Simeon’s Prophetic Warning

Rembrandt – “Circumcision”

Mary and Joseph stood there, awestruck over what was being said about their baby. Simeon then blessed them and prophesied over Mary, saying: “A painful sword will one day pierce your inner being, for your child will be rejected by many in Israel. And the destiny of your child is this: he will be laid down as a miracle sign for the downfall and resurrection of many in Israel. Many will oppose this sign, but it will expose to all the innermost thoughts of their hearts before God.” 

(Luke 2:34–35)

After a long lifetime of waiting and watching, Simeon has finally laid his dimming eyes upon the promised Seed through Whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. He can now depart in peace. 

But wait. As he holds the 40-day-old infant, the spirit of prophecy moves him. After speaking a blessing over the parents, he brings words of stark warning—for both the mother and the nation he loves. He sees heartache in Mary’s future. The source of her pain will be the rejection of her Son by many of his countrymen. Jesus’ presence and preaching will expose the true nature of hearts. Some will respond in a way that will lead to a resurrection—a new birth. Others will reject Him, to their everlasting “downfall.”

Indeed, the gospels reveal that Jesus will go through all the villages and synagogues of both Judea and Galilee. (Matthew 9:35) His preaching will be filled with classic Old Testament prophetic vocabulary, frequently warning of a fiery judgment coming to that generation of Israelites. (Scan Luke’s gospel and count how many times Jesus uses the phrase “this generation.”)

And, consistent with Simeon’s prophecy, His illustrations will frequently describe a sorting and dividing of the people who hear his message. Jesus will speak of wheat being separated from chaff. And wheat from tares. He will speak of the sorting of sheep and goats. And of fish after a catch. He will describe His Words of Life as seeds falling on four different kinds of soil. 

By the Spirit, Simeon saw what so many other Scripture experts of his day completely missed. The Messiah hadn’t come to unify the Jewish people against Rome. On the contrary, He was destined to divide them. For some He would be “the way” to new life. For many others, He would become a stone over which they would stumble and fall. (John 6:60-65)

Everything Simeon prophesies on this day will came to pass. The reactions to Jesus’ words will reveal the true nature of hearts. Many among the pious Pharisees and other religious elites will not only reject Him but despise Him. Yet many of those who had long ago abandoned both the ethics and observances of the Mosaic Law will return to God with joyful tears.

Finally, Simeon sees past the Jesus’ ministry as a prophet to His service as a priest—as both High Priest and sacrifice Lamb. He will be “laid down” (on a cross) and then lifted up as a “miracle sign” to the nation. 

Prayer of Declaration:

Jesus—Prophet, Priest and King—you willingly laid your life down so that I, and countless others around the world, and throughout history might receive eternal life. My heart is soft toward you. My ears are attuned to your voice. I’m good soil for your Words of Life!

A Glimpse of God’s Face

Rembrandt’s “Simeon and Anna in the Temple” – Wikimedia Commons

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She did not leave the temple grounds, serving night and day with fasts and prayers.”

(Luke 2:36–37 NASB)

Simeon was not the only aging Israelite with the gift of prophecy to receive Messianic revelation on the day Joseph and Mary went to the temple to “redeem” their firstborn son.

The old man was there at that precise moment only because the Spirit of God had directed him there. But Anna, an elderly widow, lived there in the temple complex. Although not a Levite, she was nevertheless allowed to reside and serve on the Temple Mount. She must have been very special.

Perhaps Luke mentions her father’s name because he was an important man. Luke also informs us that Anna is eighty-four and had been widowed after only seven years of marriage. A little math, along with the assumption that, per the customs of that culture, Anna had been wed as a teenager, suggests that Anna had likely been a widow for roughly six decades. Had she been serving and prophesying at the Temple complex that entire time? If so, she was certainly an iconic figure among all the devout of Israel.

