When God begins to whisper in your ear, listen.
Luke 2:22-40, ew Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
22-27 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary under the law …
When God Whispers in Our Ears
What has the Holy Spirit shown you?
Is it audacious to make claims of divine revelation? Is it theologically correct to do so? Might it not be considered presumptuous?
In the first place, this was not a general revelation for all people. It was personal disclosure for Simeon’s personal consumption and encouragement. The Holy Spirit had assured him of the promise, and he had embraced it.
There is no indication that Simeon had gone about bragging on his “special revelation.” He had not used it to elevate his status or to appear hyper spiritual.
He had not developed and marketed a seminar entitled, “How I Received a Revelation from the Holy Ghost and How You Can Too.”
He simply received a promise through the still, small voice of God and he clung to it with all his might. He did so in complete trust and confidence that God would bring it to pass.
Perhaps you believe that the Holy Spirit has shown you something about your future. It is OK to entertain the thought. None of us is a perfect receptacle for words from God, but he does still whisper promises in our ears in the form of assurance, calling, and encouragement. Do not be afraid to receive these words.
Could you be wrong? You might, but if you are, God will clarify that for you and show you something better in due time.
You will most likely discover that God was indeed speaking to you, but that you did not fully understand what he was trying to say. It stretched you and challenged you and through the experience, you grew.
If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, it is most likely about you. It was about Simeon that he would live to see the Lord’s Christ and it was about Christ Himself. There were many ways God could have chosen to fulfill those words, but the way he did turned into a blessing for all who believe. What is God whispering in your ear?
28-32 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Sometimes it seems that we are just hanging on, waiting for something big to happen.
We hang on to money because we know that either a great opportunity or a rainy day is on the way.
We hang on to an idea because we know that someday, it will be useful. Someday, other people will buy into it and come alongside of us.
We hang on to life because we know that God is not done with us and that all God has promised has not yet come to pass. We hang on because God is hanging on to us and because to shortcut the process would be to cheat Him and to cheat ourselves.
We hang on to hope because we believe that God is the God of hope and that everything he promises will come to pass. We know deeply that he is not forgetful, nor is he remiss. He will fulfill his Word.
Therefore, we live on tiptoe. While resting on his promises, we do not entirely relax. We stay alert. We watch. We pray. We actively seek any sign of his coming, any indication of His acting out of His purposes in our time.
We may not know what our roles may be, but we stand at the ready to play them. If it is only to witness His power and trustworthiness, we will do so with joy and gratitude.
Simeon could not depart in peace until the moment came and when the moment came, he knew it.
“Any time now, Lord. I have seen what you told me I’d see before I died. I’m ready now.”
There were no regrets in Simeon’s life, no unfinished business, no unfulfilled plans, no lost dreams. God had done the great thing for which he had been “hanging on.”
Maybe he lived many more years; maybe he died the next day; we don’t know. What we do know is that when the time came for him to make the final departure, he was ready. He was ready from that moment on.
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
God isn’t calling know-it-alls to play a significant role in His program.
He is not looking for those whose motto is, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.”
God is calling men and women who are capable of marveling over that which is marvelous.
“Business as usual” is not in His order of the day. He is full of surprises. The mundane is not His domain; He shakes things up.
When God speaks directly through prophets to us, his Word goes straight to the heart with recognizable veracity and piercing honesty. We are amazed.
Joseph was a man capable of relishing the marvels of God. He was not jaded by boredom or dulled by cynicism. Joseph was caught completely off guard by the wonder of God’s power, and He basked in it.
To marvel at the spoken word means that we have truly received it – deeply and with a willingness to let it shape us. We have rejected the superficial responses that tend to dismiss the unusual as a something merely strange and we have chosen to let God speak.
It is no small thing to receive such a word.
It is no small thing what God wants to do in us, through us, and within proximity of our lives.
When God sends a Simeon or an Anna into our lives, he has a reason. While no human being is capable of a consistently infallible representation of divine will, God is able to speak through the frailest, most errant person to say what we need to hear.
And while we are not witnessing the creation of new scriptures in our time, the Lord is still taking His scriptures and placing them on the lips of men and women He chooses to apply them to our lives in ways that cause us to marvel.
Don’t stop marveling; we serve a marvelous God.
34-35 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
A Strange Blessing
It must have seemed like a strange sort of blessing to Mary and Joseph. Many would rise. Many would fall. As a sign, the babe would be spoken against. He would bring out the best and worst in people as their very heart thoughts and motives were revealed. As parents, they would have their hearts pierced.
It was a strange blessing indeed.
When Jesus comes, sweet and unassuming, precious, cute, and giggly as a little baby, it is hard to imagine that the planet has just been invaded by a force to contend with.
He does not tread lightly. There will be no lasting indifference in His regard. He will not be non-controversial. He defines controversy. He confronts us, shattering our prejudices, exposing our biases, showing us what our religious hypocrisies really look like in the light of His truth.
And so, Jesus comes to you and to me, dear friend, amid the noise of confusion and the beating waves of doubt an anxiety. His words speak truth and courage to our hearts, but it is His touch that is life giving and life affirming, Fear not!
He threatens our stasis. He shatters our well-formed opinions no matter how many proof-texts we have arranged to support them. He is Lord of all, and every notion is subject to His interpretation.
We are not guaranteed safe passage through the sorting out process. We may well be sifted. Nor are those close to him guaranteed that we will not be broken on the wheel of pain and discomfort.
