith and dependence, would be saved. Those who would reject him would one day be crushed at his second coming, thus utterly and eternally destroyed.
* (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) The effects of His coming would be personal as well as national. No one would be exempt from having to take a side, not even Mary and Joseph. The coming of Jesus would run a dividing line straight through the heart of every man.
* … that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. The truth about every individual’s inner disposition towards God would be revealed by the coming and ministry of this child. The effect of the life of Jesus would be to strip away the mask of both good and evil. Those who truly love God will be drawn to Jesus, and inevitably will accept Him as Immanuel, God with us, in the flesh.
Those who only pretend to be pious and devoted will be exposed as frauds for they will either reject Jesus or seek to redefine Him to fit their own (false) self-serving ideas of what God is like. In this way the child would be like a touchstone, a revealer of motives and true intent.
The child would indeed provoke an incredibly intense and lasting strife between good and evil, in the soul of everyman, and throughout the world until the end of time. The nearer Jesus comes to the heart the more conscious one is of his own guilt. Either a person will be compelled to seek God’s forgiveness or to reject God entirely. Either way a person is never the same after encountering this child.
Simeon wasn’t alone, for out of the mouth of two witnesses let all be confirmed.
There was a widow named Anna who made the temple her constant refuge. She had only been married for seven years, when she was widowed and was 84 years old at this time. She too recognized the LORD in the lowly infant, and spoke of Him to all who would listen, awaiting the consolation of Israel.