Revive Our Hearts Radio

A Christmas Psalm

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: A Revive Our Hearts podcast listener wrote to tell us she had been binge listening to the series on Titus 2 called “God Beautiful Design for Women.”

Listener: “I am already in ministry, but wanted to do more, expanding to disciple more women one on one. 

Nancy: With the teaching from Titus 2 fresh on her mind, she met a woman at at prayer time at church and invited her to get together. The other woman later said, "Why did you invite me? I was so touched that you offered that to me!"

Listener: She shared her story. She is a woman, fifty-plus, just coming out of rehab for alcohol addiction. She has good support for the recovery steps, but not enough of God’s Word. I showed her how to listen to Revive Our Hearts by podcast. So right then, we listened together to the one-minute Seeking Him podcast. It was a perfect topic, about weeds growing in a garden.

Nancy (from Seeking Him): Like a gardener attacking the weeds, we need to remove sin by the roots . . . 

Listener: And boom . . . we had a focused discipleship meeting instantly! We are now texting every day after she listens to Revive Our Hearts. It’s a tangible way the Word can pour into her life.

Nancy: Wow, what an honor the Lord would use this ministry to encourage discipling relationships in the body of Christ. It’s such a privilege to provide resources like books and daily podcasts that women can learn from together. If you’ve ever supported Revive Our Hearts financially, do you know you’re part of this story?

We can’t encourage listeners to mentor others without the financial support of you and listeners just like you. We’re asking God to provide for significant year-end needs of at least 1.8 million dollars between now and December 31. That will keep all the current ministries going as we head into 2018. To help meet this need, some friends of the ministry have given us a huge opportunity. They’ve agreed to double your gift as part of a matching challenge of $800,000. So that means whatever you give this month will be doubled—up to that challenge amount.

Would you pray about how much the Lord would want you to give at this time? With your gift, you can help us meet and exceed that challenge. You can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Thanks for your part in helping Revive Our Hearts call women to greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Quiet Place, for Thursday, December 21, 2017

What’s your favorite Christmas song? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is about to tell us about one of the very first Christmas songs, written while Jesus was still a baby.

She’s continuing in a series called "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation." 

Nancy: We come today to one of the great Christmas hymns, one of the original Christmas hymns, and one of the great hymns of our faith. We’re looking in Luke chapter 2 at the life of Simeon, who comes into the temple into Jerusalem. He's led by the Holy Spirit of God just at the moment when Mary and Joseph bring in the baby Jesus to present Him to the Lord.

At that moment, Simeon comes in. We’ve been looking over the last few sessions at verses 25 and 26, where we see that Simeon was a man who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until that longing had been fulfilled, that he would see the Messiah before his eyes would close in death.

Then we saw in verse 27 that Simeon, at just the moment when Mary and Joseph came in with the baby, came into the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, Simeon took the baby up in his arms and blessed God.

I’ve been meditating on that phrase through the last week or so, and it’s been such a blessing to me. Before we get to Simeon’s hymn, let me just comment on this phrase. “He took him up in his arms and blessed God.”

There are two Greek words that are actually translated to “take him up.” He took him up in his arms. It’s a combination of words that mean, “to receive.” He received this baby into his arms.

Mary and Joseph had come to the temple to present this baby to God, and now Simeon comes to receive the baby who is God. In fact, Simeon was known by the early church as Theodoches.

That’s the name they gave him. Theo, meaning "God." Doches is a Greek word that means “God receiver.” Simeon had been longing, waiting, expecting, standing on tiptoe, if you will, sitting on the edge of his seat for we don’t know how many years.

Presumably now an old man, late in life, God had said, “You are going to live to see the Messiah.” And so Simeon comes into the temple. He sees this baby, the Spirit identifies for him this is the one, because there was no halo over that baby’s head.

There was nothing that marked that baby as being anything. There was no glow emanating from that baby. The Spirit of God said, “This is the one. This is the Christ,” and Simeon reached out. He took that baby from the arms of his teenage mother, Mary of Nazareth, and took that baby into his own arms.

J ust imagine after all these years of waiting and longing that now he gets to have this moment where he receives the fulfillment of God’s promise.

What a holy, incredible moment this must have been for him as faith is fulfilled. Faith becomes sight. He embraces that for which he has longed. You just have this sense of awe and wonder and love and worship and joy and satisfaction.

