Wait for the Hope

Luke 2:22-35

Jesus Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

    you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “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.”

Have you waited for something? Waiting is so hard a thing to do. Waiting can be stressful. Let’s learn from Simeon, who spent a long, long time waiting for something very, very important, or rather, someone very important.

Simeon was a righteous man who loved the Lord. The Holy Spirit told him that he would not die before he had seen the Saviour—the Messiah of Israel. He waited and hung on to this promise.  

One day, Simeon was moved by the Spirit to see what he had been waiting for—that is the Messiah. He came as a baby.

Can you imagine his joy? He must have been so moved with gratitude that God had done what He said He would do. After years and years of waiting, he finally saw the Messiah with his own eyes. Gently and joyfully, he carried baby Jesus in his arms. The years of waiting has ended! The Savior of the world had come into the world. The Saviour of the world was born. The hope of the world had come! The light of the world was shining in the darkness! 

The joyful Simeon burst into a song. It consists of a few elements: worship, victory, missional, prophecy. 

It is a worship song because He praised and blessed God for keeping His promise and sending the Messiah to us. He praised God for giving him the privilege to see Jesus Christ with his own eyes.

It is a song of victory because he said he had seen the salvation of the Lord (Luke 2:30). He was ready to die because what he had been waiting for had finally come. It is a song of victory because death is not scary for us Christian. We have victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ. Death is only the entry into eternal life with Jesus Christ forever in His Kingdom that never ends.

 Simeon’s song is a missional song because he already could see salvation going out to the Gentiles. Jesus the Messiah did not come just for the Jews but He came for the peoples of the world—regardless of races, nationalities and cultures. Jesus brought light to the Gentiles so that all who believed will be saved (Luke 2:10). If you read through the Gospel of Luke, who was written by Luke, a Gentile, you will see the missional heart of Jesus Christ. His salvation is to the whole world.

After that, this song turns into a prophecy (Luke 2:34-35). He used 3 images in his prophecy: the stone, the sign and the sword.

(a)          The stone

In the OT, the stone is an important image of God (Gen 49:24; Psalm 18:2; 71:3; Deut 32:31). The Messiah would be a “rejected cornerstone” (Ps. 118:22; Luke 20:17-18; Acts 4:11) and the nation Israel would stumble over Him (Isa 8:14; Romans 9:32). Because of Jesus, many in Israel would believe in Him, yet there are those who do not understand that Jesus Christ is their Rock (1 Peter 2:1-6).

Jesus is also the “touchstone” that exposes the hearts of people. The Pharisees, the teachers of the law, would not believe Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 22:42).  

(b)          The sign

Jesus, was the sign that God is with us. He was a miracle for us. Unfortunately, people attacked Him. He performed miracles and yet people accused Him of doing that in the power of Satan. People criticised Jesus for having character problems by befriending sinners. People did not believe He is the Son of God. He was ridiculed, beaten and mocked on His way to death for us. After His death, His own disciples did not believe He had risen from the dead. Today, people too did not believe Him or doubted His second coming.

(c)           The sword

The imagery of the sword was more for Mary, the mother of Jesus. It referred to the suffering and sorrow she would have as the mother of Jesus, the Messiah. The Greek word for this term used for this word was a large sword, such as the one used by the giant Goliath (1 Sam 17:51) and this sword would not only pierce Mary once, but would “constantly pierce” her.

We see this prophecy when Mary stood by the cross when Jesus Christ was nailed on the Cross for our sins. It pierced her when she saw Him suffering and dying (John 19:25-27).

After Simeon’s song, Mary stored up all these things and pondered them (Luke 2:19, 51). I am not sure how much Joseph and Mary understood what would be happening. When Jesus was growing up, there were times she had misunderstood Him (Mark 3:31-35) but after His death, she was praying in the upper room with the other believers (Acts 1:14). That was the last time Mary was mentioned in the Bible. 

The imagery used to describe Jesus was not how we usually describe Jesus. We all know Him as the Good shepherd, the Saviour of the world and so on. May this Christmas season, allow us to experience more of Him and to know Him at a deeper level. He is our Rock, He is God’s greatest miracle and love for us.

Jesus is worth the wait. He is coming back for us. When He returns again, may be too, find us faithful.

Hope in God

How can we have hope when our circumstances are unpredictable and seemingly hopeless? How can we have hope when we are in the midst of the pandemic?

Hope is one of the greatest virtues, together with love and faith (1 Corinthians 13:13). As Raniero Cantalamessa writes, ‘They are like three sisters. Two of them are grown and the other is a small child. They go forward together hand in hand with the child hope in the middle. Looking at them it would seem that the bigger ones are pulling the child, but it is the other way around; it is the little girl who is pulling the two bigger ones. It is hope that pulls faith and love. Without hope everything would stop.’

Hope helps us to move forward. Hope helps us to face impossible challenges. Hope is like the light at the end of a dark tunnel. We can move forward even in the darkness because of the hope we have.

