June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 2:21-40: Waiting for the Saviour

I hate to wait! In October they were selling petrol on Sunnyholt Rd for 95 cents a litre. When it was $1.46 / litre everywhere else. And people queued for two hours. To save perhaps $20. A good saving, but it wasn’t worth that much to me.

What do you think IS worth queuing for?

Daniel went to the cricket yesterday. Got to sit in the member’s stand at the SCG. He left at 7.30 am. And the cricket didn’t start until 10.30. But that’s what you’ve got to do if you want a seat in the members. If it’s worth waiting for, you’ll DO it.

Other people will wait OVERNIGHT to buy concert tickets, or be first in the door for the special Christmas sales.

I was speaking to a bloke a while ago who camped on the block of land for sale at Illawong for A WEEK. He got it! And he reckons it was WORTH the wait, He looks up the George’s River to the city. Great spot!

The more you value what you’re waiting for, the longer you’ll wait.

Perhaps it’s a job, or a house, or a husband or wife. Perhaps it’s a baby. Or a promotion, or healing, or relief.

And RELIEF is what God’s people were looking for in today’s Bible reading.

From the time of Nehemiah (about 430 BC)/ to the time of Jesus (about 4 BC), God had been silent. Not a word through the prophets. At least – not that’s recorded in Scripture.

For 400 yrs, Israel hadn’t received any messages from God. It seemed like he wasn’t ACTIVE anymore. Not INTERESTED.

And they’d been TOUGH years, too. Politically, Israel had been ruled by a succession of nations. First Persia, then Greece under Alexander the Great.

After that, there was a short rebellion from 160 BC. A number of radical Jewish nationalists called Zealots. They started a campaign of Guerilla warfare. Against the Greek oppressors.

But that all finished in 63 BC when THE ROMAN EMPIRE invaded and conquered Palestine.

The Roman general, Pompey, seized Jerusalem, ransacked the temple, killed priests, and entered the Holy of Holies.

It was sacrilege. It was heart-breaking. It was the sort of agony the Jews couldn’t forgive OR forget.

Israel was in pain, and they were hanging out for some relief. Some COMFORT. They were in the Promised Land, but it certainly didn’t look much like the paradise they’d hoped for.

And so we come to the time of Jesus.

Rome firmly in control, and Israel looking for God to act.

The cry was “Has God forgotten us?” “How long do we have to submit to pagan nations?” When is the Messiah coming? You PROMISED. Where IS he?

These are the questions people all over Israel were asking. People waiting for God to act.

People just like Simeon and Anna. Who didn’t just belly-ache about the situation, and blame God. They didn’t turn their back on God. And blame it on the fact that he didn’t seem to be doing anything.

They were FAITHFUL! They were actively seeking to follow God! They HOPED. Hoped for something better. Hoped for God to answer their prayers.

1. Simeon

We meet Simeon first. Verse 25 of Ch 2. He’s righteous and devout. Just like Zechariah, he was a good Jew. Doing all the things the law required.

See also he was faithfully and patiently WAITING. WAITING FOR THE CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL. For the COMFORTING of Israel. For RELIEF from her suffering. In other words, he was waiting for God to act. Waiting for the Messiah.

Probably not that unusual from plenty of other Jews of his time. But what distinguishes Simeon from those around him was that the Holy Spirit was on him. Look at the end of v25.

(Luke 2:25-26 NIV)  … the Holy Spirit was upon him. {26} It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that HE WOULD NOT DIE BEFORE HE HAD SEEN THE LORD’S CHRIST.

God had given him special notice that he’d see the Messiah before he died.

Imagine that!? You’d be ON THE LOOKOUT, wouldn’t you? You’d wake up every morning. “THIS could be the day! It could be TODAY!”

‘Cause when something’s as valuable as THAT, you’ll wait for AGES.

And this was SIMEON’S special mission. The whole reason he’d received the Holy Spirit. To be a WATCHMAN. The guard on the tower wall. Keeping his eyes open for God’s special Saviour.

And then, one day, IT HAPPENED. He woke up that morning. And the Holy Spirit told him, “Today’s the day! Go to the temple!” So off he goes.

It’s the day Mary and Joseph have come to the Temple. They’ve brought Jesus to be consecrated. To dedicate him to God. They’ve done THE CIRCUMCISION. Now it’s the time for THE DEDICATION. 40 days later. And so they come with their sacrifice. Nothing special – only two doves. (Who knows how many OTHER first babies were there on that day doing the same thing.)

But while the SACRIFICE mightn’t have been anything special, When Simeon sees Jesus, he knows THIS BABY was something special. Look at his reaction when he sees Jesus. Verse 28.

