"O Lord, Right This Moment"
January 1, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. The message from God we are given for today is recorded in verse twenty-nine, [and it] is from the words "Simeon's Praise," or if we take the words from the top of the passage in Latin, where the praise song is called "Nunc Dimittis." The aged Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, and giving praise to God he chanted as follows:
"O, Lord, right this moment, just as you said it would, you are dismissing your servant in peace.
For, I have seen your salvation with my own eyes."
3. While these words are very pleasant, [we] might say they are [also] words with serious contents, such that we feel hesitant to say them for our own. The reason I say that is because his saying "dismiss, allow to leave" here is the kind of expression used when a slave is freed, but in reality, it means to leave the world, to die. As the elderly Simeon arrives at a sort of end to his human life, he says, "O, Lord, right this moment, you are dismissing your servant in peace." It's like he is saying, "I'm satisfied. I have no regrets any more. I have seen what I am supposed to see and I know what I am supposed to know. I will only now depart in peace." I'd say this way of putting it is of the deepest satisfaction and joy, which one can possibly state for oneself. Such words as these are given to us as well on this day.
4. Simeon made this praise, and he had lived a number of decades leading to the dawn of an era, a time of upheaval. [Since] the period of his youth, the political independence of the Jews which had lasted for eighty years was lost. After that, Herod the Idumean borrowed the might of the Roman army and subjugated Jerusalem, and after putting forty-five members of the Jewish court to death, he took full control over the reins of power. In cruelty the infamous Herod [was] king. On the other hand, the Zealot party was organized, which was an extremist group centered in Galilee, and the movement was spreading, readying themselves to win independence over from Rome by armed might. From the period of his youth to the prime of his life, this was the type of time period in which Simeon had passed. About the time of the events that we read about today, it is a known fact that revolts were taking place centered on the Zealot party in the exact same period. Centered in the capitol city of Jerusalem, disturbances did not cease. His life was spent and had been tossed about by the waves of such times.
5. Yet, in coming to the end of this life of his, he turned to God and said, "O, Lord, right this moment, just as you said it would, you are dismissing your servant in peace." His life is not leaving his heart behind, nor is he grieving over the world, instead he says that he can leave this world "peacefully" -- "in peace." Why? "For, I have seen your salvation with my own eyes." That's what Simeon says. Where in the world [did that happen]? He claims that he saw salvation somewhere. I would like for us to consider this point today.
The Man Simeon Waiting And Hoping
6. It was on the temple grounds when he held the infant Jesus in his arms and praised the Lord. Because this took place at the temple, a tradition by people of later times has passed him on as "the high priest Simeon." But, not a word is stated in scripture that Simeon was a priest or anything close to one. Instead of that, I'd say more likely he was a normal person like somebody next door to you, and he was an old man alive in faith.
7. The Bible explains that the reason he was in the temple is he was "led by 'the Spirit'." This was a special leading of the Holy Spirit. But, of course there was nothing special at all in the fact that Simeon was present on the temple grounds. Going to the temple was a precious part of his regular way of life, and praying to God must have had an unwavering place in his life.
8. We know the fact that he was such a man of prayer from what the scripture says about him, he "was 'waiting and hoping' for Israel to receive consolation, the Holy Spirit abided in him," (verse twenty-five). He was "waiting and hoping." A man of prayer is a man who waits and hopes. -- Because there is no prayer that does not look ahead to the future. Praying to God is really the same thing as turning one's face straight into the future and waiting for the divine moment when God will come to you.
9. No matter how much the world may tremble, no matter how much society may be covered in darkness and the times be when not even one inch ahead is visible, yet Simeon did not get distracted from the [predicted] future that is to come. He fixed his perspective on one point and did not move it. He waited. He hoped. He waited in hope for "Israel to receive consolation."
The Consolation Of God
10. Please take note that something special is being said here in the text. What he was waiting for was not merely that Israel take back political independence. [His hopes] were not that people were freed and the burdens of their lives were taken away. [His hopes] were not simply that a better system would happen or that it would be a peaceful society. He was hoping that Israel would "be comforted," and he was waiting for the arrival of the messiah who would make it happen.
11. "Israel will be comforted." When the passive is given in the text, God is usually the one doing the action. God will comfort [Israel]. While this is a very important expression in scripture, yet the word "comfort, console" in Japanese doesn't seem to be able to express the entire message given in it. In the first place, in the Japanese word "nagusameru [console, comfort]" we feel a weak and hollow image always goes with it. Therefore, in typical conversations, we say, "I got no need for comfort; I don't need your pity." Because we feel that it has no meaning in the real world when it's just mere comfort. But, in truth, the word for "comfort" used in the scriptures is not something weak and hollow like that.
