…Some Urgent Lessons From Simeon and Anna
To all His little ones scattered in the wilderness – grace and peace to all of you from our Lord and Shepherd Jesus Christ, He in whom we live and move and have our very being. Our sincere prayer for all of you in this hour is that you might walk ever further in His life and light, worthy of all that He is as our truth and wisdom and purpose; that He would be increased and advanced as we learn to live every moment in Him. May our dear Lord preserve us in Himself, that we may be kept from every idol, delusion and distraction that might keep us from looking to His coming and loving His appearing. Amen
Dear saints, the testimony of Simeon and Anna recorded for us in Luke 2 is profoundly meaningful on so many levels, and I wanted to share some thoughts on this matter as the Lord permits.
Before getting started, here is the text in entirety –
And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, 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 THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.”
And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart 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 OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
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 seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. [Luke 2:21-38]
Here, in so powerful a narrative, we have a testimony of watchfulness and devotion on the part of these two elderly saints looking longingly for the expected savior and redeemer. Both Simeon and Anna arrived at the temple at precisely the time the firstborn child was being consecrated to the Lord –
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.” (Exo. 13:1-2)
Now there are many heaven-sent truths to be derived from this account, surrounding the character and circumstances of Simeon and Anna for example, but it appears evident that these two individuals were of only a few who were actively anticipating and seeking the arrival of the Anointed One; the King and Savior of Israel. Where were all the Scribes one wonders, or the Pharisees and Sadducees whose ‘extensive’ understanding of the scriptures had equipped them to be teachers and guides among the people?
The time of the Messiah’s blessed and longed-for arrival was imminent, and yet the majority of Jews were either unaware, unprepared or otherwise distracted by other matters; perhaps the politics of the day, the demands of daily life, the immediate needs of family, or other seemingly ordinary human pursuits and interests? How could this have happened? Why were not the pastors and teachers in Israel, to whom the people were so overly dependent for their spiritual vitality, adequately preparing them for the coming of the Lord? Where was the prophetic urgency?
In contrast we have two insignificant ones, devout and elderly saints led entirely and personally by the Holy Spirit, moved by the urgency of the prophetic moment, “preaching in season and out of season” in the temple, patiently loving the appearing of their Messiah. Though all of the notable elders, teachers and established sects of the day had completely and utterly missed the most important event in the history of the world, a forgotten old man and a lonely old widow were there. This makes you wonder doesn’t it my brethren? Oh how His ways are so much higher and deeper than ours.
Both were prophets in the purest sense of the word. And they knew fully the prophetic scriptures indicating the imminence of the time in which they were living. Both were empowered and directed by the Spirit to make themselves, and any others who might listen, ready for that day of visitation. For both of them, this was the singular obsession of their lives; nothing came before it in terms of their time, attention or devotion. Theirs was a faith perfected unto endurance by time and testing (James 1:3). With unflinching steadfastness and determination they pressed on , day after day, waiting, hoping, pining for the fulfillment of all that the Word and Spirit had conveyed to them. Rest assured dear saints, that the coming of the Anointed One was no peripheral doctrine or teaching, as it was in the synagogues of their day or the churches of ours.
It moved them to watch, to act, to make themselves ready, to purify themselves, and to exhort others in Israel to do the same.
For Simeon (his name means “hearing, or to be heard” in Hebrew), only the vision of the Lord’s Christ stood before him and his own mortality, for the Spirit had revealed to him that he would indeed behold the Anointed One before his death. The suggestion here is, I believe, that he must have died shortly after this incident. Imagine if you will, this elderly saint taking the little child in his worn and wrinkled hands, and the indescribable joy that must have washed over his entire being in that intense moment. He knew precisely who the little child was. His faith had been rewarded. The Word had been fulfilled. The singular purpose of his life had been realized in that single moment of time.
Unlike Anna, we know very little about Simeon’s lineage or personal history. All we know essentially is his name, which he shares with one of the children of Jacob. It may be instructive to highlight here the rather inauspicious history of Simeon, as he received no blessing whatsoever when Moses blessed the tribes, and became a scattered and divided people upon entering the land. What we might gather therefore, is that the name Simeon in Israel came to be regarded in a derogatory manner. And yet here we have this aged saint being blessed by the grace of God at the arrival of the Comforter of Israel.
