Introduction — Preliminary Considerations
When Simeon’s pronouncement concerning the Messiah is read in concert with Mary’s Song and with Zacharias’ Prophecy one sees that the shared theme is that God has remembered His past promises.
Luke 1:54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1:72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
For my eyes have seen your salvation
The salvation that had long been promised
In each of these outbursts of praise the central point is God remembering His covenant promises of salvation. The central point is most definitely NOT the impoverished social class to which these Hebrews belonged. Yes, Mary, and Zachariah, and Simeon, and Anna, by all accounts were oppressed and likely comparatively impoverished people but we moderns have taken the wrong point from that. Instead of marveling at God who remembers His promises we focus on the economic and social class position of Zachariah (or Mary, or Simeon, or Anna, etc.). as being poor. Yet, poverty as poverty doesn’t score you any points in the Kingdom of God if one doesn’t belong to Christ and the people of God. The primary focus here is on the God who keeps covenant. We know that because that was the primary focus of the Saints here.
Simeon was waiting for the “Consolation of Israel.”
Israel had been under the boot of its enemies for centuries. Consolation is the hope of renewal and restoration.
Anna, “Spoke to all those who looked for redemption in Israel.
Redemption is likely the idea that God had provided a deliverer.
In both cases the emphasis on these Saints is what God is doing. The long wait is over. God’s consolation has come. The weariness acquired will be removed.
The focus clearly is both Trinitarian-centric. Still, many are the exegetes who want to come to these passages and talk about Liberation Theology. They want to look at the impoverished state of the Holy Family and all these witnesses but that is manifestly NOT the point.
The antithesis in the Scripture is not between Rich vs. Poor but between the Seed of the Serpent vs. The seed of the woman. And what these representatives of the Old Testament (Simeon and Anna) are doing is shouting the arrival of the long anticipated seed of the woman.
Believe me, if the story were written today, given how much the Wealthy are hated, God would have His Messiah born among the rich and royal to add the dramatic punch to the story line of “isn’t God amazing that He brought His Messiah among such ignoble filthy rich people.” However, what we don’t see in the nativity narrative of the horrid “social class conscious Theology of today” is the amazing God who keeps His promises no matter what. No, as little Marxists what we see instead are the amazing poor people who, “naturally enough” are lifted up. “Given their noble poverty they deserve it after all” seems to be the emphasis.
I.) Simeon’s Prophecy — The Work of the Holy Spirit
Mention of the Holy Spirit — 25, 26, 27
This work of the Holy Spirit upon Simeon brings to the fore the work of the Holy Spirit in the whole life of Christ. Here the Holy Spirit is directing the feet of this old saint to magnify Christ as the Messiah. This same Holy Spirit, who came upon Mary in order that the Virgin would conceive, now comes upon Simeon to testify to the Messianic reality and purpose.
For our Lord Christ there is a dependence, during His humiliation, upon the Holy Spirit at every turn and at every turn the Holy Spirit is magnifying Christ. We see that here. The Holy Spirit is directing Simeon to witness to the reality and purpose of Jesus as the Christ. Later, the Holy Spirit will anoint Christ at Baptism and then will immediately lead Christ into the desert to be tempted and then upon completion of the Temptation, Christ will tell all that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him.
Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The Spirit accompanies Christ from His conception to his death and resurrection. And here we see the Spirit of God guiding the steps of Simeon in order to declare Messiah to those with ears to hear. So, whether the Lord Christ is being announced as Messiah (Luke 2:25f, or whether he is preaching (Luke 4:18) or performing miracles (Mt. 12:28), or whether he is offering up Himself on the Cross (Heb. 9:14) or whether He is being resurrected from the grave (Romans 8:11) the Holy Spirit is bearing witness and empowering the Lord Christ from beginning to end.
17th century Theologian John Owen could offer here,
“And hence is [the Spirit] the immediate operator of all divine acts of the Son Himself, even on His human nature. Whatsoever the Son of God wrought in, by, or upon His nature, He did it by the Holy Ghost, who is His Spirit, as He is the Spirit of the Father.”
We should not be surprised then that the Holy Spirit who would be the one who would lead and sanctify the Lord Christ throughout His ministry would be the person who leads Simeon so directly in making the Christ known.