Here’s a man who’s had the unfulfilled longings for all of his life, and now, all those longings are fulfilled! He’s satisfied. It’s like, “Lord, it’s enough! This is all I’ve ever wanted. This is all I’ve ever needed. This is all I’ve ever longed for, and You have fulfilled the deepest longings of my heart.”

I thought about that this past Sunday as I was going to church. I was meditating on this phrase. “He came in the Spirit into the temple, and he took Him up in his arms and blessed God.”

I said, “O Lord, as I go to church, I want to go in the Spirit, and I want to take You up in my arms and receive You and bless You.”

Now, I’ve received Christ. I’m not talking about salvation here, though for some, that may be the first point at which they receive this baby, who is no longer a baby, this Son of God. But each time we’re exposed to Christ, isn’t that the response we’re supposed to have—to take Him up in our arms and bless God?

It’s like, “Lord, all I need is You. You are the satisfaction for all the longings and thirstings and hungerings of my soul. Everything I need, You are. I bless You for that.”

I found myself, as I’ve been meditating on this passage, just wanting to be more a God-receiver, a Theodoches, receiving Christ with joy, with faith, with humility, being satisfied, content, saying, “Lord, it is enough that I have Christ.”

There’s such a picture here of, I think, the way the Lord wants us to live as God-receivers. We have longings, and we have unfulfilled longings because we will never, as long as we’re in this body, have all that God intends to one day give us.

That’s yet ahead, so there’s always a sense of unfulfilled longing, and yet, we can experience that joy, that satisfaction, that completeness of saying, “I am Christ’s, and Christ is mine.”

I receive Him. This day afresh I receive Him. Not that I become a Christian again, but afresh, I am receiving, embracing, and welcoming Him, and saying, “He is the fulfillment and the satisfaction of all my longings.”

So in this moment, Simeon experienced the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi from 400 years earlier.

Malachi chapter 3, verse 1, “‘Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, who you desire, will come, says the LORD Almighty’” (NIV).

Isn’t that what happened at this moment? The Lord who Simeon had been seeking all these years, came to His temple, and Simeon saw Him, the one whom he desired will come.

As we said in the last session, I’m just reminded again how many others were there that day who were oblivious to the presence of Christ, standing all around, maybe touching shoulder to shoulder, but didn’t see, didn’t know, didn’t recognize.

They were Jews who said they were waiting for the Messiah, but they weren’t really waiting. They weren’t longing. They weren’t expectant. They weren’t in the Spirit. They didn’t recognize.

And again, let me just ask, "Are you in the Spirit? Do you go to church in the Spirit? Are you at home in the Spirit? Are you in the workplace in the Spirit, expecting to see Christ as He makes Himself known to you through His Word in daily life?"

Well, Simeon took this child in his arms, took him up in his arms, embraced him, lifted him up, whatever he did, and blessed God.

It’s like there just came springing out this wellspring of gratitude and thanksgiving and blessing. The word blessing is the Greek word from which we get our word, “eulogy.”

It’s something you do at a funeral. You speak well of somebody. We shouldn’t just do it at funerals. We ought to do it while they’re living, but he eulogized God. He spoke well of God.

This is an irrepressible response of worship. "God has blessed me. God has satisfied my longings. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. He has done great things for me."

The Lord who daily loads us with benefits, the Lord who has made Himself known to us, who has sent Christ to be among us, Immanuel, God with us.

As you hear these things throughout the Christmas season, do you take Him up in your arms and bless God? Do you bless God?

Both Simeon and Anna, as we’ll see in a few moments, had this incredible sense of joy and fulfillment when they saw Christ in the temple, as a forty-day-old baby, less than six weeks old.

But He was the fulfillment to all of their lifelong hopes and dreams. Are you moved to praise Him, to bless Him as you contemplate the gift of God as Christmas?

Now, what did Simeon say when he blessed God? What follows in the next verses is a song of praise, and as we’ve said, this is one of the Christmas hymns in the original Christmas story.

It’s the fifth and the final of the Christmas hymns in Luke’s account of the incarnation. There’s one that Elizabeth speaks, then Mary has one, Zechariah has one. All of those are in Luke chapter 1.

Then in Luke chapter two, earlier we read the hymn of the angels, and now we have Simeon’s hymn.

“Lord,” verse 29, “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” (vv. 29–32).

