Simeon and Anna – Waiting for God

Readings today: Numbers 8-9, Luke 2:22-40

In the passage in Luke 2 we get a snapshot of the lives of two faithful old saints who waited for the Lord to answer their prayers for decades and how God answered their prayers in the most amazing and unexpected fashion.

 

Simeon (the just and devout)

The bible doesn’t tell us a lot about Simeon. He is only mentioned in Luke where he is described as a man living in Jerusalem, who is “just and devout”. Luke records that God had appeared to him in a dream and made him a promise- the promise that he would not die until he saw the saviour.

So, when the story begins, Simeon has been waiting for his earnest prayers to be answered for some time. We don’t know how long he has been waiting, nor do we know how old he is, but we can assume he was elderly from his prayer that he can now die knowing that God has fulfilled his promise.

I wonder what his friends and family thought of Simeon. As the years rolled by and Simeon continued to wait and hope as others got on with their lives around him, I wonder how many of them wrote him off as a silly old fool. Did they think his prayers were simply wishful thinking?

Yet, Simeon’s faithful prayer vigil is recorded for all time in the gospel of Luke as this faithful Old Testament style believer had his dreams and hopes fulfilled when he first looked into the eyes of the 6 week old baby Jesus.

 

Anna the Prophetess

Like Simeon, the only details we know about Anna we get from this passage. The commentators seem to be unsure of her age (is she 84, or 84 years widowed!). Regardless it is clear that she is very old and has been waiting and praying earnestly for the saviour for a very long time.

What must Anna have thought decade after decade as Israel’s moral decline continued without hope of a saviour in sight. Surely she must have been discouraged by her unanswered prayers. How many times must she have been tempted to give up on God. How many times must others have looked at her life – so old, so many years alone, so many years prayers unanswered – and thought of her as someone to be pitied.

Then, unexpectedly and in a most miraculous way, God answered Anna’s prayers. Like Simeon, faithful Anna’s name will be remembered in eternity. Forever God’s people will read the story of this long-suffering saint and praise her faithfulness and perseverance – and praise God for answering her prayers.

 

God – the promise keeper.

God did not forget old Simeon and Anna. God honoured their faithfulness in spectacular fashion – in coming to earth as a baby and letting them welcome him at the temple!  He kept his promise to them and He blessed them in ways they could never have imagined

No doubt both Simeon and Anna would have been familiar with the Old Testament Psalms and may have been encouraged to persevere by the words of Psalm 130

 

5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption

Both of these old saints waited on the Lord, and they were rewarded by experiencing His unfailing love and finding themselves in the front-row seat as his plan for full redemption played out in the birth of Jesus.

 

Today

Be encouraged in prayer. If you have been earnestly praying for years for God to act in the life of a loved one, or to resolve some long-standing burden, know that God is faithful and answers our prayers.

 

Peter

 

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And it’s not even Christmas

Today’s readings are Numbers 7, and Luke 2:1-21. In numbers we read a long account of gifts offered when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle and had anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings and had anointed and consecrated the altar with all its utensils.

There are two sets of gifts. The first a set of wagons and oxen, seems somewhat strange. It’s certainly different to passing the Offertory bags on a Sunday.

But then it makes sense when you realise that what Moses had finished setting up was not  a building like our auditorium, but literally a large tent, where the Holy God met with His people who at the time had no permanent home. The oxen and wagons were to be used in transporting the tabernacle. As Israel moved around, their God was ever-present with them. I can’t help but be reminded of John’s description of the incarnation of Christ.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

John 1:14

The second set of gifts, are brought at the consecration of the altar. Listed out over and over, the same gifts brought by each of the chiefs of the tribes of Israel, given over 12 consecutive days. These gifts are extravagant and valuable, and they are for the dedication of the altar – the place where sacrifices are made for the atonement of sin. This too points towards the incarnation of Christ, who becomes the one sufficient sacrifice for all.

And that’s exactly where our second reading finds us today. Does it feel strange reading about shepherds and angels in October?

The contrast of extravagant gifts brought by the chiefs of the tribes of Israel, with some formal ceremony and repetition, could not be more stark, against the shepherds in the fields who were minding their own sheep, when an angel of the Lord shows up.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord

Unto you. Not chiefs, princes, rulers, but you. Shepherds – ordinary people. They had no extravagant gifts – rather they received the gift, to see the Word become flesh and tabernacle among us. No more need for priests, tabernacles or altars.