We can safely assume that Simeon’s ecstatic reaction at encountering the baby Messiah caught Anna’s attention. Or perhaps the Spirit had nudged her just as it had Simeon. In either case, she walks up just as Simeon finishes prophesying. Luke tells us:

And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak about Him to all those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38 NASB)

Anna’s testimony will serve as a significant source of fuel to the fires of Messianic expectation that will engulf the land in the days to come. Fires so hot, that when, in thirty years, John the Baptist begins preaching way out at the Jordan River, “all of Jerusalem will come out to hear him.” (see: Mark 1:5) 

Throughout six decades of service at the Jerusalem temple, this large open plaza outside the gates of the inner complex, sometimes called the Court of the Women, is as close to the heart of the temple Anna, or any other woman, has ever been permitted to stand.

One level deeper lies the Court of Israel, (or the Court of Men). Deeper still lies the Court of Priests. Finally, in very heart of the complex, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The latter chamber is where the very presence of God is said to dwell. Only the High Priest is allowed into that sacred space, and only once each year. 

Here’s the irony. On this day, this devout widow gets closer to the presence of God than the corrupt High Priest ever has or will. Anna has seen the face of God. 

Prayer of Declaration:

Jesus, the curtain or veil that blocked access to the Temple’s Holy of Holies was torn in two as you laid your life down for me. Through your blood, I now have direct and free access to the very Presence and Person of God, my Heavenly Father.

All Must Be Fulfilled

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child . . . 

(Luke 2:21-22a NLT)

After the fall festival pilgrims and Roman census travelers returned to their homes, it seems Joseph and Mary were able to find better quarters in Bethlehem. Luke doesn’t say so explicitly, but the new parents appear to have been intent on staying there permanently. 

This move makes sense given that both received revelation from an angel that this child was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. Human reason surely suggested that it would be better to raise this most special of all Jewish boys in close proximity to Jerusalem and the Temple, rather than in far-away Nazareth. And what better place to groom the successor to David’s throne than in David’s hometown? (Of course, this is not God’s plan, but the couple doesn’t know it yet.)

So, they take great pains to do all their ancient faith requires. That includes having the baby boy circumcised on his eighth day. As with his relative, John, who is now six or seven months old, the name is announced at this ceremony. Both angels had been quite specific—Jesus, or Y’shua in Hebrew, was to be the name. And so it was. 

This meticulous attention to both Old Testament observance and fulfillment will continue throughout Jesus’ life and ministry. He will one day tell His disciples that He did not come to set aside the law and the prophets but rather to be their fulfillment. (Matthew 5:17) Time and again He will explain His actions and intentions in terms of fulfilling everything the (Old Testament) Scriptures had spoken.

Following His resurrection, in some of His final instruction just prior to His ascension to the throne, He will emphatically point them back to this aspect of His mission:

“Don’t you remember the words that I spoke to you when I was still with you? I told you that I would fulfill everything written about me, including all the prophecies from the law of Moses through the Psalms and the writings of the prophets.” (Luke 24:44 TPT)

There are two vital takeaways for us here. The first is that the entire Old Testament was pointing to Jesus—even though few if any recognized it before He came. As we’ve previously seen, the Bible is story about a Seed and that Seed is Jesus.

Secondly, one of the very best parts of the “good news” of the gospel is that Jesus is our fulfillment of all the Law requires. He did what is impossible for you or any other fallen human: He flawlessly kept the legal requirements of righteousness and acceptance by a Holy God. And simple, childlike faith in Him results in a miraculous transaction/transformation that simultaneously puts you “in Him” and Him in you. (Romans 6:3-4; Ephesians 1:3-14) From Heaven’s perspective you literally are “clothed” in Him and His righteousness. (Galatians 3:27) 

Prayer of Declaration:

Jesus, my Savior, thank you for perfectly and completely satisfying, for all time, everything that the Law and justice requires on my behalf. I am clothed with You—Your righteousness, Your acceptance, Your authority.

The Very Heart of the Good News

A child has been born for us . . . And His name will be called . . .  The Mighty God! The Father of Eternity! 