And next we learn of Anna (meaning “grace, or favor” in Hebrew), who over the course of a long and (presumably in the worldly sense) lonely life, fasted and prayed, and spoke out in the temple to all who would hear for many decades (84 years, which is the product of 7 and 12, two numbers rich in scriptural meaning).
Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. (1 Tim 5:5-6)
Anna, it appears, was not at all caught up in the hopes and affairs of life in the world, or the pursuits or distractions of the day. Hers was not the sterile religion of the people, for she looked only to God and His salvation, as she was moved and enlivened by His Holy Spirit. She too, as Simeon, was not disappointed, as she arrived at the temple (the Court of Women) at the precise instant the Holy One was being presented to the Lord. Once again, a faith informed solely by the Spirit, was rewarded. It is interesting to note here how the scripture records that Anna was the daughter of Phanuel, which means “face of God”, of the tribe of Asher, which means “happy”. Essentially then, Anna was blessed by the grace of God to experience the unsurpassed joy of beholding the face of God’s Anointed. This could not be said for the vast majority in Israel, religious, zealous or otherwise. Truly, our God always preserves for Himself a remnant (Romans 9:27).
Dear brethren, as I meditated on this passage of scripture, so rich and beautiful in its portrayal of these two devout and steadfast saints, I asked the Lord if there was yet more to its meaning. Was there a message or exhortation for our day perhaps? For myself personally perhaps?
In so many ways, the day in which we live is profoundly similar to that of Simeon and Anna, in that the Lord may return at any moment now. Just as with them, the singular and defining quality of our lives rests in the hope of His imminent appearing as our Savior and King. What we must learn from the testimony of these two patient and spirit-led prophets is the imperative for patient endurance and faithfulness in all that He asks of us until He comes.
The time is at hand and everything else is secondary. He is coming and there is a prophetic urgency for this generation as never before. Nothing else matters. Not politics. Not the economy. Not our career in this world. Not the unraveling state of the nation and the world. Not our retirement portfolio, Not the amusements and distractions of modern life. Not our big plastic house in the cardboard suburbs. Not the desperate and lukewarm condition of the church. No not even, in a relative sense, our own family concerns. Ultimately, at the end of the day, all that matters for the child of the Kingdom is that our spiritual vision is clearly set and that we are looking towards the King and His Kingdom.
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:22-33)
Folks, I have to confess that it absolutely grieves me in my spirit to see the degree of active involvement of the evangelical church here in America in this present time. And by all accounts it would appear that Christians are just as much sold out to the idols of consumerism and covetousness as non-believers. Hopelessly indebted, living beyond their means, addicted to materialism and the culture of more, more, more! Bigger, bigger, bigger! How brethren, can this be when our true citizenship is in heaven?
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Phil 3:17-21)
Just like Simeon and Anna, we are to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord –
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. [James 5:7-8]
Patience! What a concept in this ‘have it all now and get it while you can’ generation. Yet our Lord requires so much more of us, those among the Bride who look longingly for the blessed coming of the Bridegroom; He who will make us complete and perfect (James 1:4, Colossians 1:28, Philippians 1:6).
Now consider the definition of the word steadfast brethren, as it so richly conveys what is required of all those awaiting the return of the King from heaven –
Steadfast: fixed in direction; steadily directed: a steadfast gaze; firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, etc., as a person: a steadfast friend; unwavering, as resolution, faith, adherence, etc.; firmly established, as an institution or a state of affairs; firmly fixed in place or position. (Dictionary.com)
And in waiting patiently with unswerving devotion to what lied before them, consider both of these elderly saints who waited their entire lives (Anna was probably over 100 years old when the Spirit directed her to the temple to meet the Lord, and Simeon was at least near the natural age of death) for the coming of the Savior. Their example is recorded forever in the Lord’s Book as a testimony, not only to their rock-solid faith and endurance, but as a warning to us today!
