What Are You Waiting For?

  Luke 2:21-38  


We all do it. We spend half our life waiting. We have waiting rooms, and waiting lines. We wait to be seated, and we wait on the phone to speak to the operator. Sometimes it seems that all we do is wait. Our life is one mad rush to get from one wait to another, from one line to another. A report from a few years ago said that on average, we spend six months sitting at stoplights—and over 5 years waiting in lines. Five years of my life—waiting in lines! That’s why I always try to carry a book with me. You can get a lot of reading done in five years.

And there are sayings which we have all heard: “Good things come to those who wait” and “Some things are worth waiting for.” If good things come to those who wait, is there anything you would be willing to wait your entire life for? It would have to be something really good, right?

What about if someone offered you ten million dollars if you just wait for it your entire life? Would you be willing to wait your entire life for ten million dollars? Maybe you’re thinking, “You bet I would.” But what good is ten million dollars going to be to you if you only get it one minute before you die? It doesn’t do much for you at all. I don’t think I would wait for my entire life for ten million dollars. My time is more valuable than that.

But there are things I am waiting my entire life for. And I’m not alone in this waiting line. Many of you are probably waiting for the same thing. But before we talk about what that is, I want us to look at Simeon who waited his entire life for something. And I think it was definitely something worth waiting for. If I was given the offer to wait my entire life for the same thing he waited for, I would gladly do it.

Simeon Waited for Jesus (Luke 2:25-35)

We are introduced to Simeon in verse 25 with…

Three Spiritual Characteristics (Luke 2:25)

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.

So here we meet the man we are looking at today, and right away we learn two physical truths about him. First, he was living in Jerusalem, which was the political and religious center of Israel at that time – and is still today. Simeon was where all the action took place.

But more importantly, we learn that his name was Simeon. The name Simeon means “God has heard.” And we will see today that God did hear Simeon’s prayer (and the prayers of many others during this time) and was sending to them the greatest answer to prayer ever seen. Those are his physical characteristics. More intriguing still are Simeon’s spiritual characteristics.

The first spiritual characteristic was that he was “righteous and devout”. The word righteous shows his obedience of the Word toward other people. The word devout expresses his obedience of the Word toward God. He knew what the Bible said, and he did it. Again, such obedience is a prerequisite for being used greatly by God.

Now, it was the hope and prayer of every Jew that the Messiah would come, and bring peace and comfort to the people of Israel. And Simeon was like all other Jews in this regard. For we see secondly, in verse 25, that he was waiting for the Consolation of Israel. The Consolation of Israel is a reference for Jesus and is a frequent theme found in Isaiah 40-66. Isaiah says the Messiah would come and so Simeon was waiting for him.

Sometimes, that’s what God calls us to do. To wait. It’s not a glamorous task. It’s not one that gets anyone a lot of attention. But sometimes, all God wants us to do is wait. In fact, I think that a part of every Christian’s maturing process is a period of waiting. Of feeling like we’ve been put on the backburner, or forgotten backstage. We know God has gifted us and called us to do something for him, but it doesn’t seem like anything is happening in that direction.

That might be because God is calling you to wait. It is God teaching you patience. And all too often, if you do not wait, if you try to step out and do what you want, or even what you know God wants for you, but you don’t wait for His timing, you will fall flat on our face. You know, these times of waiting can be incredibly fruitful. Enjoy them. Learn as much about the Bible as you can. Become as much like Jesus Christ as you can.

A mushroom matures in a few days, but an oak tree takes hundreds of years. Which would you rather be? A mushroom, or an oak tree? If you choose to wait for God’s timing, you will become like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth it’s fruit in season (Psa 1:3). And as you wait, remember that God has not forgotten you. As you wait on the Lord, He will renew your strength, you will mount up with wings like eagles, you will run and not grow weary, you will walk and not faint (Isa 40:31). That’s what Simeon did. God wanted him to wait for Jesus, and he did. Patiently waiting is a wonderful spiritual characteristic to have.

The third spiritual characteristic of Simeon was that the Holy Spirit was upon him. This is significant because at this time in God’s history, not all believers had the Holy Spirit upon them. The Holy Spirit could come upon a person for a while, and then could leave later. That’s why David prayed in Psalm 51, “take not your Holy Spirit from me.” Prior to Pentecost in Acts 2, not all believers had the Holy Spirit. He only came upon a few, and sometimes, only for a short while.

But now, in the church age, the Holy Spirit dwells within all believers. Before Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit only came upon certain individuals for certain tasks and responsibilities. Now, after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is within all believers permanently. Simeon, however, was one of those privileged saints prior to Pentecost who had the Holy Spirit. This means that Simeon was specially chosen by God to do something specific for God. We learn what this task was in verse 26.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Simeon had been told by God that he would not die until Jesus Christ came. This is quite a promise of God to Simeon! We don’t know exactly how old Simeon was here, but tradition says he was very old. And so Simeon had been waiting for God for much of his life, and he knows that he will see the Christ before he dies. The question though is, why would God tell Simeon this? Why did God think it was important that someone be there to see Jesus Christ? Why is it so important for Simeon to spend his whole life waiting, just to see the Messiah? That’s incredible, but what’s the point?

