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My Eyes Have Seen Your SalvationThe Sign and the Sword

Photo of Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: It’s not because you believe in religion that you’ll be persecuted. Generally, in our world, it’s because you believe in the name of Jesus Christ.

When you lift high the cross of Christ in our world and in our culture, you will become a sign opposed. So what do we do? Peter said, “Expect it!”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It's Christmas Eve.

There are riches to be discovered in the Christmas story, even for listeners who have heard it over and over. Nancy’s series called "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation." It has been a rich study of one characters often overlooked in our traditional telling of the story.

Nancy: Leslie, it really has been. I love the story of Simeon and his expectation of seeing Christ. We’re going the hear more about him in just a moment. Just before I go back to Luke chapter 2, we here at Revive Our Hearts just wanted to say briefly at the beginning of today’s broadcast a couple of things. First, we want to wish you a very merry Christmas. We trust this is a holy time of celebration for you and your loved ones.

Then I want to say a huge word of thanks to so many who have already given to help us with our year-end need, as we are seeing to call women to freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ. It's been so encouraging to hear some of the stories that are coming in about some of the people who are giving and why and what their heart is in partnering with us as a ministry. Thank you those who have participated.

I also need to tell you that we have a long way to go to reach our goal for this month. I don’t say that out of desperation, but I do say it out of expectation to see what God is going to do over this next week through friends like you who share a heart for this mission and message and ministry. I know it is Christmas Eve, but if you’ve not yet called or gone online or sent in your gift, and God has put that on your heart to do, let me encourage you to do that today.

As I've mentioned, we are well behind where we need to be at this point in the month. We’ve got a long way to go. My heart is that we don’t want to have to cut back on any ministry that's reaching the hearts of women in the year ahead. Please at this Christmas season, as we are expressing our love for Jesus and our gratitude that God gave His best gift, His only Son to bring salvation to our world. In the spirit of how God gave to us, if the Lord leads you to make a special gift to Revive Our Hearts at this time, please give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or go to ReviveOurHearts.com. Thank you so much.

Lord, we trust You to meet our needs. You are our major donor with a capital "D." You know what You have in mind for this ministry and what You want to do in the year ahead. I just ask that You would touch the hearts of Your people. And thanks for those who have given generously, and for those who want to and will in this coming week, I just say thank you so much.

Now, Lord, thank you for the privilege of opening Your Word and receiving what You have given to us in that Word. I pray that You would give us open hearts and open ears to receive and hear and respond to what You say to us today. For all of this we give You thanks, in Jesus' holy name, amen.

Nancy: We’ve come to a difficult part in the study of Simeon that we’re doing from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2. Difficult because Simeon has already expressed a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for what He has done in sending this child, Jesus, into the temple.

From the arms of Mary and Joseph, Simeon has taken up this child and blessed the Lord and said, “God, I can die in peace now because You have sent Your salvation. This Jesus is a light for the world, a light for the Gentiles, a glory for Israel.”

But then the tone changes as he turns to the mother, and he speaks this prophecy right on the heels of this blessing and praise. He says, “But there’s going to be pain associated in His life and in yours with this whole matter of the gospel. It’s not going to be easy.”

So we pick up in verse 34 of Luke 2:

Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and said to His mother, "Behold, this child [this child that you’ve just given birth to] 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."

He’s saying, “There’s a journey ahead for you—for you and for Christ”; and, by implication and application, for us as well, as followers of Christ. We said that Simeon uses three word pictures or three images in his prophecy.

First, we looked in the last session at the image of stone. “This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel.” For some He would be a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense. They would reject Jesus and trip over Him on their way to judgment.

For others, He would become the cornerstone, the precious foundation stone. They would believe in Him, and He would be the occasion for their rising.

So we looked at that image of Christ as the stone. Then he uses two other images we want to look at today—Christ as a sign, and then the sword that would pierce through Mary’s heart.

Let’s look first at the sign. “This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed.” Some of your translations may say “a sign that will be spoken against.”