12. For example, please look at Isaiah chapter fifty-one and verse three. It is written as follows. "The Lord will comfort Zion, he will comfort its ruins, he will make its deserts into the garden of Eden, he will make the desolate lands into the garden of the Lord. The singing voices of joy, pleasure, and thanksgiving will resound in it." This is a place where the word "comfort, console" is meaningful. That is, the desert will turn into the garden of Eden. The singing voices of joy, pleasure, and thanksgiving will resound in desolated places. Imagine such a scene. In this manner then, God's comfort means God's amazing work of restoration. In places desolated and having lost its life, the flow of life from God will come back and will restore them to life.
13. So, the main thing is understanding "the ruins," "the desert," "the desolated places." It is [understanding] why it is [in] ruins, why it is a desert, why they are desolated places, and how death had control over these life-less places. For the original audience of the Isaian prophecy, it was clear. [It was clear] because they had actually seen the ruins. It became ruins because of their own sin and because of their rebellion against God.
14. Thus, the verb "to be comforted" means God is working in that very real world which had ended up desolated especially "because of human sin," and [God] will bring life to it and restore it. Therefore, forgiveness of sin is presumed to be prerequisite to it. Unless there is forgiveness of sin, the singing voices will not resound again in lands desolated because of sin. "To be comforted" means in all practicality that [God] has forgiven, has brought the rule of grace in, and has restored fellowship with him. In this manner Simeon is waiting and hoping for Israel "to be comforted."
15. To get to the point, it means that Simeon was not seeing the world as an unhappy world filled with just sorrow and pain. He was seeing the world which has rebelled against God. He was seeing Israel, which had rebelled against God and the Israel which had therefore become like a desert. But, since they had rebelled against God it would not solve [anything] by itself even if they were freed from the Roman empire, even if they were granted independence instead. They needed a true consolation, a comfort from God, [a comfort] based upon God's forgiveness.
16. We can probably say the same thing about the situation in this nation which we are seeing. The world is [in] depression. The darkness because of the depression is covering society. But, we know quite well that it just will never be true that we have real light when we're in a good economy, even if we claimed it to be so. The social order will still be in shambles. It occurs [to us] as a surprise, [wondering] why does this kind of thing happens. We know quite well that even if we claimed it to be so, it won't be true that we have true salvation when [we] restore order by a coercive and compelling force, for example, by a governmental force.
17. Something has to happen inside human beings. In a true sense the people must be saved and restored. The relationship between God and persons must be changed. Sin must be forgiven by God, fellowship must be restored with God, and God's work of restoration must be brought in. God's comforting is needed. Salvation that comes from God is needed. The messiah as savior, who will bring God's salvation, is needed.
The Arrival Of The Messiah
18. Simeon saw the arrival of this messiah. It was the infant. In crying out that "Salvation has come," it was no more than a very very small beginning, hardly a bit of it even visible. However, Simeon knew that something decisive, a turning point, had already taken place by the birth of this infant. We don't know how [Simeon knew]. It only says that the Holy Spirit had shown it to him.
19. But, as Simeon held the infant Jesus there, the one sure thing is that [his] statement of "For, I have seen your salvation with my own eyes," was not mistaken. Furthermore, in verse thirty-one, it also means that [he] was not wrong when he said, "This is the salvation that you have prepared for all peoples, the light of revelation, which shines upon the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel." Certainly then, not only Israel would be comforted through the birth of this infant, but salvation had been prepared for all peoples.
20. The infant who had been held in the arms of Simeon would soon, about thirty years later, [be] in that same Jerusalem, receive the sentence of the death penalty, and be crucified. The messiah, whom the Lord had sent, would bear on his back the sins of everyone, take [their] suffering, and shed [his] atoning blood. The infant, whom Simeon had held in his arms, was a child who had been born in order to die as the atonement for sin. That infant was the child who was born in order to decisively change the relationship between God and individuals. The salvation of all peoples had been set. Everything that was needed for God's comfort to be given had been set. Simeon had seen God's salvation for sure. That's why he sang, "O Lord, right this moment, as you had said it would, you are dismissing your servant in peace."
21. Simeon was led by the Holy Spirit, [so], he met Jesus the messiah and held the infant Jesus in his arms. Simeon sang, "O, Lord, right this moment, just as you said it would, you are dismissing your servant in peace. For, I have seen your salvation with my own eyes," but he wasn't anybody special at all. [He had] a minor role on the historical stage. In that sense, he is [like] you and me. The Holy Spirit, who guided Simeon, is also at work in us and leads us to meet with the Lord Jesus. In order for a person to be able to fulfill his or her life in peace, there isn't much more than that that one should know and see. No, ultimately it is just one thing. It is Christ, the salvation, the comfort of God, which he brought through Christ. When we first receive forgiveness of sins, are restored to fellowship with God, and have a share in the comfort of [our] powerful God, Simeon's song will certainly become your song and mine, even before it does the world.