Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: We all go through times where we need to be comforted. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We live in a fallen world, and we deal with not only the fallenness of this world and how it affects us living here, but we deal with our own fallenness and our own frailty and our own foolishness. We need consolation. We need comfort.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 12. Have you ever been in an emotional valley wishing for someone to help you get out, to console you and help you see things from their perspective? At the beginning of the Christmas story, a whole nation, a whole world was in that situation. Nancy will describe the greatest act of consolation ever in a series called The King’s Dedication.

Nancy: We’re looking in the gospel of Luke in the second chapter at some incidents in the life of the Lord Jesus that took place shortly after He was born that first Christmas, as we celebrate it today. We’ve seen how Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus when he was 40 days old to the temple. This would have been Herod’s temple in Jerusalem.

They took Him for two purposes, so they went to the temple for two reasons. The first was the purification of the mother. According to Old Testament law, 40 days after the baby was born, she had to go through a ritual of purification. Then they took the baby for his dedication or his presentation to God. They presented the baby Jesus to God.

While Mary and Joseph were in the temple, and at the same time that they were going through these two rites, these two rituals that were prescribed by God’s law, they met two godly people. God in His providence had orchestrated circumstances so these two people ended up being there at the temple right where Mary and Joseph were at the very moment when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in for His dedication.

One of these godly people was a man. The other was a woman. The man was named Simeon. The woman was named Anna. Both recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Both gave Spirit-filled testimony to who He was.

So over these next several days we’re going to look at the life of Simeon as we see him in this passage. Then we’ll take, right around Christmas, a look at Anna. You’re going to love the study of Anna. She is a woman I’ve really grown to love and appreciate as I’ve been doing this study.

First we want to look into the life of Simeon. I’m reading in Luke chapter 2, beginning in verse 25. Let me read the whole account, and then over the next several days we’ll break this up and look at it verse-by-verse.

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.

And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "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.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child [Jesus] is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:25-35).

Now there’s a lot in that passage, and we’ll take several days to walk through it, but let’s just start in verse 25 and see what we can learn about this man Simeon and see how that applies to us.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon.” Simeon was a common name in those days related to the name Simon as in Simon Peter. The name Simeon actually means "God has heard."

Isn’t that an appropriate name for someone who had waited for years for the Messiah to come? God had heard his prayers and answered them before he died.

God has heard—this is the only reference in the Bible to Simeon. We don’t know anything about him other than what I just read. We’re not told his occupation. We don’t know anything about his family. Some theologians over the years have thought that maybe he was a priest. There’s no evidence to suggest that he was and some evidence to the contrary. As far as we know, he was just a lay worshiper of God who lived in Jerusalem.

But we are told a lot about his spiritual condition and about his heart priorities, about the things that mattered to this man. We’re told that he was righteous and devout, that he was a godly person. We’re told that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel, that he was expectant. He was a patient man. He was godly, but he was expectant and patient. We’re told that the Holy Spirit was upon him, that he was filled with the Spirit, the power and the presence of God.

These three things:

  • righteous and devout
  • waiting for the consolation of Israel
  • the Holy Spirit was upon him

These distinguished Simeon from most other people in his day. These things made him different. They made him stand out. By the way, let me say if these three things are true of you, they will make you different.

Simeon was even different than most Jews of his day because most Jews were going through the rituals, but most were not righteous and devout. Most were not waiting for the appearance of the Messiah, earnestly, expectantly, and the Holy Spirit was not on most Jews.

If those three things are true of you, they will even make you different than many other people in your church today. They don’t make you superior. They just make you stand out. Sometimes you wonder if you’re following the Lord. "I feel so different than everybody else around me."

Some of the people that call themselves Christians that I know, they don’t have any heart, any hunger for spiritual things. They don’t evidence any spiritual life. Sometimes you start to think am I the one who’s crazy? Well, no, it’s the world that’s out of whack. It’s the world that’s out of order and even, unfortunately, sadly so many in the Christian world today would not be characterized by these marks.

Simeon was, and his life becomes for us a wonderful example of the kind of heart we want to have as believers in Christ. So let’s look at each of those three characteristics and talk about how they may apply to us.

First, we see that he was righteous and devout. Righteous and devout. Some of your translations may say he was just and devout. That speaks of his relationship toward his fellow men, the fact that he was righteous, and his relationship toward God, the fact that he was devout.

The righteous is the horizontal relationship. The devout is the vertical relationship—his relationship with God. So he was just toward men, righteous toward men. He had a righteous character, righteous behavior. He acted righteously toward others. But then he also had a pious heart toward God. He had a devout heart. He was devout in his relationship with God.

The word righteous is translated from a Geek word that means "just and upright." It means conformable to what is right. It speaks of a person who meets obligations to others in the community. Someone who is a faithful keeper of the laws and the ordinances of Judaism. Someone who is obedient to the law of God.