If you really want to get a sense of the significance of this, have a quick flick over to Hebrews chapter 9. If you have time, read the whole of Chapter 9 and the first part of 10.  Here’s just a taste

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Hebrews 9:11-14

No wonder the sky filled with angels saying

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The Lord bless you and keep you

Numbers 5 and 6. Luke 1: 57-80

The people of Israel have been rescued by God, and are preparing for their journey to the promised land. Numbers dictates, in detail, what redemption is to look like for the people of Israel; how this ancient cluster of tribes are to worship God and live out the liberty and restoration which has been gifted to them.

Ritual purity is a major concern, as Israel prepares to live in a way which honours their calling as the covenanted people of God. This includes rituals for managing conflicts, reconciliation and restitution among neighbours, and detailed instructions for living as a consecrated Nazarite, one who devotes him or herself, for a period of time, to service of God.

Sections of these chapters in Numbers, however, make deeply disturbing and frankly harrowing reading.

Contact with skin disease, bodily discharges and corpses are named as defiling. Lepers are to be cast out of the camps, Num 5: 1-4.

Wives who have been accused of unfaithfulness by their husbands, without any corroborating evidence, are subjected to public humiliation and shame, and trial by ordeal. They are brought to the Priest, who dishevels the woman’s hair as a sign of ritual impurity, and forces them to drink ‘cursed’ water, which will have no effect if they are innocent, but if they are guilty will induce miscarriage, result in permanent infertility, and cause bitter pain, Num 5: 11-31.

What are we to make of such cruel exclusion of lepers (even taking into account the very real fear of contagion) and misogynistic brutality?

Jesus is the radical, life saving and merciful response to the deep questions which passages such as these pose. Jesus tells us that while purity rules can mean shame, exclusion, abandonment, and abuse of power, God, in contrast, embraces, forgives, restores and welcomes.

Thank you Ian, for a moving reminder at church yesterday of Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, who understands brokenness and rejection, whose infinite love and valuing of humanity is not constrained by any social or religious barriers. Jesus, who himself bore our diseases and infirmity, who bore our shame, who bore our suffering.

Jesus, who revealed with courage, love and authority (at enormous cost), the truth about the nature of the saving and merciful God of Israel. This is a God who blesses his people, ALL his people, with these beautiful words of providence, presence and peace.

“The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Num 6: 24-26)

Being redeemed by God means receiving His free, gracious, and generous gift of blessing and peace.

Luke 1: 57-80, the story of the birth of John the Baptist, contains a prophetic song of utter joy and trust in a God who has not abandoned us, but instead, has looked favourably on us and rescued us. God has come close, very close. He is with us, God with us, Jesus. The readings from Numbers remind me this morning of the extraordinary blessing and liberation brought by Jesus. This is no small thing!

With Zechariah let us sing:

“By the tender mercy of our God,

the dawn from on high will break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the

shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79)

Peace be with you today.

Jesus my Captain

Today’s reading is from Numbers 1, 2 & Luke 1:26-38.

The story that starts in Exodus and continues through the rest of the Pentateuch is a story where God draws out his chosen people so that he could eventually draw them into His presence. He authors their story of slavery to freedom, of darkness to light. He redeems them from the clutches of Pharaoh’s tyranny to a land flowing with milk and honey where a life of blessing is to be enjoyed. As they made their way there He guides them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. What he required in return is that they be His people, and He their God. He gave them the law at Sinai and other instructions and required that they live according to it and be set apart for His purposes.

Numbers, the fourth book in the Pentateuch is about how the Israelites were organized into a fighting force as they made their way to the Promised Land. In Numbers 1 & 2 we see how every man twenty years of age and older is chosen to fight in Israel’s army. The prominent theme through these chapters is how God, through Moses meticulously gives out instructions or standard operating procedures on how the army is to be formed and functioning. The Israelites were God’s chosen people and needed to be set apart from those around them in order to live for God’s purposes. Here in these chapters He is giving them a certain way of living that would see to it that they are set apart, living as God’s people, under God’s rule and soon to be in God’s land. We can see that although God is working here through Moses, He is their captain, their ultimate commander in chief. The newly formed Israelite army is God’s army, assembled for His purpose and to fight His war.