{28} Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: {29} “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. {30} For my eyes have seen your salvation, {31} which you have prepared in the sight of all people, {32} a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon’s been rewarded for his patience. He can die happily. The thing he’s been waiting for is SO VALUABLE/ it’s worth MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF. Nothing else matters. He’s been released from his duty. He’s seen the Messiah. Held him in his arms.

What a joy. What a relief. “God IS faithful. He DOES deliver on his promises. And THIS is his answer.”

And look at what he calls Jesus. God’s SALVATION. That’s the COMFORT he’ll bring. A RESCUER.

But here’s the unexpected bit. The bit that really excites Simeon. After all Israel’s hoping and praying, you’d think that this Saviour would free Israel from HER enemies. That was the hope of his countrymen.

But that’s not God’s plan. He’s got something MUCH more wonderful in mind. God’s plans have been laid out on the table before ALL PEOPLE. The Messiah is a Saviour for EVERYONE. A light for Jews AND Gentiles.

Which is great news for you and me GENTILES. Who weren’t born Jewish. A LIGHT and a SAVIOUR.

And it’s pretty amazing news for Mary and Joseph too. V33 They MARVELLED at what was said about him. After everything that had happened over the last nine or ten months – here was another surprise. God’s plans even included the GENTILES!

But as Simeon turns to Mary, he has some words for her too. And it’s here we get the first dark clouds about what’s in store. Because Jesus’ arrival WON’T be great news for everyone. He’ll be the cause of DIVISION. Some will think Jesus’ arrival is GOOD NEWS, others – BAD news. V34.

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Some will FALL, others will RISE as Jesus the SAVIOUR comes in JUDGMENT. Not everyone WANTS the Creator of the Universe to call people to account. To set things RIGHT.

Those words rang true in Jesus’ earthly life. As people sorted themselves in to TWO GROUPS. Those who recognised Jesus as God’s Saviour, and who recognised their own need. And those who REJECTED him.

And the name of Jesus causes exactly the same two groups to form TODAY. In Jerusalem, in the world, in Australia, perhaps even in your own family. Those who RECOGNISE him, and who Jesus raises up (gives LIFE to). And those who REJECT him, and who Jesus will bring DOWN. (they receive JUDGMENT)

And so the obvious question to ask is/ which side of that division are YOU on? Are you someone who recognises you need a Saviour – that you need Jesus? Or are you someone who thinks you’re doing fine on your own?

That’s the DIVISION that Jesus causes. Which side are you going to come down on?

Anna

But on THAT day, back in the temple, with the baby Jesus only 40 days old/ that was all in front of Mary.

And for Mary, Simeon wasn’t the only person she’d meet that day. Because while Simeon’s delivering his speech to her, they’re joined by someone ELSE. Anna. And just like Simeon, she was a prophet. And just like Simeon, she was waiting for the Messiah. Have a look at the description about her. There in v36

36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

An old woman. Widowed for decades. Nothing else to take up her time. No other commitments. So she spent it in the best way she knew how. In the temple. Worshipping God. From morning to night. Praying for – expectantly hoping for – God to ACT. For his Saviour to arrive.

And when he arrived, she was READY. She RECOGNISED him. And when she saw him, she was OVERJOYED. And SHARED that with anyone who’d listen. (Verse 38)

This was a woman who was IN TUNE WITH GOD, and his plans. Her thoughts were focussed on God. She worshipped. Fasted. Prayed. Night and day.

How would OUR lives change if we became people whose focus shifted onto God, like that? People whose gaze moved from the noisy, fading things that jostle for our attention. To the one who, alone, is infinitely WORTHY of our attention, of our time and our energy.

Our attitudes would change. Our emotions. Our hungers. Our passions. Our priorities. All of them would become more and more like the One we focussed on. We’d grow to love the things HE loves. the things HE s. Desire and rejoice in what God wants and rejoices in. Commit to what He’s committed to.

How do we DO that? How do you drag your focus off things that DON’T matter onto the things of God?

The answer’s both simple and difficult. God speaks to us through his WORD. The answer is to spend regular, consistent, disciplined, focussed, intelligent, prayerful time in God’s Word, the Bible.

I’ve spoken to a few of you, who in your more candid moments, have shared how you struggle to find regular time to focus on God. Reading your Bible and praying. So many OTHER things in life that demand your attention that God just seems to slip off the radar.

Why not make it a resolution that THIS YEAR you’ll make a commitment to SPENDING MORE TIME WITH GOD. Fixing your thoughts on him.

I’m not saying we should expect to be like ANNA. And spend our whole day doing nothing but worshipping and praying.

