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The Consolation of Israel

Luke 2:30–32 (ESV) … “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.”

Our attention is drawn to a man named Simeon, a godly man who was waiting for “the consolation of Israel” (2:25). This verse tells us that the Holy Spirit was upon him. Simeon had been given inner assurance that he would not die until he had actually seen the Lord’s Christ (2:26).

Some scholars have suggested that Simeon was the son of the famous rabbi Hillel and the father of Paul’s tutor Gamaliel. This Simeon became president of the Sanhedrin in a.d. 13. The Mishna, however, which tells of the great rabbis and their achievements, ignores Simeon—perhaps because of his belief in Christ. In any case, he was looking forward to “the consolation of Israel.” The phrase was used among the Jews as a formula of blessing. The name Simeon means “hearing.” The Bible says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). This suggests that Simeon spent much of his time pouring over the prophetic page.

The Old Testament Jews revered the Scriptures; nevertheless, the Old Testament was full of unattainable precepts, unfulfilled promises, and unexplained procedures. The apostle Paul later described his own inability to keep the law (Rom. 7). And to what purpose were all of the endless sacrifices and ceremonies of Old Testament religion? And what about the multitude of prophecies that remained unfulfilled?

Old Simeon understood that these seeming deficiencies could be resolved only in the person of Christ (Dan. 9:24–26). Christ was the answer to his incomplete Bible. The Spirit of God made clear to him that he would see Him when He came. He would not die until then. We can imagine how eagerly he scanned the faces of young and old after that (2:27).

Then one day, however, it happened. He saw a young man and a young woman, both of peasant stock, or so it seemed. They were Galileans by the sound of their voices, poor by their looks. They carried a Babe. They were coming into the temple to present Him to God. The Holy Spirit urged him: That’s Him! He stepped forward boldly. Of course! A Babe! All doubts were swept aside. This was the One of whom all of the prophets had written! He held out his arms. Probably he spoke. Then he took Him in his arms (2:28).

The old man gazed into the face of a Babe, the face of God manifest in flesh. Instantly, he was ready to die! “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (2:29–32). Death was no longer a devourer but a deliverer. By one man sin had entered the world and death by sin. With this small Babe salvation had arrived. Satan’s vast realm reeled. Wait until this Babe became a man!

A truth from Isaiah 42:6 flashed into Simeon’s mind. This salvation was not just for Jews; it was for Gentiles as well. Here indeed was “a light to lighten the Gentiles” in all of their pagan darkness. The word he used was apokalupsis—“revelation, an unveiling,” a manifestation no less. The word comes into its own in the first word of the book of Revelation, which is often called “the Apocalypse.”

The old seer gazed into the face of a Babe and at the same time looked into the face of God manifest in flesh. He gazed and gazed. At last, he gave the Babe back to Mary. He had a word for her: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (2:34–35). Alas! Israel would reject this heaven-sent Savior. Then the light would blaze across the Gentile world, and an amazing age of grace would come. Then, after centuries of sorrow, this rejected Christ would become at last “the glory of thy people Israel.” He foresaw that this sign would be “spoken against” (2:34). And so it has been. The name of Jesus has been bitterly execrated by Jews and Gentiles alike. To this day, many people actually use it as a curse word.

This Child, moreover, was “set” (destined) for “the fall” of many in Israel. He would be a stumbling block to many. The nation would stumble over Him. He was not the kind of Messiah they wanted. He was a meek Messiah; they wanted a militant Messiah. So they hounded Him to the cross and, as a people, have pursued Him with bitter unbelief for centuries. It will take the coming of the Antichrist to bring the nation to its senses at last and lead to a wholesale national turning to Christ (Rev. 1:7).

As for Mary, a sword would pierce her soul also (2:35). That sword pierced her at Calvary. Out of pity, Jesus on the tree gave her into the keeping of John, who led her away from the scene.[1]

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Gospel of Luke: An Expository Commentary (Lk 2:25–35). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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