We kick off 2017 in just a few hours! What will God do in us and through us this coming year? I’ve continued to ponder the words of Simeon who lived in “prayerful expectancy” of the hope of Messiah (Luke 2:25). I’m wondering if Simeon was on to something? What if we might expect to see Jesus every day this year? What if we earnestly looked for Him? What if we made it our goal before we got out of bed each day to pray: “Lord, may I see you today!” And what if we took it to the next level and prayed: “And Lord, when I see you, may it be as You work through me to bless others.”
Can we expect to have a daily encounter with Jesus in the New Year? I hope so. I pray it will be so.
To view the sermon from where I unpacked Simeon’s story, click HERE.
I’ve tried to live a devout life. My parents were good Jews. They brought me up in the traditions of the Temple. My father’s name is Hillel. We lived along the Coast of the Great Sea. Three times each year, the whole family journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts.
I married and had my own family and repeated the same traditions. We also came up to Jerusalem three times each year. We celebrated Pesach, the Passover, in the Spring… Shavuot, Pentecost, in the summer… and Yom Kippur and Sukkoth each fall. These are special times for all of Israel, but especially for us devout Jews. It’s a time to remember how Jehovah delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt, how He gave us His Law and how he cared for us during our wanderings, before we entered the Promised Land. Since my wife died I’ve decided just to stay here in Jerusalem. It’s easier on this old body of mine. I spend my days near the Temple. God is present in my life every moment. I pray. I sing. I do odd jobs for the priests. I pray for people who come by. I enjoy Jehovah’s presence in my life. I can sense His Spirit. It is real. He has blessed me more than I’ll ever begin to be able to tell you.
It was about 50 years ago… during the Feast of Tabernacles when we all came up to remember the roamings of our ancestors through the desert… we set up small tents called Sukkahs to live in for the week. And we gathered for a festive time of remembering. It was during the worship celebration at the temple; the high priest had just returned back from the Kidron Brook with a vessel of water from Siloam’s Pool to pour out on the altar. In the frenzy of the crowd shouting “Hosanna” I heard the voice of Jehovah. He spoke to me as I am I speaking to you now. All the noise of the crowd went silent in my head. And He said: “Simeon. You will not die before you see my Chosen One, the Messiah, in Whom I will deliver all of Israel. From Him will come streams of Living Water, not just a pitcher of water. And He will be poured out for the redemption of all of Israel.” In the midst of this great worship service, I was stunned! Living water? Poured out? The Messiah. Yes, we know He will come some day. But in my lifetime? How wonderful that day will be! Will it be as Joel has promised? Will the prophesies come true? Will Elijah truly come again before Messiah?
I am an old man now and I have dreamed dreams of His coming again. I’ve spent the rest of my life watching, waiting, wondering… who could it be? Will he be like Moses or more like Joshua? He must be a young adult, at least, and God is shaping Him into our powerful King and Messiah. Every time I see Herod speak before the crowds I look around and ask myself… could Messiah be a Jewish officer in Herod’s castle waiting to be revealed? What mighty legion of soldiers does he lead? Or maybe he is a governor, or a synagogue ruler by this point in his life?
Some have said he will come from the Galilee. Ha! There’s nothing but farmers and fishermen up there!
Whoever he is, I know I will recognize him in the blink of an eye. He will be as strong as David when He routed the Philistines! He will be as wise as David’s son Solomon. He will rule our people with power in one hand and grace and love in the other. He will deliver us from the oppressors, be it Rome or Egypt, once and for all. Isaiah says he will come to heal the brokenhearted. And those who mourn in Zion? They will rejoice!
Ah, look. There is a couple with a young baby. They always want a blessing, these new parents. I must go into the temple. Funny, the priest is quite capable. But he always asks me. “Simeon. Come bless this new child,” he says. “They rather have the old man’s blessing than the priest’s.”
So, I will go. And I will keep looking. Yahweh promised me… I’m confident He will be true to His word.
I wonder if they are of the tribe of Judah? Maybe the father is someone special?
The actions and musings, perhaps, of Simeon, the one who blessed Jesus and his parents, at the temple on the appointed day. As recorded in Luke, Chapter 2.
Is there a promise you are waiting and watching for God to answer? Have faith that He will keep His promises!
We have just left the place where I, personally, experienced the most significant event in my life! We saw Him, the infant, the child, the true King of Israel, indeed the King of all kings! And we gave Him gifts. And we worshiped Him. And we are changed forever.