This hymn has been known throughout the history of the Church as the Nunc Dimittis. You say, “What in the world is that?” That’s the Latin for the hymn’s opening phrase, “Now You let depart,” Nunc Dimittis.

So the Church has called this hymn the Nunc Dimittis. This hymn borrows heavily from the Old Testament. Let’s just look at the first part of it today, and then in the next session we’ll look at the rest of it.

Simeon says, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”

Simeon is saying, in effect, “Lord, You promised that I would not see death before my eyes saw the Messiah, and You have kept Your Word to Your servant, and for that I bless You.”

Now, the word Lord that he uses here is not the word that is typically used in the New Testament when people speak of Christ as Lord. It’s a different word that’s not used often.

It’s the word from which we get our word, “despot.” It’s someone who wields absolute, unlimited, complete authority. Simeon addresses God that way. He says, “Lord, my Master, the One who is in absolute authority over my life and over this world.”

Then he describes himself as the Lord’s servant, a bond-slave. “Lord, Master, I am Your bond-slave, and now You are letting Your servant depart in peace.”

Simeon is saying, “You are the Master. I am Your servant. I’ve been on assignment. You’ve given me a duty, which is to wait and to be kind of the watchman, to watch and wait for the Messiah to come. Now I have finished that task, and now, I can depart.”

What is he saying? “Now I can die. I can die in peace.” It’s interesting as you think about death that Simeon speaks of dying as departing.

Departing: it’s a word in the original language that means “to loose, to release something as from a bond, to dismiss a servant.” Now, you may depart. You have done your job. You have fulfilled your duty. You may depart. You are loosed from your responsibility.

The word depart in the Greek is used in several different contexts, all of which give us insight into what death really is if you’re a believer in Christ.

For example, the word depart is used to speak of someone being loosed from a chain, or a prisoner being released from captivity.

Isn’t that what happens when a child of God dies? We’re released from this physical body. We’re released from bondage to sin and this sinful world. We’re released from captivity in this broken world, and our bodies are set free.

We’re released. Sometimes the word depart is used as a nautical metaphor, that is of a ship being untied and loosed from its moorings.

Isn’t that what happens when we die? We’ve been tied into this earth, but now we’re free to depart, to head for Heaven.

There’s a military use of this word, to depart. It refers to an encampment being broken up, where the tents are taken down so they can move on. Isn’t that a picture of death?

Paul talks in 2 Corinthians five about these bodies as being like a tent. It’s not permanent. We’re taking up the stakes and moving on (see vv. 1–5).

Matthew eleven, Jesus speaks of a beast of burden being unyoked, and death for the believer is being unyoked from the burden of this life (see v. 29).

Now, in asking to depart, Simeon is not asked to be released from his Master, whom he loves, but he’s saying he’s ready to be released from his earthly assignment.

It’s a picture here of a sentry who can be released from his assigned post because the one for whom he was to be on the lookout has arrived. Now his job is done. So he says, “Let me die, because my job, my calling, my task in life is finished.”

“Now I can depart in peace.” Having seen the long-awaited consolation of Israel, Simeon has been loosed. He’s been released. He’s been set free to pass over from this life into the next.

As he holds that child in his arms, to die is not something fearful for a God-receiver. To die is to be liberated. It’s to be emancipated. It’s to be released, loosed, set free from the moorings of this body and this present earth.

Isn’t that what Jesus came to do, to deliver us from death and from the fear of death? How did He do that? By His death. So now, you and I, when it comes our time to die, and none of us knows how soon that will be for us, we can depart in peace if we are children of God, if we have placed our faith in Christ, we can depart in peace.

There’s no fear of death. One commentator said that Simeon "speaks like one for whom the grave has lost its terrors and the world its charms."1

Most people are hanging on to this world, messed up as it is. They find some puny little charms here, and they just cling to them, and they think about death, and they think, That’s terrible.

But Simeon speaks as one for whom the grave has lost its terror and the world has lost its charms. “Lord, I’m ready. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to depart, and I can do it in peace without fear.”

So for the believer, death is not something to be feared. It merely releases and frees us from the burdens of these decaying bodies, our sinful flesh, and this broken world.

That’s what the apostle Paul talks about in 2 Timothy chapter 4, as he’s getting ready to die. He says, “I’m being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (v. 6).

Where are you going, Paul? “I’m going to another life. I’m going to another place, a better place. The ship is being untied. The moorings are being loosed, and I’m heading for my ultimate destination, and there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord will give to me.”