No Pharisees, Scribes or Sadducees shared such an honor. There was no established church or denomination, or notable teacher (like Gamaliel for example) in Israel directing the people to watch and be ready in that hour. This should tell us something to all those who wish to follow men or groups and not the Living Spirit, who alone can prepare us for the thief-like coming of our Savior. Both Simeon and Anna “loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8), not this present world. And this caused them to devote their entire lives and attention to being found ready and available when He came, preaching in season and out of season in the temple to exhort their fellow countrymen to watch and prepare, for the Lord’s Anointed, the One greater than Moses, was coming!
[Note: Regarding His coming to Israel, which those who study the Scriptures understand is subsequent to His coming secretly for His church, there will be two faithful witnesses (see Rev 11) in Jerusalem prior to the coming of the Lord, when He reveals Himself to His own (the nation of Israel, as typified in the story of Joseph revealing Himself to His brothers, and their subsequent repentance), and there were in fact two faithful witnesses (Simeon and Anna) in the temple of Jerusalem at His first coming. Both in the type and the anti-type the message is consistent.]
In Thessalonians, Paul reminds us what the focus of our lives should be in the hour of His appearing –
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thess 5:1-11)
Notice brethren, in particular, the helmet (protection for the head; which is vital in battle) is the “hope of salvation”. Now if you are unaware that our salvation is most wonderfully bound up in both the first and second coming of our Lord, you will begin to appreciate what Paul is stating here. Salvation is not solely something that occurred in the past, but it has a past, present and future aspect (pertaining to the spirit, soul and body) that is essential to understand. In addition, relative to our current message, consider how this hope of salvation moved both Simeon and Anna to actively prepare and seek the Coming of the Lord.
And in Ephesians, he reminds us how to walk in these evil days prior to our Lord’s arrival unto His own –
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:15-21)
Brethren, this whole question of understanding “what the will of the Lord is”, requires being actively informed and inspired by the Holy Spirit such that you are aware of God’s plans and purposes, and are suitably and spiritually prepared. It involves having eyes and ears wide open in the Spirit such that we might see and hear what He is doing and saying in this prophetic hour. Again, consider Simeon and Anna, and the fact that it was no accident or coincidence that they were in the right place at the right time, and in the right spirit. Only the Lord can accomplish this in His servants.
Now as to the many, Peter clearly states that conditions will be much the same as they were in the first century, when all but a few (Simeon and Anna included) were blindly oblivious to the moment –
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:3-9)
And in Revelation 3, the Philadelphian church is enjoined to hold fast to what they had, and to overcome that no one would take their crown, for He is coming quickly! This indeed was the testimony of Simeon and Anna, as revealed to us in the Word of God. That they lived every single day in preparation and anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Their hope was not in the political or even religious rulers of their day, nor in economic independence or fleeting riches, or science or discovery or anything else. Because they “kept the word of the Lord’s patience” and persevered in watchfulness, faith and purity, their joy was fulfilled, and they alone out of perhaps many thousands in Israel were blessed to behold their King and Savior.
Take heed brethren, for this is indeed a powerful exhortation being offered to us in this hour, through the faithful testimony of these “little ones” at the presentation of Jesus 2,000 years ago.
In conclusion therefore, note that the very last words in the Scriptures read –
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Rev 22:12-21)
Both Simeon and Anna responded to the Holy Spirit, and as a result they were found ready and worthy at the Lord’s first coming to His own. They studied the Scriptures and faithfully responded to the prophetic urgency of the time in which they lived. Nothing deterred or distracted them from the singular occupation of their hearts and lives; not the noise and commotion of the Roman Empire subsuming everything around them (as the American empire is doing in our day); not the lifeless religion and mindless man-following being perpetrated in the synagogues every Sabbath, not the scoffers who must have certainly plagued them constantly in the temple.
No, they loved their Lord! They believed their God! They listened to the Holy Spirit not religious experts!
And they alone were ready. They alone were there to meet the Child who was the Savior of the world, and the King of Israel, and the Hope of the gentiles!
Will you? Will I?
Dear Father in Heaven, Lord of All Life, please help us to take this message to heart and to put away all things that lead us away from what is truly essential in this hour – being found ready and watching at the Coming of Your Son! When He comes the second time to the earth, out of heaven, He will not be a babe, nor a lamb, but the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King and Judge over all the heavens and the earth, He who wields the sword from out of His mouth to defeat all of His enemies and establish His righteous kingdom forever and ever.
In the Name of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ. Amen