We see in Luke chapter 1, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the elderly parents of John the Baptist. It says, “They were both righteous before God [same word used there], walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord [blameless]” (Luke 1:6, NKJV). They obeyed the law of God. Their behavior, their actions were righteous before God. That’s the word righteous.

Then he was devout. That’s a word that’s only used three times in the New Testament, each time by Luke. We have it here in Luke, and we have it twice in the book of Acts, which was written by Luke. This word means "careful, cautious, conscientious." It speaks of someone who reverences God, someone who is pious toward to God, a scrupulous worshiper, someone who has the fear of the Lord, who wants to please God in every aspect of his life.

So here’s a man who faithfully kept God’s law. Well, lot’s of Jews did that. What made him different was that he wasn’t just going through the motions. He kept God’s law out of a heart of reverence and devotion toward God. His obedience was motivated by love for God.

We talk a lot in the New Testament about the Pharisees. The Pharisees were people who were righteous in the sense of their outward, external behavior. They did righteous things. They looked righteous, but they were not devout. They didn’t have that heart attitude of devotion and love for God. Simeon, unlike many in his day, was both righteous and devout. Right toward others and devout toward God.

Sometimes when we look around even in the Christian world today, it’s easy to despair or get discouraged when we see how few truly godly men there are. To think people are so selfish, want to do their own thing. You see this.

You probably have family members that concern you. They profess the name of Christ, but they don’t live like Christians. When you look out and you see even within the Christian community how few truly godly men there are, and yet a passage like this gives me hope. It says that God always has His righteous and devout people even in the darkest times.

In fact, J. C. Ryle, who was an old-time commentator, wrote in his commentary on this passage,

We see in the case of Simeon how God has believing people even in the worst of places and in the darkest of times. God never leaves Himself entirely without a witness. Let us believe that grace can live and flourish even in the most unfavorable circumstances. There are more Simeons in the world than we suppose.

As you see in this period, which was a very dark period in the spiritual history of Israel, God has people like Elizabeth and Zechariah and Simeon and Anna, these who were longing for Christ, these who were righteous and devout, people who had a heart and a hunger for God. Ryle said, “Remember there are more Simeons than you suppose.” Not many. God always works through a remnant. He doesn’t need many, but there always are some. That encourages my heart.

Now we see that Simeon was righteous and devout. Then we see in verse 25 secondly that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel. I want to park on that phrase for the rest of this session and again in the next one. Today I want to talk about this matter of the consolation of Israel. In the next session, I just want to focus on that word waiting.

Waiting. That’s something that’s hard for us to do. If you’re having a hard time waiting for God to act, then you want to be sure to be with us on the next session of Revive Our Hearts.

The consolation of Israel—this is what Simeon was waiting for. The implication was that he had been waiting for a long time. He hadn’t been waiting just a short time. This was a longtime burden and concern on his heart. The consolation of Israel—this is a reference to the Messiah. Simeon was waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

Israel was oppressed, both politically and, more importantly, spiritually. This was a dark time in the nation of Israel. This consolation of Israel was an Old Testament concept that referred to the Messiah as Israel’s hope of deliverance. The Israelites believed that the Messiah would bring the deliverance and consolation that they needed to rescue them from their darkness and from their oppression.

The word consolation is a word in Greek that means "comfort." It’s the same root word that is used in John’s gospel to speak of the Holy Spirit who is our Comforter, the One who comes alongside of us in our needy condition and comforts us. Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel.

You see here a picture of the fact that Christ is part of the Trinity. He’s one with the Holy Spirit, one with the Father, the One who comforts us in our darkness and our affliction, the consolation of Israel.

Now the fact that consolation was needed in Israel suggests that this was a time of mourning, of grieving, a time of loss and sadness. We feel this in our own world. We feel the need for consolation. We have all the Christmas celebrating going on. We have all the parties and the laughter, but don’t you find as I do when I talk with people that people today are heavy-hearted? They need the consolation that only Christ can bring.

We live in a fallen world. We deal with not only the fallenness of this world and how it affects us living here, but we deal with our own fallenness and our own frailty and our own foolishness. We need consolation. We need comfort.

Simeon could have sung that hymn:

“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

That’s a hymn written by one who had longing, one who was longing, waiting for the consolation of Israel.

Simeon in his praise and his prayer demonstrates a real knowledge of the Old Testament, particular the book of Isaiah. Let me ask you to turn to the book of Isaiah. I want to show you that 700 years before Simeon lived, God had made, through the prophet Isaiah, many promises that He would send a comforter, the consolation of Israel.

Turn to Isaiah, chapter 40. I want to just have you look at a few passages with me in the book of Isaiah. You’ll see the thread here that God promised to send a comforter.

Isaiah 40:1-2: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.” So God promises there will be an end to the warfare. There will be an end to the sinfulness and the fallenness. I will provide comfort for My people.