Let me back up for a minute. My name is Geshnavadar. I am a Magi of the east, from Babylon in Persia. I have two companions with me, one is twenty years my senior, the other is twenty years my junior. They call us “wise men,” and I guess, we are just that, but we are not kings, we are Magi.
Our people go back to the prophet Daniel, who was one of our own. He prophesied about a Messiah. Although Daniel was a Hebrew, we are Gentiles. But we love the same God as those of the 12 Tribes of Israel. He has given us this unique gift of interpreting dreams. Some also call us astrologers, for we study the stars in the sky. But we do so with a specific purpose and anointing, as we believe they point to what God is doing now and in the future.
Recently, something strange occurred in the night sky… three stars lined up and pointed to the West, right to the city of Jerusalem in Palestine. And what was significant about these stars is they were of the constellation Aries, the Ram. Three stars, from a ram, pointing to the City of David?
Ever since King Nebuchadnezzar took the people of Judah into captivity in our home country, we have known of the stories of God’s deliverance of His people. One oft-told account recalls a ram, stuck in a thicket that God provided as a sacrifice. It was on Mount Moriah in what is now Jerusalem. The intended sacrifice was Abraham’s son, Isaac. But God had another plan. And we have heard that one day God will deliver all of Abraham’s children, both Jews and Gentiles, by way of a ram, or a lamb.
So, the stars pointed to Jerusalem and we, along with a cavalry of slaves and servants, ventured out to seek the meaning of the stars. You should know that some have called us Magi “king makers” for no king in all of the East became royalty without the blessing of our little fraternity. And if the stars were calling out that a new king had arrived, it was our job to sanction his monarchy. Yes, we knew Herod was the so-called “king of the Jews” in Palestine, but that was merely a title bestowed on him by Caesar Augustus so he would have some clout in collecting taxes.
We arrived in Jerusalem a couple of months, and over a thousand miles, after our departure from Persia. When Herod heard we were in town looking for a new king he was shaken and irritated. Was his make-shift reign coming to an end? He called for a meeting with us immediately. We told him of the prophesy and the stars. He was familiar with the Ancient Word, but had no knowledge of the night sky pointing us here at this time. He suggested we search the neighboring town of Bethlehem, for his advisers recalled the Biblical text of Micah that says “You, oh Bethlehem, will be the birthplace of my King…” He told us to return to Jerusalem and let him know if we found this new monarch so that he might worship this King as well.
It took just a day and a night to reach the sleepy little village. Again we sought the night sky for direction. Another star appeared, and its travel actually stopped and reversed and stopped again… right over a simple peasant home in Bethlehem.
We approached cautiously. A carpenter appeared in the doorway, amazed at our large caravan. Could this be the man we were seeking? He assured us, no, he was but a simple man. However, his son… his son…
We entered the home and immediately we knew. We just knew. The Spirit of God was in that place. God’s peace was overwhelming. The boy’s mother was radiant. The child, now at least a year in age, sat in her lap. He was not the King we expected, but He was most certainly the King that the God of the Hebrews had anointed. We were instantly humbled in His presence. We offered Him gifts we had brought, although honestly they seemed insignificant… the gold, the frankincense and myrrh… a lifetime of gifts, if you will. And we bowed before Him, no we fell before Him and worshiped… worshiped… worshiped… The little child alternated his gaze between us and his mother. And he smiled.
We stayed as long we could. Our lives and hearts changed forever. Transformed, really.
We are heading back to Babylon, by a different route. God has told us in a dream that we must protect the new King and not tell Herod of His whereabouts. Not really sure what we will do once we get home. I know we cannot merely go back and live the life we had been living. No, it will be different. After almost 500 years, He is here now! We sought out the new King, and we found Him! We found Him!
And we will tell the people of Judah living in our land that they, too, must seek out and find their new King! And if they let Him into their life, and into their heart, they will be completely transformed as well.
Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of one of the Magi of Matthew, Chapter 2.
It was just another night, really. Nothing too special about it. The sheep were grazing or sleeping on the rolling meadow, just north of Bethlehem. The air was cool, but not cold yet, so we let the animals continue to stay out in the fields rather than finding a cave for shelter.
My name? It’s not really important, for I am a lowly shepherd. There are none in all of the Land of Judah that think of our people as anyone special. We do not command much attention and merely go about our work in a quiet, nondescript manner. We feed the sheep and goats. We water the sheep and goats. We guard the sheep and goats. We move them about so they will find plenty of grass to eat and just the right amount to drink. And this we do day in and day out.