(Isaiah 9:6 TPT)

More than 700 years before it happened, Isaiah sees the most important event of human history: the promised Messiah’s arrival. In various visions, the prophet foresees not only Jesus’ birth but His rejection by Judah’s religious elite. In hindsight, we now know what caused that surprising rejection.

It was not a claim to Messiahship that turned the religious establishment against Jesus. In fact, Jesus diligently avoided making any such claim in public. On the contrary, He frequently pleaded with those who discovered His true identity to keep it a secret. 

No, it was His habit of calling God “Father” with affectionate familiarity that set religious teeth on edge. After all, the pious leaders of Judah dared not even pronounce or write God’s name. His references to He and Father being “one” sent them looking for stones with which to crush His skull. (John 10:30-31) And ultimately, it was His matter-of-fact declaration that “before Abraham was, I AM” that drove them mad with murderous rage. (John 8:58-59)

In other words, Jesus plainly claimed to be the Son of God. And to be God. 

It was a puzzle. They were actually looking for the Messiah. Centuries of rabbinic study and careful parsing of the scriptures led the learned Jewish scholars of the first century to correctly anticipate the arrival of God’s “Messiah” in their lifetimes. But somehow those studies did not lead them to expect the arrival of God Himself, clothed in human flesh. 

Yet even a schoolchild reading Isaiah could see it. The prophet clearly wrote that the “child” would be called “Mighty God.” If Isaiah’s prophecy had been taken at face value, the scholars and scriptural experts would have known that the promised Messiah must somehow be both human and divine. Human because He would be “born.” Divine because He would be called “The Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” 

The paradox of Jesus’ simultaneous humanity and divinity became the stone over which first century intellectuals and elites stumbled and fell into skeptical disbelief. It is in our day, too. Yet it is the very heart of the good news. It is no wonder John opened his gospel with these words:

In the beginning the Living Expression was already there. And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God . . . And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! We gazed upon his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with grace and truth! (John 1:1,14 TPT)

Don’t stumble over it. Don’t try to understand it. Just believe and rejoice in the astonishing thought that Mighty God, the Father of Eternity, loved you enough to die for you.

Prayer of Declaration

What a mystery! What a miracle! The one called The Mighty God is my Champion. Because of You, Jesus, I too can refer to God as “Father” with the affectionate familiarity You did. Oh, Father of Eternity, You have given me everlasting life.

The Royal Scepter Finds its Rightful Hand

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.

(Genesis 49:10 NLT)
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Jacob, advanced in years, eyesight dimming, strength failing, feels a strange stirring in his weary soul. It has been a very long time since he last felt this power, but He recognizes it. It is the spirit of prophecy. It’s clear now. Before he dies, Jacob must speak over each of his 12 sons, so he summons them to his bedside.

These are not necessarily words of blessing but words of destiny. For better or for worse, Jacob’s prophetic pronouncement over each son will outline a future for their descendants—one that is rooted both in the character and calling of the man. 

He begins with the eldest, Reuben, and then moves on to Simeon and Levi. His forecasts for their posterities are not encouraging. Quite the opposite. So Judah, the fourth-born, is bracing himself for bad news as his turn approaches. 

Instead, this prophetic pronouncement over Judah—the longest one Jacob will deliver, except for the one for his beloved Joseph—holds nothing but good news. At the heart of it lies a prediction filled with kingly symbolism. A “scepter” is mentioned, as is a “ruler’s staff.” Jacob’s decree suggests that when the future God-ordained kings of Israel arise, they will come from one tribe only: the descendants of the one whose name means “praise.” 

And so it would be. From David to Zedekiah, only men of Judah ruled from Jerusalem.

But wait! There is an expiration date on Jacob’s prophetic prediction. The Tribe of Judah’s monopoly on the throne of Judah was only “until . . .” Until what?

“. . . until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.”

Roughly 1,800 years after Jacob’s prophecy, two direct descendants of Judah will meet. One of those descendants, a young maiden, will become the “promised One’s” biological mother. The other, a man, will serve as His legal father. There, lying in Mary’s arms as Joseph looks on, is that One to whom the scepter truly belongs. No other kings will come from Judah. Nor should they. 