But GET ORGANISED. Order some Bible reading notes. Start a prayer diary. Or a journal. Download some sermons to listen to. Buy some good Christian books. Join a home group.

And get DISCIPLINED. Carve out a time in the day just for you and God. Make it a priority. It might be first thing in the morning. Perhaps you’ll even need to set the alarm. Or first thing when you sit down at your desk. Or why not turn off the TV half an hour early each night, and read your Bible instead?

Nothing is more important. Let that priority be REFLECTED in how you spend your day.

And don’t get tricked into thinking that the priorities of the WORLD are the same as God’s priorities. They’re the complete opposite.

I wonder why Luke’s gone to the trouble to tell us so much about Anna. Would people have thought she was just a useless old woman? Taking up space. Using up resources? Day after day nothing BETTER to do than hang out in the temple worshiping, fasting and praying.

As we look back on that day. With the benefit of hindsight. I wonder how many OTHER people were doing anything MORE IMPORTANT than ANNA did on that day? (Worshipping God, praying for his Saviour. And then actually getting to SEE Jesus, and tell others about him).

On the surface, she looked to be on the outside. Wasting her day on irrelevancies. On things that didn’t PRODUCE anything. ACHIEVE anything.

Did anything more important happen that day? Any military battles won, any financial deals settled? Produce manufactured? Any legal decisions handed down? Probably!

But do they compare to the magnitude of the arrival of Jesus? The Saviour or the nations? The light to the world? They all pall into insignificance compared to what Anna did on that day. In hindsight, none of that matters A FIG compared to what Anna was involved in.

People think Christians waste their time. Meeting on Sundays. Giving money to the work of ministry. Studying a book written thousands of years ago. Praying to a God you can’t see. Following the teachings of someone who seems irrelevant to life today.

But don’t be fooled! Little old Anna was doing the most important work of ALL that day in Jerusalem. And so do WE when we focus ourselves on God, on his WORD, and mould ourselves to HIS priorities and ways and thoughts and agenda.

That’s the thing to make your new year’s resolution! There’s nothing more important!

And so Joseph and Mary finish their business in the temple. What an amazing day! ANOTHER amazing day!

Two more witnesses. No angels, or dreams. Nothing extraordinary. But two faithful, aged, hopeful, committed lovers of God. Who rejoiced to see his plans coming together. And who gave Mary and Joseph MORE food for thought. More insight into what God had in store for his Son, Jesus.

4. Application

So what can we learn from Simeon and Anna?

Unlike them, we don’t have to wait for the Saviour. Jesus has come!

But we can learn from their PATIENT, DETERMINED, ACTIVE waiting on God. Waiting for Him to act, and to work out his purposes.

1. Anna and Simeon were PATIENT in their waiting. It looked like God wasn’t doing anything. He’d forgotten Israel. But they continued to wait. They were both old, but they didn’t give up hope. They were patient.

2. Anna and Simeon were DETERMINED in their waiting. They weren’t swayed. They continued to hold out their HOPE for the Messiah. One who would redeem and console Israel.

3. Anna and Simeon were ACTIVE in their waiting. Waiting wasn’t an excuse to inactivity, laziness and moral laxity. They maintained the disciplines of a godly life. Simeon was “righteous and devout”. Anna “never left the temple, but worshipped day and night, fasting and praying”

How often do we wait for God to act, but doubt that He will, or even that He can? How often when trouble arrives is our first instinct to try and solve it ourselves? How often when things go wrong do we forget that God promises to work all things for good for those who love God?

How often are our prayers full of what WE want God to do, rather than asking God what He wants us to do?

Or when we DO we ask God what He wants for us, how often do we never wait quietly long enough for God to tell us?

We too, need to be patient, determined, and active as we wait on God.

1. Patient – that God has a right time for everything. That when things appear to be moving too fast – or too slowly – for our liking- we need to remember that God’s timing is perfect timing!

As we wait for God to answer our prayers, as we wait for God to act, we need to wait PATIENTLY.

Secondly, we need to wait with DETERMINATION – that God hasn’t failed in the past, and he won’t fail now!

Even when circumstances suggest otherwise, our prayers and lives must show a determined, faithful, dogged perserverance.

Like a dog with a bone, we mustn’t let go of our trust that God will act! As we wait for God to answer our prayers, as we wait for God to act, we need to wait with DETERMINATION

Third, we need to be ACTIVE. Not to ignore OUR part in God’s plans. We need to continue praying -or studying – or serving – or suffering, or growing. We mustn’t just sit back PASSIVELY and wait for God to change the situation.

Hope in God. Wait for him. Prayer with faith.

Our God is a God who’s WORTH IT. Who stands by his people. Who stands by his PROMISES. The arrival of Jesus PROVES it.

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