Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2.25-32.
How do you “see” salvation? More specifically, how do you “see” salvation when what you are looking at is a tiny baby? The answer is that Simeon had a different concept of salvation than the one we usually carry. For Simeon, salvation was all bound up in a person — the Menachem.
Six hundred years before Simeon lifted up the infant Jesus in the temple, the ultimate catastrophe had struck Israel. The might of Babylon had been unleashed against her, and Jerusalem had been razed to ground. The holy city and the temple lay in ruins, and the people of Israel, exiled in Babylon, could not have been in greater distress. By the waters of Babylon, they wept as they remembered Zion. They saw themselves as crushed under the Lord’s anger because of their sins; and most thought that the Lord had abandoned them for good. But into that situation had stepped the prophet Isaiah, and he had brought to exiled Israel a series of messages which began “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40.1). Those prophesies formed that part of the book of Isaiah which the Jews came to know as the “Book of Consolation”; and they told of One who would come to wipe all the tears from Israel’s eyes, who would restore her fortunes and would bring her back into a right relationship with her God. And because of the “Comfort, comfort my people” text, the Jews made up a name for the One who would come. They called him “the Comforter” — in Hebrew, the Menachem. He would be the “consolation of Israel” and, six hundred years down the line, Simeon, who has been waiting for the Menachem all his life, now knows he has found him.
It is important to remind myself of this. That I don’t come to Jesus for salvation as something he gives. Jesus is salvation. He is the lifeboat into which I clamber. He is the sling of the rescue helicopter into which I put myself to be saved. As Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12, my italics). When I look at Jesus, I too “see” God’s salvation. And when I abide in Jesus … when I live my life in him and through him … I too enjoy God’s salvation.
Faithful vigil ended, watching, waiting cease:
Master, grant Your servant his discharge in peace.
All the Spirit promised, all the Father willed,
now these eyes behold it perfectly fulfilled.
This Your great deliverance sets Your people free;
Christ their light uplifted all the nations see.
Christ, Your people’s glory! Watching, doubting cease:
grant to us Your servants our discharge in peace.
© Timothy Dudley-Smith