Spoken against. The word opposed translated there means “to be contradicted, to be spoken against.” It’s the picture of a mark to shoot at, a target.

It’s actually a metaphor that’s taken from archery. It’s a target, a mark, and you’re aiming at that mark. One commentator said, “Jesus was to be a mark, a target for all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

He was a sign to be opposed. The one who is the consolation of Israel (as we looked at earlier in this series) will be opposed.

He came to bring comfort. He came to brings blessing. He came to bring salvation. Yet that very Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, will be opposed.

He was opposed and spoken against by the religious leaders, the Pharisees, who took every occasion to show Him up, to expose Him, to make Him look bad, to trip Him up in His words. They were always trying to speak against Him.

He was spoken against at one point by His own brothers and sisters, family members who did not understand who He was or what He had come to do.

Isaiah 53 tells us “He was despised and rejected by men” (v. 3). A sign to be opposed. John 1 tells us “He came to His own [the Jewish people], and His own people did not receive Him" (v. 11). He was a sign to be opposed.

Hebrews 12 says, “Consider him [Christ Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself” (v. 3). Here were sinners speaking against the sinless, blameless Son of God.

He was opposed in His day. He was opposed and spoken against. That’s how He ultimately went to the cross. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” A sign to be opposed.

He is still a sign that is opposed. In this world today, He is still a sign that is spoken against. Isn’t is amazing how tolerant our world has become of all religions, except for the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only Savior of the world?

You talk about Jesus today, and you’re in a heap of trouble, because He’s a sign opposed. We can celebrate Kwanzaa; we can celebrate all kinds of religious holidays in our schools and in our government; but you talk about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only Savior of the world, and you will be spoken against.

He is a sign who is opposed. He is a sign that is spoken against, and if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can expect also, with Him, to be a sign that is opposed.

Jesus told us that would be the case. He said to His disciples in John 15,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you are of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Remember the word that I said to you: "A servant is not greater than his master." If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me (vv. 18–21).

It’s not because you believe in religion that you’ll be persecuted. Generally, in our world, it’s because you believe in the name of Jesus Christ.

When you lift high the cross of Christ in our world and in our culture, you will become a sign opposed. So what do we do? Peter said, “Expect it!” And rejoice when it happens. Don’t cower in fear. Don’t hide under a rock. Don’t put your candle under a bushel. Lift high the cross. Lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

Peter says, “Rejoice, in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings.” He was a sign opposed. You are a sign opposed. Rejoice. You are sharing in His sufferings.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed. Think about that. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed. You are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount,

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely in my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven (5:10–12).

It's foolish for us to expect the world to speak well of Christ and His cross. The world rejects Christ and His cross. So in the workplace, in the marketplace, in the public square, in the political arena, in the sphere of world events, don't be surprised when the world rejects the name of Christ and the cross.

Simeon said it here, looking at the baby in the temple, "He will be a sign that is spoken against. That word sign is a "wonder, a marvel, an evidence of God's supernatural power." He will be a supernatural evidence of God's power that the world will reject. It will oppose Him. It will speak against Him. If you follow Him, you can expect to receive that as well.

Now, in verse 35 we have a parenthesis. I want to skip that for just a moment. I’ll come back to it in a second, but look at the last phrase of verse 35: “so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

He’s a sign opposed so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. That word thoughts has to do with reasonings—what people are thinking, what’s going on in their minds—that they may be revealed. That word is “uncovered, unveiled.”

What we do with Jesus, what we believe about Him, how we respond to Him exposes our secret thoughts and our true heart. The way people respond to the name of Jesus, the way people respond to the truth of the gospel exposes what is really in their hearts.

And let me say, there is no middle ground. People are either for Jesus, or they’re against Jesus. They either fall on Him, or they rise on Him. They believe in Him, or they reject Him.

The people who receive Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord of this world reveal that they have a humble heart. That reveals their heart. The people who reject Jesus reveal that they have a haughty heart, and that is true even for people who outwardly may seem like “good, religious people.”