Simeon was one the witnesses that God used to confirm that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had come to Israel in the flesh. The infant John, the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna—whom we will look at in a bit—all serve as witnesses in Luke’s gospel that Jesus is the Messiah. Witnesses speak what they have seen and heard, and Simeon needs to speak. So this is what he does in Luke 2:27-35. The wait is over, and God has called upon Simeon to speak, and Simeon, though he has been on the sidelines for so long, steps forward to be a witness.

The Wait is Over (Luke 2:27-35)

He blesses God. He thanks God for sending the 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 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.”  

Simeon didn’t “just happen” to be in the temple courts that day. “Moved by the Holy Spirit”.  Simeon recognizes the child in Mary’s arms as the Messiah which God had promised. He takes the child up in his arms and sings a psalm of praise to God.

Simeon’s song is known as the “Nunc Dimittus” from the first two words in Latin “Now dismiss”. He is saying, basically, “Now I can die in peace because I have seen the Messiah as you promised me.”

A couple of notes: Simeon says, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” The name Jesus (Yeshua) means “salvation”. So, Simeon sees this child named “Salvation” and says, “I have seen salvation.” Second, Simeon sees what many Jewish people missed. Most Jews expected a Messiah who would deliver Israel from her enemies and establish the kingdom of David once again. Simeon sees that the salvation that Jesus brings will be for “all nations” and “a light of revelation for the Gentiles.”

But, Simeon is not done. He next turns to bless Joseph and Mary in Luke 2:33-35.

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.”

This isn’t much of a blessing, is it? We might call it a “mixed blessing.”

The actual blessing of Simeon to Joseph and Mary isn’t recorded here. We should read this passage as saying that Simeon blessed them, and then after he was done, he then speaks to them what we read in Luke 2:34-35. The words of Simeon to Mary about a sword piercing her own heart is a prophecy about Christ’s coming crucifixion on Calvary’s cross. It would be the most tragic event in the life of Mary, and yet, at the same time, the greatest event. Mary’s soul would be pierced, and so will ours when we understand the suffering of Christ, but Christ did it all to save us. And if people get saved, Christ considers it all worth it.

The rest of Simeon’s words to Joseph and Mary are again an indication that Simeon knows what Jesus has come for. Not to raise up Israel and deliver them from Roman rule, but to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be spoken against. The result will be that many hearts would be revealed. This is exactly what happens in the life of Christ. Most of the leaders of Israel reject him, and so they fall from their positions. Many of the poor accept him, and so are risen to leadership in the church. Jesus was spoken against by many.

And ultimately, the thoughts of many hearts were revealed. Most people wanted a Messiah for selfish reasons. They wanted to profit from the Messiah, or gain power from the Messiah. The Gospel of Luke will show all of this to us as we go through it. Simeon also reveals the thoughts of his own heart here. He knew what kind of Messiah Jesus would be, and he had waited his whole life for this event, and now that it had come, he could depart in peace. Simeon was the second of three witnesses.

Before we move on to Anna, let me just ask you, what are you waiting for? What are you looking forward to? Is it that next vacation? Is it getting married? Maybe having a child…or a grandchild? Getting that promotion at work? Hey, all of these things are good things to wait for. All of these things are good things to accomplish in life. All of these things are blessings from God. But real contentment in life comes from knowing what to look forward to, from knowing what to wait for.

Simeon knew what to wait for. He waited for and looked forward to Christ’s first coming. And similarly, we are to wait for Christ’s Second Coming. The New Testament tells us over and over that we should eagerly wait and anxiously look for the appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Living knowing that Jesus could come today, or tomorrow, causes us to live with the right priorities. It causes us to live with eternity in focus. It causes us to do things that will matter for eternity, rather than just for next week.

And furthermore, if we eagerly look for Christ’s coming, we will do everything we can to speed his coming. In Matthew 24:14, it says that the end will come only after the whole world has heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. Waiting for Jesus should cause us to be witnesses just as Simeon’s waiting for Jesus caused him to be a witness. Simeon Waited for Jesus. Anna Worshiped Jesus.

Anna Worshiped Jesus (Luke 2:36-38)

Just as with Simeon, the account of Anna begins with a description of her characteristics.

Anna’s Characteristics (Luke 2:36-37a)

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.

First, we learn that her name was Anna. Her name comes from the Hebrew word for grace. And the grace of God was definitely upon her as we see in the rest of these verses. The grace of God was upon her first of all, in that she was a prophet. There are several women in the Bible who are referred to as prophets; Miriam, Deborah, Huldah in the Old Testament and Philips daughters in the New. Anna’s work as a prophetess was to speak the Word of God, and share what she knew about Jesus with all who would listen to her. This is what we will see her doing in Luke 2:38, and this was the basic ministry description of all prophets in the Bible also.