During this pandemic, we often heard preachers and pastors telling us not to “waste this pandemic”, meaning that we are to use this time of the lockdown to reflect about our lives, be intentional about spending time with God and letting God shape us and transform us from the inside out so that we will be better people than before. In order to do so, we need to know the hope that we have in God.

Let’s look at Psalm 89, a maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite and let us learn to put our hope in Him.

 

Hope in God in our sufferings and despair

The psalmist cries out to the Lord “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (verse 46, NIV). When the psalmist was writing this, he had his own challenges to deal with. His circumstances were different. But this verse expresses what we are feeling now. We feel that God is hiding Himself as the peoples of this world are suffering.

God is always there. We can not see Him with our eyes but He is with us. He is faithful. He loves us with a great love. The psalmist says, “1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself” (verses 1-2).
There is hope in our sufferings because of who God is. He is love. He is faithful. He will carry us through.

Psalm 89: 1-2

 

Hope in spite of our short life span and the inevitability of death

Life is short—“your life is like the morning fog- it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14. NLT). The psalmist also prays to God, “47 Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all humanity! Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave?” (verse 24, NIV)  

The psalmist says despite our life being short and that we will face death someday, yet, he holds on to the promise of God’s love. He prays, “Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?” (verse 49). We will pass away; it is inevitable. But, as the story unfolds in the New Testament, believers will have eternal life through Jesus Christ, who took our sins upon Himself and died on the Cross for us. We have eternal life through Jesus Christ. Our life is more than life on earth. We have hope that we will have eternal life with God in Heaven forever.

Hope in God’s righteousness and justness  

The world is unjust. The evil and power-hungry people seem to be crushing the innocent. But the psalmist puts his hope in God who is righteous and just. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” (verse 14-15, NIV)

Even when what is going on does not make sense to you, trust in God’s righteousness, love and faithfulness.

Psalm 89:14-15

 

Hope in the presence of God

Those who walk with God (following His ways and commandments) will be blessed. They are walking in the light of the presence of God (verse 15). They will rejoice in God and celebrate God’s righteousness because God is their glory and strength (verses 16-17).

When all else fail, by walking with God, we will taste His presence and we even rejoice in the midst of difficulties because God is with us.

We have hope because God is with us.

 

Hope in God’s purpose

It seems funny and even a little rude for me to tell you about finding the good in our present situation. I don’t know what you are going through. You may be grieving over the loss of a loved one, you may be facing stressful times at home, you may be out of a job or you may be struggling financially. But let us lift up our eyes from the current situations to God.

This psalm reminds us that God is faithful. He loves us with a faithful love (verse 24). There is no powers or authority higher than that of God’s (vv 5-13). He alone is in control. He created the heavens and the earth (v 11) and everything belongs to Him. There is a purpose for everything He does. We can trust in His timing to work things out for the best according to His infinite love and wisdom.

Ezra, the psalmist, ends this psalm by asking God to remember him. The psalmist clings onto the hope he has in God. Ezra then praises God, “praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen!” (verse 52, NIV). There are always reasons to praise Him. He is sovereign, He is in control, His wisdom is beyond our comprehension and He loves us with a faithful love.

Let us put our hope in God.

Our response in the midst of the pandemic

With the increase of the Covid-19 cases around the world (some countries are facing the third-wave), we may be going through mixed emotions. We may be feeling discouraged, fearful and even a sense of hopelessness. We may even have asked, why isn’t God doing anything about this pandemic?

From the Bible, especially the psalms, we learn that we can tell God what is on our minds and He also permits us to cry out to Him during moments of doubt, discouragement, sadness, grief, anxiety, pain and sufferings. We live in a fallen world where there is pain, injustice, suffering and tragedy. And God allows us to cry out to Him in these situations. God hears every single word of our prayers. He cares. He loves us. We can pray to God telling Him about our real feelings, thoughts and emotions.

The pandemic has brought changes to all of us. We are now living in the “new normal”. Practicing social distancing, wearing our masks when we are outdoors, sanitising our hands are a part of our daily routine now.

In the midst of the pandemic, we echo the words of David in Psalm 13,

“1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

 How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me? “

How long will God forget us? We feel that there is no end to the pandemic.

But remember, as believers, we are people of hope. When we cry out to God, we don’t do it thinking that the end result will be hopeless. We are certain that there is hope: our God is sovereign, almighty, all wise and powerful. There is nothing that is above Him. He is the one that is ultimately in control of the events of this world.

David ended his psalm with praise, because he remembered Who God is.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.

 

David chose to trust in God when he was discouraged and afraid because he knew God would save him (verse 5). God had loved him and had been good to him (verses5- 6)

 

The pandemic may stir fear and anxiety in us but let us wait and hope upon God. Let us continue to encourage one another with psalms, Bible verses, spiritual songs and prayers. Let us not forget to do good to others especially to those in need. Let us worship God in new creative ways. Let us share of God’s unfailing love.

May the witness, love, faith and hope of believers be an encouragement to those around us!