There are good religious people today—people who do good deeds, people who give away money, people who are nice neighbors—but they reject Jesus, and it reveals that they have a haughty, arrogant, proud heart.

Some people say, "I don't resist Jesus." I remember my dad. He had a very direct way in dealing with people about their spiritual condition. If he felt like somebody was kind of on the line and not really willing to step out and make a commitment to Christ, he would hand them this little card.

He would say, "Would you please sign this?" When they would look at the card, the one side would say, "I hereby reject Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of my life" and sign it.

They would say, "I don't want to do that. I don't reject Him."

Then he would turn the card over and say, "Okay, sign the other side." The other side would say, "I hereby receive Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord of my life."

"Well, I'm not prepared to do that." Well, you are doing one or the other.

Those who do not receive Christ as the Savior and Lord of their life are, in fact, rejecting Jesus. The thoughts of their hearts—the real thoughts of their hearts—are being exposed by what they do with Christ.

Now, let’s go back to that parenthesis in verse 35. Simeon looks at Mary. He’s told her that her Son will be an occasion for the fall and rising of many. He will be a sign that will be opposed.

Then he says in parentheses here, “And a sword will pierce through your own soul, Mary, as well.”

“A sword will pierce through your own soul, also.” That word pierce is in a verb tense that means to continually keep on piercing. This will not be just one time. This will be an ongoing thing in your life: A sword will pierce through your own soul.

The term for sword here speaks of a very large sword, such as the one Goliath used—a very large, broad, double-edged sword. He is saying that as Jesus’ mother, Mary will experience extreme emotional pain. “Being the mother of this child will bring a deep pain and sword to your heart.”

Now, Mary had already suffered to some extent. She’d already suffered misunderstanding and reproach from family and friends when it was found that she with child. People had a hard time believing it was the Holy Spirit who did this, that she had not been intimate with a man.

She was very soon to experience the flight to Egypt to escape Herod. She was to experience the grief over the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod, and she knew that her child, in a sense, had been the occasion for this.

Herod sent his wrath out and destroyed and killed all those little children two years old and under. That was a sword in Mary’s heart, you can be sure. As a mother, when her Son suffered, she would suffer.

Throughout different points of His life, He experienced rejection, misunderstanding, abuse, and ultimately death by crucifixion for crimes of which He was totally innocent. Those of you who are mothers, you know that this was a huge sword in the heart of this mother.

When those nails pierced through His hands and feet at Calvary, a sword pierced through her own soul, as well. This was her Son that she was giving up for the salvation of the world.

Now, this whole issue of the sword of motherhood—not just for Mary, but for mothers in general—goes back to the Fall of man back in Genesis 3. Let me just read a few verses from that passage, and see if they don’t connect in your mind with this concept of a sword piercing through a mother’s soul.

Remember, after the woman chose to eat the fruit, she gave it to her husband. He ate, and then God came to visit the couple in the Garden, along with the serpent. He called a meeting and explained there were going to be consequences for this choice to be independent of God.

“And the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring’” (v. 15).

God is speaking to the serpent, who represents Satan. It’s Satan embodied, actually. He says to the serpent, to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and your followers, those who are unbelievers, and the woman’s offspring.”

Who is the woman’s offspring? Christ, who was a descendent of Eve, and those who are in Christ. He’s saying there will always be this warfare between Satan and unbelievers, and the woman and her seed, which includes Christ and those of us who follow Him.

He, speaking of the woman’s seed—that is Christ, the woman’s offspring—will bruise your head, Satan, and you will bruise His heel. Satan, you will cause Him to suffer. The seed of the woman will experience suffering, but He will deal the fatal wound to your head.

Then He turns to the woman, having described this warfare, this adversarial relationship between the woman’s offspring and Satan and his offspring. He says to the woman, right in the same context, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children” (v. 16).

You see, the Fall brings with it this whole sense of conflict, of warfare, of a sword, of division. He says to the woman, “There will be pain involved.”

