Waiting on God

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”

Thus Luke starts the second chapter of his Gospel, linking the earth-shaking advent of Christ with a historical marker – the decree of a pagan ruler seated on his throne many, many miles away from this small, Judean backwater trouble-spot of his empire.

How long had the Jewish people waited for their Messiah? How many of the children of Abraham had been born, lived and died hungry for deliverance? In Romans Paul describes all of creation “groaning” for liberation from its bondage to decay. In the same way many of us groan under the burdens that life has placed on us and we long for deliverance.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Luke 2:22-24 (NIV)

I can’t really imagine what was going through the minds of Joseph and Mary. They appeared to be like any other normal, young, devout Jewish couple bringing the offering designated for the less well-to-do (a pair of doves or young pigeons) in observance of the law of Moses – a law that called for sacrifice forty days after the birth of a firstborn son. But the events of their engagement, pregnancy, and, of course, the miraculous and no doubt nerve-wracking birth of the One the angel instructed them to name “Jesus” were anything but “normal”.

And, in wider context, it was just a hard time to be a Jew. Their country was under occupation by the ruthless Romans. The glorious days of Israel’s past were gone, and the people were anguished and troubled. Many awaited a deliverer to bring them out of this mess.

Among them was Simeon. I am humbled by the patience and perseverance of many of the people described in scripture, and Simeon is a prime example:

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 upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke 2:25-32 (NIV)

The old prophet took Jesus in his arms and praised God for this one simple look at his Deliverer. “You may now dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation”.

One look at Jesus was all this man had been waiting for his entire life. Think about that for a second. He had been promised by God that he would see the Messiah, and upon holding Jesus he knew that God had been faithful to keep that promise. Simeon got one look at the One who would not only redeem Israel but would also be a light of revelation to the Gentiles. He got one look at the One who would reveal God to those who were far away from God, mired in paganism and the vanity of earth. God would be revealed to them in Jesus because Jesus is God. Simeon was holding the King of kings in his arms. He looked in Jesus’ face and saw the salvation of God.

He had waited a long, long time for this moment. Yet he did not criticize God for being late – For Simeon, the whole of his life culminated here in this one look. And, satisfied, he was now ready to go home.

But not before gently revealing to the young, wondering couple that stood before him some hard truths:

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “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.”

A sword will pierce your own soul too.

How true that was, although Mary could probably not see it fully then. This little baby was indeed the Redeemer of the whole earth, and a redemption of such magnitude would not be won bloodlessly. Simeon had waited his whole life for this moment. And Jesus would wait about thirty years for His moment, for the beginning of the “falling and rising” of so many in Israel, and for His own falling under the crushing weight of a crossbar laid on his shredded back and the rising up of his torn body on a cross – the lifting up of the Christ that would draw all men to Him. No – our redemption was not won bloodlessly. It would take the last full measure of devotion from the One that Simeon held in his arms.

The world had waited on God for a long time. You may be waiting on God too – for redemption, rescue, deliverance. Perhaps for the revelation of God to one you love, or for the resurrection of your joy, or for salvation. I pray that your eyes (and mine) will see God’s salvation. God’s sense of time is not ours, and the wait can seem long. But He is faithful (though in my weakness I don’t live that fact out all the time). I know that it is always worth waiting when the One you are waiting on is God.

I hope to thank Simeon one day for his example of what it means to wait on God, as we both drink in one eternal look at our beautiful Savior.

7 thoughts on “Waiting on God

  1. Another wonderful devotion Bill! Thank you. Simeon is one of my favorite characters in the Bible and much can be learned from him.

  2. I tend to blow past characters that have characteristics I know naught of. pricks my conscience too much.

    I guess it should encourage me as well, tho’. Showing me the way. 🙂

  3. Simeon is a cool guy…he took Psalm 40:1 seriously, I guess.

    Have you ever heard a song called “Deliver Us” by Andrew Peterson (I know, I’m pulling out all these song references, but still)? It expresses this kind of longing that Israel–and probably Simeon, too–felt until Jesus came, and that the Jews still probably feel until they come to Jesus. “Deliver us, deliver us/Oh, Yahweh, hear our cry/And gather us beneath Your wings tonight.”

  4. Hmmm. I have Andrew Peterson’s first CD (Jared hooked me up with it years ago) but I don’t recall that song – probably need to listen to it again.

    I’m stirred emotionally when I think of the cries for deliverance of the Jewish people throughout history. You might remember the play that you guys did at CCCS a few years ago (the one with the Prince of Egypt part in it?) I LOVE that part where the exodus happened – I’m not even sure what the lyrics that ya’ll sang meant, but it’s just awesome:

    Ashira l’adonai ki gaoh ga-ah

    Ashira l’adonai ki gaoh ga-ah

    Michamocha baelim adonai

    Michamocha nedar bakodesh


  5. This is from Exodus 15

    Ashira l’Adonai ki gaoh gaah

    (I will sing to the LORD

    for He has triumphed gloriously.)

    Mi-kamocha ba-elim Adonai (Who is like thee

    among the gods, O LORD.)

    Mi-Kamocha nedar bakodesh

    (Who is like thee, glorious in holiness)

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