A Good Old Man
(A Commentary on Holy Impatience)
Warren E. Berkley
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting 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. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:25-35
Confession: My kinship with old men is growing with each passing day. I have a different view of their value compared to several years ago. And I love to read in the Bible of old folks who were also good folks, like Simeon. Let’s become better acquainted with him.
He was not like other men his age. There is no evidence he was caught up in the religious empire built by the Pharisees, or that he was a zealot who sought the overthrow of Roman domination. He was a minority in his time.
He was “just and devout,” unlike many who were driven by earthly gain, personal ambition or some systematic religious creed. Just and devout men were rare in those days in Jerusalem, as evidenced by what the leaders did to Jesus.
Simeon was a man of holy impatience. He knew from the Scriptures that “the Consolation of Israel” would come and not a day passed without an awareness of that hope. Many did not read Scripture or read it through human filters. Simeon was in good contact with the promises. He knew there was a big picture and was waiting for Messiah to come.
He enjoyed a particular privilege, in that “the Holy Spirit” revealed to him “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Not only was this old man of faith aware of God’s promises, he enjoyed a special, personal promise. It is not a stretch to visual this old man getting up each day, passing by the Pharisees in the gate, moving toward the temple to watch and wait.
The day came for Simeon. “…he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms…” Think about that moment. The old man waiting “impatiently,” and now holding in his arms the Child promised by God.
The old man praised God with these words: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Observe the eager sense of privilege that filled his heart and tongue: “You are letting Your servant . . . my eyes have seen.” Age and approaching death was not a thief. He believed the promises of God and now had the Consolation of Israel in his arms and in his view. He knew this was about salvation, not just for Israel but all people.
Then he spoke to Mary: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.” This part of Simeon’s prophecy contained some unwelcomed news for Mary, that her Son would have a mixed reception, and be “spoken against.” This would be the reality of unbeliever’s rejecting Him. The rejection or acceptance of the Christ would “reveal the thoughts of many hearts.”
What does it mean for us today? Christians today are in this waiting mode and may feel this holy impatience. If you are waiting on God, it will always be worth the wait. Like Isaiah said to the descendants of Hezekiah and the other captives: “those who wait for the Lord will renew strength,” (Isa. 40:31). As you age and find your affinity for old folks increasing, but also suffering some of the impact of the second law of thermodynamics, take heart Christian! You can become stronger and stronger while you wait. Expectation of Christ’s return will not disappoint His faithful people. That holy impatience is a good sign!