And yet, he is blessed, and we will be blessed through Him. By being in his circle of relationships, the siftings will be blessings and the piercings blessings too. We need his awful mercy and his harsh healing to be made whole. Strange as the blessing may be, a blessing it is.
The S Factor
Simeon was in the right place, in the right frame of mind, living a righteous life, and doing so in right relationship with God.
He was a ready receptacle for God into which God could deposit a gift. He was also ready to be used to make a great declaration to the world.
The Holy Ghost was upon Him – what a magnificent state in which to be!
To be in Jerusalem, the city of God was the first of his blessings. That meant that he lived within eyesight of the temple and could go there regularly to worship, pray, and hear the Torah. Proximity to God and God’s people opens us to blessings beyond our imagination. Stay close.
He was just. When given a choice between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, he chose the right thing. He did not ask, “Which is easier or has a better payoff?” He asked, “What is right?”
He was devout. His heart was turned in the direction of God and He was an earnest God-seeker. Such a man or woman is ready for God to move.
He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. He was not a grumbler about the times, but he knew that something better was coming. He lived in anticipation, waiting for a great movement and intervention of God in history. So may we.
The Holy Ghost was upon him. Whatever else might be said of him, there was this invisible, unexplainable, beyond-the-ordinary dimension to his life that nothing could account for but the Holy Spirit. It was the S Factor – S for Spirit.
The Christian life is a spiritual life. It is to be lived spiritually in the power of the Holy Spirit and under His constant influence. When that is the case, whatever else might be said of us will not be enough to explain the extraordinary hope, confidence, insight, and authority of our lives.
The S Factor is available to each of us. Are we available to Him?
36-38 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Speaking to the Right People
Anna showed up at just the right moment.
It was not all that surprising, because she had devoted the years of her widowhood to prayer and worship. She was in the temple so much, that she might have seemed like an anachronism to some and an annoyance to others.
She was just “always there.”
Yet, she could have missed the moment if not for one thing. God wanted her there and arranged for her to be there to see the Baby King.
She hoped for the redemption of Israel and, once she had seen Him, she told people who were like minded.
There is always an audience for the message that God entrusts to us. There are always those who share our longing, hope, and dissatisfaction with the status quo.
God prepared Anna and He prepared her audience.
Have you been so infused and enthused with redemptive hope that you know you have to share it? He has prepared some people who are ready, willing, and anxious to hear your testimony.
Do not grow discouraged thinking no one is interested. You just haven’t found them yet.
Do not expect everyone to be responsive. Some folks have grown cold and indifferent. Others have never thought beyond the present time with all of its thrills and carnal gratifications. They are living for now and are satisfied with their listless lives.
That very well may change for them, but for the moment, they are at different stages of listening and longing.
You are looking out for those who are thirsty. Keep your good news handy, because when you are willing to share, they will start appearing.
39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The Long Road Home
They did what they had to do and then, the adventure began.
It was an adventure which Matthew elaborates upon, but about which Luke chooses to remain silent. It would lead through Egypt, a detour that would save the life of Jesus. It was a long road home.
It would lead back to Nazareth to a period of silence that would be punctuated only by a visit to Jerusalem when He was 12.
But the long road home would continue because Nazareth was only a temporary home. He was progressing on for the gory set before Him.
Our lives take twists and turns and move through mountains and valleys, over rough seas and through caves and along the streets of cities. We are going somewhere, and it is not always an easy road.
Necessity is only a starting place. When we have done what is required, the journey begins. Then we start to learn and grow and exercise faith. That’s when it gets messy and mundane.
People don’t write stories about all those details. We skim over them.
It is not that the gospel writers left out anything God wanted us to know. It’s just that there is so much more about the journey home to glory than we can recount or account for.
The journey of Jesus began when the necessities were done.
We sometimes take a “what can I get by with” attitude toward life. We want to do the minimum and quit, meet the basic requirements, get a pat on the back, and sit down in our easy chairs.
We get saved and collect our ticket to Heaven and think we are done. We haven’t even started. There is a journey ahead of us, an adventure, a plethora of unknowns, and a lifetime of wonder.
When we’ve done what we have to do, the adventure begins.
40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.
He was not born strong, wise, and full of grace.
He was born who He was: the Son of God, but the Son of God, God the Son had emptied Himself and taken on Himself the form of a servant.
Therefore, it was required that He submit to the process of maturation physically, emotionally, relationally, intellectually, and spiritually.
We, when we were children, often wanted the privileges of adults. When we became adults, we longed for the carefree life we enjoyed as children.
Seldom have we relished the gut-wrenching, humiliating, submissive, and painful experiences that are sometimes associated with growing up. In the quest to avoid some of these, there are among us those who have never grown up or have failed to do so in some selected areas of life.
Jesus grew. He became strong, wiser, and more gracious. He did it in stages and through steady progression. He did through challenges and changes, and choices.
He embraced the opportunities to grow and cherished the wisdom that was available through the synagogue and temple and the teaching of His parents.
Are you growing? You cannot stay where you are. You will either be spiraling up or spiraling down in the strength, wisdom, and grace.
You can become weaker by not growing stronger. You can indeed become less wise by refusing to grow wiser.
You can become colder and more indifferent by not becoming a channel for God’s grace to flow through you.
The choice, as always, is yours. What will it be – growth or decline?