Consolation of Israel
Simeon blessing baby Jesus by Greg Olson.
“He was waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25).
As aged Simeon held baby Jesus in his arms, he saw in that tiny infant the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people across the centuries. To call Jesus “the consolation of Israel” takes us back to the time of Abraham when the Lord promised that all the nations on earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3). After that came the reaffirmation to Isaac, and then to Jacob.
Still later God told Moses that one day a great prophet would come who would be unlike any other prophet before him.
Still later God promised David a son who would reign on his throne forever.
Still later God spoke through Isaiah and promised that a son would be born of a virgin, and that his name would be called Immanuel—God with us.
Still later Micah predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
For generations the promises were repeated—from father to son, from mother to daughter, from family to family, from the older to the younger, and Jewish children were taught to pray for the Messiah’s appearance.
By the time you get to the first century, you have all these centuries of expectation built up. In his great work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim tells us that when Jesus was born there was great excitement in the nation of Israel. While it is true that many people were not expecting anything, it’s also true that many others were aware that something was up and that God was beginning to stir the pot of history.
Some Jews thought the Messiah would be a great political leader who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel to its rightful place in the world. Others thought the Messiah would be God himself. Still others expected a second Moses or a second Elijah. So you had a lot of confusion mixed with a general sense of expectation. Edersheim says that by the time Christ was born, one question above all others was on the lips of every expectant Jew: “Why does Messiah delay his coming?”
Now after all those years, after centuries of waiting, all God’s promises were coming true as Simeon held the Messiah in his arms. That’s what Luke means when he calls Jesus the “consolation of Israel.” As the famous Christmas carol says, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
Lord Jesus, you did not leave us alone in our misery. You came! May we like Simeon praise your name today. Amen.
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