After all, the King of Kings has come. And soon, people of “all nations”—hearts from every tribe and tongue in every corner of the planet—will hear of it and honor Him.

Prayer of Declaration

Jesus, my King, all authority in heaven and on earth is Yours. Truly heaven’s royal scepter and the ruler’s staff of earth belong to You, and You alone. What a blessing it is to be the subject of a King who is kind, good, and compassionate, yet mighty and wise. May You receive the honor You are due among the nations. May Your enemies be made a footstool for Your feet.

Miracle Baby Forerunner

Abraham and Isaac (Wikimedia Commons)

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed [plural] as the stars of the heavens and as the sand, which is on the seashore . . . And in your seed [singular] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 

Genesis 22:15-19 NASB

The entire Old Testament narrative points to the coming of Jesus. Yet that pointing takes a variety of forms. As we’ll soon see, some passages record the visions of prophets who glimpsed Him. In other places, rituals, feasts, and ceremonies serve as “types and shadows” of who Jesus would be and what He would accomplish through His death and resurrection. 

There is a third form of pointing that could be called “forerunner-ing.” Some individuals in the Old Testament literally blazed a trail for the future Messiah. They opened legal windows between heaven and earth to make it possible for God to deliver His redemptive masterplan.

As noted in the previous meditation, once God made mankind the legal stewards of planet earth, vesting them with dominion authority, God was constrained by His own righteousness and character to work in partnership with fallen men and women in order to accomplish His redemptive plans. That’s why the opening section of this devotional is labeled, “Prophecies & Prerequisites.” For reasons cloaked in mystery, some things were simply necessary if Jesus was ultimately going to be born.

Abraham and his son Isaac represent two such forerunners. Before God could offer up His only Son as a sacrifice for the sin of all mankind, it seems it was necessary to begin that process with a mortal man who was willing to offer up his beloved son as a sacrifice. Only such a man could serve as the natural ancestor to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. 

This future sacrificial Son would be a miracle baby. Therefore, the forerunner child would have to have a miraculous aspect to his birth, too. Isaac, the forerunner, carried the wood to the top of the hill where his own sacrifice was to take place. The ultimate Seed would one day carry a wooden crossbeam to the hilltop where He would willing lay down His life.

In a sense, Isaac was a forerunner of the resurrection too. Hebrews 11:19 declares: “Abraham’s faith made it logical to him that God could raise Isaac from the dead, and symbolically, that’s exactly what happened.” (TPT)

Mary’s miracle baby was Abraham’s promised “Seed” through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That Seed was possible because God found a willing partner in Abraham. God is still looking for partners today—people of faith and trust who will be His instruments in blessing others.

Prayer of Declaration

Father, I’m willing and ready to partner with You and carrying out Your redemptive purposes in the world. I hear You clearly through Your Spirit and Your Word. I’ll say what You want me to say and manifest Your compassion to those You want to touch in love.

Deleted Scenes from Christmas Grace: Two Cries

But when the time of fulfillment had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

Galatians 4:4 TPT

Christmas is a seed story. Eve was promised a Seed. God spoke to Abram of a Seed, too–one through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The pitiful cry of a newborn infant from a stable on a star-spangled Bethlehem night announced the long-awaited arrival of that Seed. Oh, what battles preceded that arrival! 

The entirety of the Old Testament can rightly be viewed as the account of God working in History to put in place all that was legally necessary for the arrival of that Seed, alongside His enemy’s futile efforts to stop God’s Garden prophecy from coming to pass. (One day the Seed of the woman will crush the head of the Serpent.)

Note the phrase “legally necessary” in the paragraph above. Too few Christians understand that God built the universe upon a legal and judicial framework. Once God legally granted dominion stewardship of Earth to mankind (Gen. 1:26-28), He was constrained by His own righteousness and holiness to operate within the judicial rules He had established. 

In other words, although a sovereign God theoretically could have cheated at the game He invented, His character would never allow Him to do so. 