So Simeon says, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace.” Why? Verse 30, “For my eyes have seen your salvation.”

Simeon sees Jesus. He believes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, so he says, “I can die in peace because I have seen Your salvation.”

Let me just remind us of the importance that each of us must see the Savior and the salvation of God before we see death. You can’t be prepared for death if you haven’t seen God’s salvation.

Only those who by faith have experienced the reality of an encounter with Christ though repentance and faith have a basis on which they can face death with courage and without fear. You will never be ready to die until you have met Christ, God’s salvation.

I have a devotional book, that I don’t even know if it’s still in print. It’s one of my favorites over the years. It’s called Prayers of the Martyrs. It’s a collection of some of the prayers and last words of the people who’ve been martyred over the years for their faith. You think that would be a real downer of a book to read, but to the contrary. It is an uplifting book, because you see this uniform sense of anticipation, expectancy, freedom from fear, eagerness to meet Christ.

I remember one of them starts out by saying, “Lord, I’m coming as fast as I can.” I love that! “Lord, I’m coming,” even in the midst of their pain and their martyrdom. They’re saying, “Lord, I can die in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”

Donald Cargill was one of the Scottish Covenanters in the 17th century, many of whom were martyred for their faith. I had the privilege of being in Scotland, visiting some of the sites where these Scottish Covenanters were martyred and persecuted and gave up their lives for their faith.

Here’s one of those Covenanters who was condemned by the government and sentenced to be hanged and beheaded. I believe it was the night before he died that he wrote out what he called his last speech and testimony.

Here’s a little bit of what he says in that written piece. He says,

This is the most joyful day that ever I saw in my pilgrimage on earth. My joy is now begun, which I see shall never be interrupted. Death is no more to me but than to cast myself into my husband’s arms and to lie down with him.

Then the next day, July 27, 1681, as he went up the steps to the scaffold where he would be hanged and beheaded, Cargill gave a moving message. It’s a long message. You can find it on the Internet.

All the while his persecutors were beating louder and louder on drums in an attempt to drown out his voice. The part of what he said as he mounted to his death, he said,

This is the sweetest and most glorious day that ever my eyes did see. Farewell reading and preaching, praying and believing. Farewell wanderings, reproaches, and sufferings. Welcome joy unspeakable and full of glory. Welcome Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Into Thy hands I commit my spirit.

That’s what I sense in here in Simeon’s song, a song of praise. “Lord, now Your servant can depart in peace. Farewell sadness and bondage and being a prisoner here on earth, and welcome freedom, liberation, emancipation, being loosed, being released.”

“O Lord, I can die in peace, because my eyes have seen Your salvation.” Does that describe how you feel about the prospect of facing death?

Matthew Henry, that wonderful old commentator said, "Those that have welcomed Christ may welcome death.” If you know Christ and have received Him with arms of faith, then when the time comes for you to die, you will be able to say, “Lord, Master, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back to pray. Christmas is all about hope, and Nancy’s been explaining why. Today’s message is part of a series called "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation."

You may have been hearing the Christmas story all your life. Nancy’s unique presentation makes the events from Luke 2 come alive in a new way. If you missed any of this teaching series, I hope you'll hear each program at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Simeon, the character we’ve been learning about today, didn’t just know about God theoretically. He got to know Jesus. We need to experience God like Simeon did, and we’ll hear more about it tomorrow. Now, let's pray with Nancy.

Nancy: What an incredible thing, Lord, to imagine and be reminded that the baby that Mary and Simeon held in their arms that day in the temple, the One whose birth we celebrate during this season, was the means of our life and our liberation from death.

He did it by His own death on a cross. Thank You, Lord, that our eyes have seen Your salvation; that You’ve made Christ known to us. With arms of faith, we can take Him up, receive Him, hold Him, and we bless You, O Lord.

We say, "Lord, whether it’s today or tomorrow or next month or next year or fifty years from now, when the time comes for us to have our moorings loosed, we can depart from this life into the next because we’ve welcomed Christ; we’ve welcomed death." So we say, "Lord, having seen Christ, any time now, You can let Your servant depart in peace. Thank You for that hope."

I pray for some listening who may not have that hope. May this be the day that they, through repentance and faith do receive Christ and are given that hope of eternal life. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you know God personally. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

1J. C. Ryle. Luke. Vol One. Banner of Truth Trust, 66-67.

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