Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations – a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” – Luke 2:22-38 (28-32 printed)
Jesus’ birth had been foretold, and people waited with anticipation for the new King of Israel to arrive. Now the day had come… come and gone, actually. There was no grand entrance, no pomp and circumstance, no paparazzi – just a bunch of shepherds and a few visitors from out of town that would come a couple years later. For Joseph and Mary, while the declarations from angels were marvelous, the reality for them was that they were a poor family with one more mouth to feed. God saw the situation completely different, and used the next series of events in their lives to show them a different viewpoint – His viewpoint.
God has a different viewpoint for the things in our lives, and for our lives themselves. If we are willing, he will give us the opportunity to come up to his vision and see what He has designed for us, and how his plan will get us to that design.
Seeing Beneath the Surface
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 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 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.” – Luke 2:22-24
Joseph and Mary were required to do certain things after the birth of Jesus, by law. They had to present him at the temple, and they had to bring an offering for Mary’s purification. The offering was supposed to be a lamb, but if the family was too poor, they could substitute it with two pigeons. It’s one thing to know you are poor – quite another to demonstrate it in front of your entire community. Bringing this offering, however, was doing just that. They knew what God had said to them about their son, but no one else did. To the world, they were just another poor family with a baby.
Simeon was a man known in Jerusalem for being righteous and devout. At some point in his life, God had revealed to him that he would see God’s promise to Israel fulfilled. For Simeon, nothing else mattered. As soon as he saw the promise fulfilled, he could die in peace.
When Simeon saw Jesus, he didn’t see “a baby”, or “a child of a poor family”. Simeon saw the fulfillment of what had been revealed to him. He was able to see past the external to see that there was more in Jesus than met the eye. Not only that, because he responded to what he saw, he was able to bless Joseph and Mary, everyone in the temple, and all of us who read his words.
Anna was also a person who had dedicated her life to the Lord, spending her days in the temple, worshipping fasting and praying. She also responded to the appearance of this poor family in uncharacteristic fashion. She began to tell everyone about this baby, and how he was tied to the redemption of Jerusalem. To the standard worshipper in the temple, Mary, Joseph and Jesus were not a family to take notice of, but to God, through Anna and Simeon, they found out there was much more to them than anyone would ever have expected.
Similarly for us, when we see those around us, at work, at the store, in traffic, they can be people that we would not notice or want to have anything to do with. For God, however, they may be the fulfillment of promise for us – or we may be for them. We need to be able to see beneath the surface and see what God is revealing for them and for us.
God’s Design… God’s Plan
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” – I Samuel 16:1
Samuel was in a place of transition. He knew what God had declared over Saul but had not been in a place of moving forward until he received the prompting from the Lord. Normally Samuel would have had no problem with fulfilling God’s direction, but this time Samuel saw things differently. Doing what God said would surely be the end of his life, for Saul would see it as an act of treason.
But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” – I Samuel 16:2-3
God had a design that on the surface looked like it might be thwarted by Samuel’s fear of Saul. God gave Samuel an “out” – he allowed him to go incognito, and introduced more characters into his plan. Samuel was beginning to experience what God would say to him later, that He doesn’t see things the same way man does. How Samuel got there was not as important as fulfilling what God had in the works. Like Samuel, we can hear what God has designed for us, but we get stuck in the enormity of the circumstance we are in, and question God, or question our ability to hear his voice.
Popular words from the game show, Family Feud, where contestants try to guess the top answers to random trivia questions. Like the contestants, our lives are built upon the “most popular answer” – the best path to take, the right sequence, whatever it is that will move us forward to the end result of what we desire. Samuel was on a mission to anoint the next king. In the back of Samuel’s mind, even with God rejecting Saul, there were certain things that Samuel would expect a king to be – the right look, charismatic personality, able in war, etc. Saul may not have been the best king, but at least he looked the part. Similarly for us, when we look at God’s design for us and those around us, we look for the way that fits our thinking. God, however rarely gives the popular answers.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things that people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – I Samuel 16:6-7
Samuel had to learn how to look at the situation in the same way that God did, and to see what God saw in the sons, and in the situation. One by one, each of the sons of Jesse was presented to Samuel, and each one was rejected. At some point it would seem that Samuel would realize that he and Jesse were going about this the wrong way, but there was more to the situation than just anointing a king. It was declaring what God saw in one that to others was a nobody.
Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him. We will not sit down until he arrives.” – I Samuel 16:11
Jesse called out each of his sons by name as they passed by Samuel. Each was considered a viable candidate for what God wanted to do. Yet when it came to David, he had no name, and no place. Any more sons? The youngest… not “David”. Samuel had called out Jesse and his sons to attend the feast, but David was not given the invitation. Not even considered.
God looks at the heart…
To his family, David was not important. To God, he was part of His design, and He was going to use Samuel to declare that in his life. David was not the popular choice, but is now considered the greatest of Israel’s kings.
What I Have I Give To You
What made Simeon and Anna see what they saw in Jesus? What was God revealing to Samuel and Jesse about themselves and David?
Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us.” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” – Acts 3:4-6
Peter and John had probably often entered the temple at that time, and probably through the same gate. They might have even gone in with Jesus on occasion. There’s no telling whether this particular man had ever stood out to them before, but on this day they took notice of him. The man, who up until this point was an “unnoticed lame beggar”, was now seen as someone for whom God had a purpose.
Simeon was holding a promise inside of him. Anna spent her time worshipping, fasting and praying – being filled with the presence and mind of God. Peter had received redemption and healing from Jesus. Each of these poured out what they had received. Simeon saw God’s promise fulfilled; Anna saw the very presence of God that she experienced in worship; Peter saw the man as a recipient of the healing he had received.
God calls us to receive from him, to think like him so we can pour out like him. The more we have his mind, the more we will see others and our circumstances in that same mindset.
Getting God’s Mind
Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:7-8
We tend to take verse 8 out of context, seeing just how different God’s thoughts are than ours. He’s God, so there’s no way I can think like him. However, we have to look at what God is doing in these verses.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me. Listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. – Isaiah 55:2-3
Thinking like God, getting His mind is accepting His invitation. He invites us to come, to turn to him, to hear his thoughts.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41-42
Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him – not just hear his words, but to truly listen and take in all that he was saying. This is the degree to which God wants us to come, to listen, to receive. Listen that you may live. Another way to look at this is listen as though your life depended upon it. Simeon didn’t just hear the promise and put it on a shelf thinking it would be for the future. He lived according to it, constantly looking for the day when God would say, “There… there is the fulfillment of my promise.” Anna didn’t just keep herself busy praying, she spent time in worship constantly. Each of them took time to allow God to speak to them, which affected how they viewed the people and circumstances around them.
As God calls us to a new year, to a new place and to new people, we need to take time to immerse ourselves with his invitation to hear him. It is in those times that we will see his design come to life for us, and for those around us.
Sometimes we can see what we see, and never realize the magic and wonder that exists under the surface. Years ago, 3-D art took us by storm. I still find it fascinating. Here are a couple images, and some sites to see some good ones.