The next evidence of the grace of God in her life is the fact that she was of the tribe of Asher. Asher was one of the northern tribes of Israel that rebelled against God, and so was carried away into captivity by the Assyrians. And many people think that the Israelites of the ten Northern tribes were never heard from again. They are frequently referred to as the “ten lost tribes of Israel.”

The fact of the matter is that the ten tribes were never lost. God has always kept a remnant of each tribe safe for himself. We can read the accounts in 1 and 2 Chronicles and other places in Scripture which clearly show the existence of other members of the other tribes of Israel. This is an example right here in Luke 2. Anna was of the tribe of Asher. She knew who she was, and so did everyone else. She did not go to Ethiopia. She did not come to America. She was not lost. She was in Israel. And that is an example of the grace of God. Though her ancestors had rebelled and been carried off into captivity, God had nevertheless raised her up to be one of these witnesses.

A final sign of the grace of God being upon her is her age. We learn here that she was married for seven years and a widow for 84 years. This either means that she was a widow who was 84 years old, or that she had been a widow for 84 years. But either way, she had been a widow for a very long time. And rather than grow bitter and resentful that she had been a widow so long, she became better.

Sorrow can do one of two things to you. It can make you hard, bitter, resentful and rebellious against God, or it can make you kinder, softer, more sympathetic. It can spoil your faith, or cause your faith to take deeper root. It all depends on how you choose to respond to the sorrow and trials in your life. Anna chose the better path. She chose to reveal the grace of God in her life. And I think that is one reason God gave her a long life.

Do you know what she did with her long life? She served God with it. Look at the last half of verse 37.

She Served God (Luke 2:37b)

She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

This tells us that Anna, like Simeon, was another one of those who were known as The Quiet in the Land. She served God first by staying in the temple. It says she didn’t even depart from the temple. This means that she went to the temple as much as possible. Nobody, not even the priests lived in the temple. The High Priest alone had chambers there, but even He did not live there.

So, it means that she was there as much as possible. And while there, she served God by fasting and praying night and day. This is a wonderful blessing to pour out upon God’s church and God’s people if you are able to do it.

Spend as much time as possible praying. Prayer is the lifeblood of the church. Prayer is what keeps a church and its ministries supported and moving forward. Prayer is what keeps you in communication with God. Prayer is what holds back the spiritual forces of darkness. Prayer is how you can support me as the pastor and the other leaders of this church – the elders and the Sunday school teachers and the music team and everybody else in leadership positions.

And we see this in Anna. She was a prayer warrior. Not only did she pray, but she fasted and prayed, and she did it night and day. May God give every church many people like Anna who serve God with fasting and praying night and day.

Finally, in verse 38, we read of how Anna was a witness for Christ coming as the Messiah. She spoke of Jesus.

She Spoke of Jesus (Luke 2:38)

38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Just like Simeon, she gave thanks to God for sending the Messiah, and then, not stopping there, she went out and spoke to everybody who was looking for redemption in Jerusalem. She went around telling people that their Savior, their Redeemer had come. She was the third witness.

What are some lessons from the lives of Simeon and Anna? Both of them would be considered elderly by today’s standards, and yet neither one of them thought that being old meant that God was done with them. Sometimes, in our youth-oriented culture, those of us who are younger seem to think that those who are older have nothing to teach us, and sometimes, those of us who are older, believe it.

There are things that can be done by those who are older that younger people cannot and are not able to do. Retirement is often God’s way of releasing the believer from daily responsibilities in order to allow him or her to devote more time and effort to a ministry.

What skills, what lessons, what truths have you learned that you can pass on to the next generation? How can you encourage? How can you help? How can you minister to the needs of others?

Howard Hendricks, that well-loved professor from Dallas Theological Seminary said that “for believers, the latter years can be the richest in all of life if they become a part of other lives. The gentle touch of a seasoned life alive in Jesus Christ brings mutual enrichment. The elderly should not be great social outcasts, but a living ‘overpass’ between generations; not a dead end but a well-lighted avenue to lead younger people into the riches of a superlative time of life.”

Simeon and Anna did that. They show us that sometimes our most productive years in spiritual service for God come after our most productive years of earthly toil. Here are two people near the end of their life, still serving God full steam ahead.

Contentment is not a matter of age or energy level, neither is it a function of how many possessions you have accumulated. Contentment and significance in life is measured by how open you are to serving God and sharing Him with others. Even though death is imminent for Simeon and Anna, they have found the meaning of life, and what makes life significant. They did not wait around for the next vacation, or the next toy, or the next adventure. No, they waited for Jesus Christ, and as they waited, they served God in any and every way they could.

What are you waiting for? I hope you are waiting for Jesus Christ. And as you do, I hope you are wisely using the time and abilities and talents God has given to you. Life has meaning when you spend it waiting for Jesus.