Then flip over several pages to chapter 49 of Isaiah. Isaiah 49, verse 13: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.” God, who has a tender heart toward the afflicted, toward His people, promises to have compassion on them and to send comfort to them.

Then go to chapter 52 of Isaiah and you see this thread continuing. Isaiah 52, verse 9, again you see the theme of joy, “Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem [Why?]; for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.” God promised to comfort His people, those who were grieving and mourning. Their tears would be turned to joy. They would break forth into singing.

Then one more. Look at chapter 61 of Isaiah. Isaiah chapter 61, beginning in verse 1. This is actually a prophetic or Messianic passage referring to Christ the Messiah, the coming consolation of Israel. He says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” (NIV). Sounds like consolation to me.

“He has sent me . . . to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV).

That’s God’s great exchange. He came to take our despair, our grieving, our mourning, our ashes and instead to give us a crown of beauty, the oil of gladness, and a garment of praise. “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV).

God sent consolation into the world, not just we could be comforted, not just so we could be happy, but so that our lives could make God look great, so that people would look at us, being comforted in our affliction, and they would say God is great. God is good. And they would glorify God as they see His consolation in us.

Now Simeon had been waiting, longing, and undoubtedly praying for the consolation of Israel. This doesn’t mean that the entire Jewish nation would find comfort and consolation through Christ. In fact, the nation as a whole at this time was corrupt and rejected Christ. Christ said that He came to bring a sword. He came to bring judgment on those who refused to believe.

So He’s not the consolation and the comfort of all those who are Jews. He is the consolation of those who were the true spiritual Israel, those that God has chosen and called, both Jew and Gentile, including us. Those who mourn and grieve over their sin He promises He will comfort. Those who turn to Him for comfort and receive His consolation they are the ones who will receive His consolation.

So as we look at the Old and New Testament scriptures, we see that we have a God who cares about those who grieve, a God who cares about those who are in mourning.

I have a number of friends right now who are grieving over really, really difficult life circumstances beyond their control. Some here today. I look into your eyes and some of you I’ve seen your tears and prayed with you and tried to uphold you during what’s a very difficult time. Can I just say God sees, God knows, and God cares. He is the consolation of Israel. He’s sensitive to your plight. He knows about it and He cares for you.

Then can I remind you that He is the God of all comfort. He’s the God of all comfort. Second Corinthians 1 tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (verses 3-4). God is the God who has promised to comfort those who mourn.

Then just this reminder that Christ Himself, the One who was born as a baby on what we celebrate at Christmas, is the consolation of Israel. You will never find a consolation and comfort in anything or anyone other than Christ. Now you may find short-lived comfort and consolation through drink, alcohol, sex, parties, fun, work, eating—a lot of human ways—friends. They can provide a short-lived comfort and consolation, but if you want true comfort, you get to the One is the consolation of Israel.

Is He your consolation in your sadness? You may not be going through anything hugely traumatic right now. You say, "I don’t know why all your friends are so sad, I’m doing fine." But you know what, just living in this fallen world is a pain, and if you’re not in pain and affliction now, you will be. It’s a broken world. It’s a fallen, messed up, depressed, oppressed world. In the midst of that, God’s people can have comfort and consolation.

Even through your tears you can have consolation. Is He your consolation? During this Christmas season are you looking to Him to comfort your heart? Are you looking to Him for encouragement, for grace? Are you looking to someone or something else? Nothing less will do. Nothing else will do. Christ is the consolation of Israel.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. If you’re like me, after hearing her current series called The King’s Dedication, you’ll want to add a couple of characters to your manger scene. That would definitely include Simeon, the godly man we heard about today.

You might want to listen to this series again next Christmas or you might want to listen right away, digging into the Bible with Nancy. You can order the complete series on CD or MP3 CD by calling 1-800-569-5959. Or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s also where you can read the daily transcript and leave your thoughts about the program on our listener blog. Again, it’s ReviveOurHearts.com.

Because there’s new information on our web site all the time, a lot of listeners like us to send the information to them. That’s why we offer the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection. It’s an email that includes key quotes from Nancy along with links that will take you to the transcript. There’s a lot of other surprises too. Find out for yourself by signing up for the Daily Connection at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Waiting will always be part of life here on earth. Find out why when Nancy picks up our study of Luke 2. She’s back now to pray.

Nancy: Lord, I pray that in these days leading up to Christmas You would comfort Your people with Your grace, with Your peace. Might we find ourselves turning to Christ, not turning first to others, not turning to things, not turning to experiences.

I know there are many people who during these weeks will be living from one high to another, but as soon as Christmas and New Years have passed, they’ll find themselves down at the bottom looking up with the blues and feeling low and depressed as so many people do because they’ve been looking somewhere to someone else other than You to find comfort and consolation.

So Lord, we lift our eyes up, though in some cases they are filled with tears, and we say You are enough. You are our comfort. You can give us grace and consolation. We bless you for that. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless othewise noted.

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