Now, He’s talking about literal childbearing here. Anyone who has ever had a child knows this verse is true. But moms, am I right that the pain doesn’t end after you go through childbirth—that there’s pain associated with motherhood all through life?

Sometimes it’s sweet pain. Sometimes it’s more difficult pain. It depends on what causes it, but in the raising of children, there is pain involved. There’s no pain like what a mother goes through when she sees her child suffer, whether even when the suffering is just the consequences of living in a fallen world.

You get that three-year-old with a 103 degree temperature that has a raging fever, and you’re saying, “It’s a pain for a mother’s heart.”

You see your child have to go through physical suffering that’s caused ultimately by sin in this world. That’s a pain, a suffering, a sword in a mother’s heart.

Sometimes it’s the consequences of their own sinful choices, and that creates a sword, a broad, hard, big sword that cuts through a mother’s heart.

I referenced earlier in this series a friend whose adult child is making some very wrong choices. My friend called me last week, and at one point she was sobbing so hard she could hardly talk.

This mother’s heart is broken by what is going on in her young adult child’s life right now. We were talking about this passage, about mothers experiencing a sword going through their own soul, and she said to me, “Sometimes I feel in this circumstance as if a physical sword were going through my heart.”

There isn’t a physical sword going through her heart, but there is a sword, a pain, going through her heart as a mother. The pain that sin brings to your children is indescribably deep, whether it’s their sin or the sin of others or the sin of this fallen world in general that just makes it a corrupt and fallen world.

And there are times when there’s nothing a mother can do. You can’t stop the pain in your child’s life. You can’t prevent it. You can’t help, and you don’t want to see your child go through that pain.

Now, while every mother experiences that kind of pain to greater or lesser extents, in Mary’s case it was not her Son’s sin that would bring her pain. It was the sin of others. In fact, as Mary stood at that cross about thirty-three years after this event with Simeon—after he had told her, “A sword will pierce through your own soul,” and then she stood at that cross on Calvary—a sword pierced her soul again.

The sword was knowing that it was not just the Roman soldiers and the Jewish religious leaders who were responsible for the crucifixion of her Son. Surely, they were culpable. But don’t you think there was another sword that pierced her soul as she realized it was her sin that put Him there? Not just the sin of others, but her sin.

Doesn’t a sword pierce through our soul as we stand before the cross and we realize, “Lord Jesus, You did that for me; it was my sin that put You on that cross”?

So this sword is not just experienced by mothers in relation to their children, not just by Mary in relation to her Son. It’s also a pain that anyone who identifies with Jesus will experience as the world rejects Jesus and His message.

The apostle Paul, thinking about his fellow Jews who refused to believe in Christ, says in Romans 9, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (vv. 1–2). It’s a sword piercing his soul.

He was a lover of Christ. He says in Philippians 3, “For many, of whom I’ve told you often and now tell you even with tears, many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18).

Paul says, “It breaks my heart. It’s a sword that goes through my soul. I love Christ. I love His cross, and I see people who are enemies of the cross of Christ; even though some of them profess to be friends of Christ, they are actually His enemies. It breaks my heart.”

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2, “I spoke to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love I have for you” (v. 4).

Paul cared for these believers, yet they were in the middle of living in this carnal, backslidden world. Christians, or professing Christians, they were tolerating sin in the body, and Paul was heartbroken.

You cannot be a follower of Christ who loves and cares for His children—whether they are your natural children or those you care for in His body—you can’t be a follower of Christ and love others without experiencing at times pain and heartbreak, a sword that goes through your own soul.

But here’s the word of hope in all of this: Christ let that sword go through His soul so we could have grace for the sword to go through our soul. When the sword goes through our soul, whether as a mother or just as a follower of Christ, we are sharing in the suffering of Christ.

  • Christ suffered on the cross to make payment for your child’s sin.
  • He suffered to make payment for those who are rejecting Christ and His cross.
  • He suffered to make provision of the grace that you need to endure that sword when it pierces through your own soul.