II.) Simeon’s Prophecy — Nunc Dimittis
“Numc Dimittis” Plummer writes, “The Nunc Dimittis. In its suppressed rapture and vivid intensity this canticle equals the most beautiful of the Psalms. Since the fifth century it has been used in the evening services of the Church (Apost. Const. vii 48), and has often been the hymn of dying saints. It is the sweetest and most solemn of all the canticles.” Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke, The International Critical Commentary Series,
Here then is Simeon, a man who knew that God held him in the palm of His hand, now holding God in his arms.
We have only 4 verses here but like the other Songs of Luke, we see that these are crafted by people who were crafted by God’s Revelation.
Zachariah says, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples.”
How much does that sound like this from Psalm 98?
The LORD has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (Ps. 98:2-3).
Zachariah, speaking of this Messiah says, “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of your people Israel
“I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations …” Isa. 42:6-8 (cf. 49:6)
The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations; That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God (Isa. 52:10).
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isa. 60:1-3).
This demonstrates that God’s people were saturated in Scripture. They thought in terms of God’s revelation. They are interpreting all of their reality in terms of God’s word.
Of course the question that begs being asked here is …. Do we think in terms of God’s revelation? In terms of God’s mind?
III.) Simeon’s Prophecy — Suffering
In the other songs of Luke the theme of Triumph is prevalent.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
In Simeon’s prophecy however we hear hints of the ultimate humiliation of Christ. The arrival of God’s salvation will be a sign spoken against.
A sign of what we might ask. And I would offer, given the context, a sign of God’s salvation. And Christ was spoken against.
While Christ was alive they hinted that he was illegitimately born. After his death he was a sign spoken against,
Acts 4:2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
Acts 17:32 (Mars Hill) Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.
Acts 28:22 …. “for with regard to thissect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
And Christ as God’s salvation is still spoken against.
Simeon speaks of the rising and falling in connection with Christ as God’s salvation and also of the sorrow that is coming to Mary.
IV.) Simeon’s Prophecy — Missions
A.) First note the way God calls
Simeon says that the Lord’s salvation was prepared before the face of all the peoples
The phrase there is plural. The Scripture everywhere and always speaks of the peoples and the nations. It does not view mankind as a amorphous blob of humanity. Whether it is in the OT passages which we earlier looked at that refers to Nations or whether it is here where Salvation is prepared before the faces of all the peoples or whether it is the great commission where Christ instruct that the Nations are to be discipled or whether it is the book of Revelation where we see the Nations entering into the new Jerusalem everywhere the Scripture presupposes that God works with peoples and nations.
A Reformed Old Testament scholar who taught at Calvin Seminary, retiring circa 1960,
Martin Wyngaarden recognized this when he wrote,
“Thus the highest description of Jehovah’s covenant people is applied to Egypt, — “my people,” — showing that the Gentiles will share the covenant blessings, not less than Israel. Yet the several nationalities are here kept distinct, even when Gentiles share, in the covenant blessing, on a level of equality with Israel. Egypt, Assyria and Israel are not nationally merged. And the same principles, that nationalities are not obliterated, by membership in the covenant, applies, of course, also in the New Testament dispensation.”
Martin J. Wyngaarden
The Future of the Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Study of the Scope of “Spiritualization” in Scripture pp. 101-102.
This is a hard pill to swallow for modern man for in Rushdoony’s words,
“Man is now defined as humanity rather than the individual, and this great one, humanity, to be truly a unity, must exist as one state. in this picture, any assertion of individuality, local or national independence, or the reality of races, is viewed with hostility as a sign of mental sickness; it is an assertion of plurality, which challenges the reality and unity of the universal. It is a ‘sick’ shattering of the great oneness of being. But, since differences and distinctions are basic to all description and definition, meaning disappears as this universal triumphs.”
“The One and the Many
B.) Second note here the clear implication that Christ, who is God’s salvation, is a Christ for all peoples.
God is no respecter of persons and His Gospel is for all people groups in all places at all times. God commands all men and all nations everywhere to repent and we are promised that there will be people in the new Jerusalem of every “tribe, tongue, and nation.”
So we have a need to be expansive and indiscriminate in our setting forth of the Gospel. There is no person … no people group who are outside of God’s command to repent.
God still has not forgotten His people. This is an objective fact.
For those of us who are the Israel of God we still have this Consolation … we still have this redemption. God remains faithful.
We still can delight in the fact that God is gaining the victory in Christ.