This meant that if God was going to fulfill His promise to get another “Adam” into the earth, He would have to do so legally. In the Old Testament, everything that came after that seed promise depicts a cosmic chess match between God and His crafty but inferior enemy.

If the Old Testament narrative sometimes seems harsh and hard, it is only because the stakes of that battle were so profoundly high. The fate of humanity and control of planet earth literally hung in the balance. 

Yet, move by move, God brilliantly advanced His plan. First, he called a man (Abram)—one willing to sacrifice his own son in faith. That man would produce a people (Israel) whose intricately prescribed sacrificial system of worship would, by judicial necessity, model and forerun the ultimate solution to the crisis Adam caused. The blood-soaked Old Testament is the war chronicle of the battle to get Jesus, the “Last Adam,” into the earth. 

Every detail of every incident speaks of Him. Points to Him. Prepares for Him. And most importantly, judicially sanctions Him.

Paul has all of this in view when he writes, “But when the time of fulfillment had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

It means that infant’s cry from the Bethlehem stable was merely a prelude to his cry of “It is finished!” from a Jerusalem cross 33 years later. 

Prayer of Declaration

Brilliant heavenly Father, what a plan. What a victory! It’s easy to trust in You because You are utterly good, ever faithful, and always redemptive in your actions. That’s just Your character and nature. Because Jesus was born “under the law” and fulfilled its every requirement, I have been born-again under Your new and better covenant of grace. I’m filled with gratitude for Your kindness. I’m in awe of Your brilliance. I’m humbled by Your gracious generosity. 

Deleted Scenes from Christmas Grace: “Jesus: A Prophet Like Moses”

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him . . . The Lord said to me [Moses]: “. . . I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.”

Deuteronomy 18:15,17-19 NIV (additions mine)

One of the most obscure Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah King came from the lips of Moses near the end of his life. The final chapters of Deuteronomy represent Moses’ parting instructions to the Israelites as they prepared to enter and occupy the land of promise without him.

In the middle of those instructions, Moses pauses to prophesy. First, speaking for himself, he tells the nation that God will one day raise up, out of their midst, another prophet—one “like me,” Moses says. Then he repeats this prediction as a word from the Lord. This future Moses 2.0 prophet will speak everything God tells Him to say. God follows this with a warning: Those in Israel who do not heed the words of this future prophet, will answer directly to God. 

So, who fulfilled this prophecy? Who was this second prophet like Moses? Was it Samuel? Elijah? Isaiah, perhaps? Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate about that. The Word of God tells us plainly. 

In the third chapter of Acts, the Apostle Peter, freshly baptized in the Holy Spirit, preaches a sermon in the outer court of the Temple to the crowd that gathered to marvel at the miracle of the lame man who Peter and John healed in Jesus’ name. In verses 22 and 23, Peter explicitly states that Jesus was that promised prophet, like Moses. 

Most believers understand that Jesus became our High Priest and that He is our reigning King. But few Christians understand or even recognize the prophetic ministry of Jesus. Matthew 4:17 tells us that Jesus picked up John the Baptist’s prophetic mantle and message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” For three years He crisscrossed Israel visiting “. . . all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 9:35 NIV)

Those among his countrymen who heeded His message had hearts prepared for the New Covenant message when it arrived on the Day of Pentecost. Those who rejected it suffered the imminent judgment of which both John and Jesus had repeatedly warned—just as Moses had foreseen. 

Before Jesus began His priestly mission in the final weeks of his life, He carried out a vital prophetic mission—one foreseen by Moses. That means that child of promise in Mary’s arms is not only destined to be our priest and king, but a prophet, too. 

Prayer of Declaration

Jesus, as a prophet to Israel, You spoke everything God told You to say, just as Moses prophesied. Your Holy Spirit, the One you promised and sent, carries on today, speaking to me everything You want me to know. Your Spirit leads me into all truth and shows me things to come. 

Want more insight like this? Get my devotional Christmas Grace: 31 Meditations and Declarations on the Greatest Gift Ever Given.