I’m almost 60 years old and shepherding is the only job I have ever had. I know my sheep, and they know me. As of today, I have 109 sheep in my flock: 32 rams, 41 ewes, and 36 lambs. There are another 88 goats. Everything I own is in a pack on my donkey. It’s not much. Another tunic. Some candles and pottery. A few ropes and animal skins. A small bag of nuts and raisins. Oh, and my flute. I so enjoy the gift God has given me to play music. It is a joy to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all while simply blowing across hole in a hollowed out piece of wood. I think the sheep like it as well.
My brother has his flock just over there. My brother-in-law is along that ridge.
So, about “that” night… The air was crisp. The moon was full. The sky bursting with bright stars. We had just thrown another log on a small fire. We kept watch for coyotes, for this is the time of the year when they prey on the members of our flock. We were talking about heading back to our village and meeting up with our families as it was the season to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. Of course, we do not ever get to go to the Temple, for we must be out here. But some in our family are blessed to be able to make the short journey to Mt. Zion.
We were making our plans when suddenly the night sky became very bright, as if it was the middle of the day. The sheep were startled and began to cry and low and move about anxiously. The three of us, did our best to keep them calm, all the while our hearts raced frantically. We had never seen this happen before. We had heard of earthquakes but had not experienced one. Was this that? Or some other natural phenomenon? Was this some sort of army moving across the plains? The dogs were barking, the sheep bleating, the donkey braying. We were terribly frightened.
Through the bright light a man appeared… a man like we had not ever seen previously. His first words? “Do not be afraid!” And yet we were terrified! It was truly a challenge to slow our heart rate and calm our breathing.
He said he was a messenger bringing good news, joyful news. Our Savior was born this very night and we were to go quickly down to the village of Bethlehem and see this new baby. A baby? Our Messiah? What was he saying? Who was this man? While he didn’t tell us he was an angel, we quickly figured that out when a multitude of others joined him and they started singing. Singing! Right out there in the open fields! And proclaiming the birth of our Savior.
“Glory to God!” they sang. “Peace on earth!” echoed across the valley, amplified by the night air.
We asked each other: Who were we to hear this message? We are not priests or rabbis or Pharisees or King Herod. Maybe they should go and proclaim this news to people of stature?
And just as quickly as they appeared, they returned again into the heavens.
So, of course, we did what they told us to do. We gathered our things; rounded up the flocks. And we ventured across the meadow in the middle of the night, down the rocky path to the village of Bethlehem. We looked and searched all over town. Can you see us? With our sheep? And our goats? And our donkeys? And the shepherding dogs? Oh, what noise we made as we meandered through the village in the middle of the night.
A man named Jacob came to greet us. He asked what we were doing wandering around? We told him of the angels and the singing and the bright lights in the sky. We shared the message of good news they had shared with us. He was stunned and had this look on his face I’ll never forget. It was a look of disbelief and belief all at the same time… like something very real and very special just dawned on him. With an eager jump in his step he led us to a small, dark, dank cave. He apologized as he motioned for us to enter. Inside were a few animals and a woman, who he said was his wife, lying in some straw. Her face was illuminated by a single candle. And she nursed a new born baby.
“Miriam!” he whispered with enthusiasm. “These men… they saw angels who told them to come find us… to find him… our son.”
We looked at each other with doubt in our eyes. Is this our Messiah? Our king? The savior of the world? But wouldn’t he be born in a royal palace attended to by a multitude of nurses and midwives and servants? Wouldn’t he be wrapped in silk or fine linens, not these swaddling rags?
Jacob could read our thoughts as our faces betrayed our skepticism. “He was born in this simple cave,” he said with humble honesty, “because he was born for you.”
“But we are lowly shepherds,” we explained. “And he is a king?”
“Yes,” Jacob replied. “Yes, indeed. He has been born for you and for them. You, however, you are the first to see Him. His name is ‘Immanuel. God with us.’ Go! Go tell everyone you see what a great thing God has done for all of us.”
And so, we did. Our suspicions turned to great joy. We returned to the fields and we praised the God of our Fathers … for the angels, for Jacob, for Miriam, but mostly for this baby, our Savior, born this very night!
Some of the actions, words and thoughts, perhaps, of the shepherds and others as found in Luke, Chapter 2.