Read: Luke 2:22-34, Luke 18:1-8, Hebrews 11:6, Romans 8:24-25
Though the nation of Israel had endured God’s official silence for 400 years when Christ was born, apparently the Holy Spirit had continued to speak with a few select souls. It makes you wonder how many others God tried to communicate with over the years, but who simply weren’t listening. Simeon is one who was, which is why he showed up in the temple at the very time Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to be consecrated.
The Scripture tells us that Simeon was both righteous before God and devout in the eyes of men. The context implies as well that he was an elderly man, one who had walked with God for many years. When I read the story of his encounter with Christ, I am struck by the truth that Simeon was a man of faith, the kind of faith that doesn’t give up in the face of seemingly impossible odds, the kind of faith that keeps on believing the reward will come, and thus brings a smile to the face of God.
In fact, Simeon’s life reminds me of my favorite parable on faith, the one about the importunate widow who kept coming back, asking for help until she got it. Jesus begins the parable by telling us its purpose – to keep us from losing heart and giving up. He ends the story with a powerful promise, which is that because God hears the cries of His children, He will make what is wrong, right; and He’ll do so speedily. (Of course that begs the question – what does speedily mean to the everlasting God who dwells outside of time?). Then Jesus asks this poignant question: When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on earth?
It is a sobering thought that the one thing Jesus will be looking for in His followers when He returns is faith. Faith, as it turns out, is a precious commodity in God’s economy. His Word says there is no other way to please Him, and anything we do in His name that lacks faith is actually sin. Day in and day out, the God of the Universe searches the earth, looking for even the smallest remnant of faith, so that He can reward those who bear it.
Where did Simeon get the kind of faith that kept him looking for the consolation of Israel, even into his old age? Interestingly enough, the name Simeon comes from a root word that means to hear, which is highly appropriate because Simeon was a man who listened for God’s voice and walked intimately with Him. Since faith comes by hearing God speak, it is clear that Simeon had learned to listen long.
It is an amazing thing that God speaks to His children, if we are willing to listen. He speaks first and foremost by revealing His heart through the holy Scriptures. Simeon knew the Word well, and as a result, He understood things even Jesus’ own disciples struggled to accept – that Christ came to save Jews and Gentiles alike, and that the long promised Messiah, would be one who suffered greatly. God also speaks directly to His children through His Spirit – guiding, nurturing, and nudging us with gentle impressions upon our hearts. Clearly Simeon had learned to listen carefully to that still, small voice and as a result, ended up in the right place at the right time for God to fulfill His long awaited promise.
The thing is, we don’t know, really, how many days Simeon had listened and heard nothing or how many nights he lay in bed wondering if God would ever come through. Still, he kept himself in that tender place, ever ready to hear, should the Almighty grant him a word. This, it seems to me, is at the very heart of the kind of faith that makes God smile – ears that are ever tuned to hear His voice. Whether God requires us to cling to His promises for days or weeks or months or years; faith is as simple as communing intimately with Him, waiting patiently and listening expectantly for Him to speak, even if it might seem the silence has gone on far too long.
So in these final moments before Christmas, let us remember a man named Simeon who showed us how to live by hanging on to God’s promises, listening to His voice and never letting go of the hope of reward. Like a night guard who wouldn’t quit until his shift had ended, he stayed at the ready, and when his watch was over, knew at last that he could depart this world in peace. Let us honor the memory of this great saint by listening ourselves for the gentle whispers of our Lord, so that we too may be granted the gift of persevering faith.
So often we see faith as something hard to acquire, or we feel guilty because we struggle with doubt, and at times want to give up. How does Simeon’s story speak to you? Have you seen faith as directly connected to your intimate journey with God? Come before the Lord today, offering yourself afresh, asking Him to speak so that your faith will increase for whatever unfulfilled promises or difficult situations you might face.
Ponder the reality that faith brings God pleasure, so much so that He waits to reward those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Read the following promises and write prayers of thanksgiving to Him in light of them:
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20
For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 1 Peter 2:6
A Christmas Activity
Make today a day to practice listening to the Lord. In your moments of greatest busyness, plan a timeout where you simply stop, acknowledge God’s presence, ask Him to speak to whatever situation you face at that time, and then listen for Him to speak. You might be surprised at all He has to say!