As great as your suffering may be at moments for your own children or when you see people rejecting the gospel and the name of Jesus Christ, as great as your suffering may be at those moments, remember that His suffering on the cross was greater than your suffering.

Jesus has paid it all. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him so that you could have not only forgiveness for your sin, but grace to endure the consequences that sin brings into the lives of others.

Lord, this day, we thank You that You were willing to be a sign spoken against. You were willing to endure without retaliating, without defending Yourself, but quietly, without a word. As a lamb that is led to the slaughter is silent, so You opened not Your mouth.

You were willing to let a sword pierce your soul so that when we become a sign opposed, when we become the recipient of that sword, when it pierces our own soul, O Lord, there is grace as we lift our eyes up to the cross and we say, “You have suffered. You have endured, and yet You have been raised in newness of life, and You will raise us to newness of life as well.”

Thank You, Lord, that there is grace for the suffering and that there is a joy and a glory and a resurrection life beyond the cross that is indescribable and that far surpasses whatever pain we may experience, whether it’s mothers or as disciples of Christ, as we see others reject You.

O Lord, give us Your perspective on all of this, and help us to endure. We give You thanks for all that lies beyond the cross and the grace to endure the sword as it pierces our own soul. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving you a lot of reasons to endure. If this Christmas season finds you grieving or struggling through a difficult issue, I hope the message has encouraged you.

We know a lot of women are listening to Revive Our Hearts while dealing with a lot of hurt.  Nancy’s here with an example. 

Nancy: Here at Revive Our Hearts we hear from a lot of listners who are in really difficult, challenging life circumstances. But we also get to see how the Lord is working, by His grace, in their lives, to give them hope and help in the midst of those circumstances. I'm thinking of one listener wrote and said,

I have been in a very difficult marriage with a verbally and emotionally abusive husband . . . but God! The Lord of Hosts has answered my prayers and has changed my husband’s heart—but not before He did a work in my own heart first. I needed to be pruned and refined first, and God used you and your ministry to do just that.

Thank you for saying the hard things and speaking God’s truth, especially the difficult things, and for consistently standing up for absolute truth. This generation needs you to continue speaking truth into the lives of women all over this country. 

That's what we are trying to do. By means of the Internet as well as our Spanish-language program, we're able to reach women not only in this country but around the world. Revive Our Hearts listeners play a key role in helping us continue speaking the truth. Your support allows us to provide this program. Friends like you have helped us speak to this woman who was in a tough marriage. Not only has her heart been changed, but her husband's heart has been changed as well. And all the glory goes to the Lord.  

We’re praying for countless more stories like that one in the year ahead. We can’t do it without you. Your prayer and financial support make the ministry possible in the months ahead. 

As we've shared with you, typically, almost half the donations that we need for the entire year arrive during the month of December. That’s why your gift matters so much right now, as we think and pray and plan on what ministry will look like in 2014. 

In case you didn't hear me mention it at the beginning of today's program, at this point in the month, we are really behind in what’s needed to meet our year end need. It’s not an over-statement to say that if we don’t make it to our total need of $1.7 million, then some tough ministry cuts will have to be made. Just like your home and church and business, we just can’t live beyond what comes in.

So I just wanted to share that need with you, and ask if you would take a minute and stop and ask the Lord if He’d have you to partner with us in this ministry? Maybe you've listened to this program before, maybe you've used some of our resources, maybe the ministry has been a blessing in your life—it's encouraged you; it helped point you to Christ, but you have never sent a financial donation to help make this ministry possible in other's lives. So just ask the Lord what He would have you to give at this time. Your gift, whether it seems large or small, is so important as we continue calling women to freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ. 

Leslie: To participate, visit ReviveOurHearts.com and make your donation there, or call 1–800–569–5959.  

Tomorrow, we hope you have a very meaningful Christmas day. We’ll hear a dramatic reading of the Christmas story. I hope you’ll join us for it on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Topics: Holidays, The Son

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