Luke chapter 1 announces the birth of Jesus who is to lead Jacob’s (aka Israel) descendants forever. Jesus is the fulfillment of all that has been revealed through Israel’s redemptive past. God blessed Israel and ruled over them. Jesus came so that the promise given to Abraham may be fulfilled and that His Kingship and rule would extend beyond the borders of Israel so that we too may live as God’s people, under God’s rule and in His Kingdom. Jesus is our captain, our commander in chief. The Word of God today gives us the means to be set apart as God’s people as the Holy Spirit moves within us. As we live and fight the evils of our age let us be reminded that we serve on the army of the one true King and Captain. Let us pray that we can be set free in the knowledge of his leadership and love for us.

Have a listen to this song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_oR5Twx-RU

The Sabbath Year and The Year of Jubilee

The Sabbath Year and The Year of Jubilee

Leviticus 25

The Sabbatical Year – verses 1-7

This is an expansion of Exodus 23:10-11 which itself is expanded in Deuteronomy 15:1-2. Such stipulations allowed for faith in God’s sovereignty and his capacity to provide.

The Jubilee Year – verses 8-55

“… the two main thrusts of the jubilee, liberty and restoration, were both easily transferred from the strictly economic provision of the jubilee itself to a wider metaphorical application. The idea of redemption and return are combined in the future vision of Isaiah 35.”

“The jubilee still remains as a powerful model in formulating Christian biblical ethics. Its primary assumptions and objectives can be used as a guide and critique for our own ethical agenda in the modern world”.

A Final Word from Paul Before He Visits Corinth Again

2 Corinthians 13

This is the conclusion of a letter written by a true pastor. His deepest concern was for the spiritual welfare of all those who professed faith in Christ in Corinth. Some have a need to repent and he will seek to bring them to that position. In Christ’s Name and in his power he will act to correct what is wrong. We writes however, that those who need to change will change before he arrives.

We too need to be open to correction and, with the greatest humility possible, be prepared to offer correction where it might be needed.

His closing words seek to encourage joy, maturity, harmony and peace.

Verse 14 is a prayer we can each pray for ourselves and for our fellow believers.

An Ordered Life of Worship and Witness

An Ordered Life of Worship and Witness

Leviticus 23-24

Chapter 23 outlines the seven Festivals that marked the Israel year. These Festivals were an expression of devotion to the God who had rescued them and part of the means whereby they kept their unique character constantly before them.

The Festivals were:

The Weekly Sabbath vv. 1-3

The Spring Festivals 4-22

Passover and Unleavened Bread vv. 4-8

Firstfruits vv. 9-14

Weeks vv. 15-21

A requirement to meet the needs of the poor v.22

The Autumn Festivals

Trumpets vv. 23-26

The Day of Atonement vv. 26-32

The Festival of Shelters of Booths vv. 33-43

Conclusion v.44

These Festivals are amongst those elements of Torah that have passed away. Christians have one specific act of remembrance which is the Lord’s Supper. However, what are sometimes called the liturgical churches (like Anglicans) have adopted a ‘church year’ that celebrates parts of the gospel story as a teaching tool and an aid to sustained and biblically focused worship.

Chapter 24 deals with the care of the Temple (verses 1-9) and the punishment of a blasphemer and other penalties for wrongdoing.

All life to to be dedicated to God in loving obedience and prayerful worship.

 

God’s Power in Paul’s Weakness

2 Corinthians 12

Paul’s experience has a lesson for each of us: God is our Enabler. We can do whatever He calls us to be and do because He is able.

Paul’s actions were dictated by his love for those to whom he ministered. He sought to serve the Corinthians in sincerity. Even his severity was an expression of genuine concern. He cared enough to challenge. Do we?

FREED TO LOVE AND SERVE

Today’s passages are Leviticus 10 – 12 and 2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:13.

We are sure the readings that we have been following last week from Levitcus needed the encouragement that the passages from 2 Corinthians have given us  since Thursday.

Those chapters in Leviticus (5-12) cover in great detail the ceremonial regulations which the developing community of Israel needed to follow, in order to stay in relationship with God.    Sin and guilt had  to be dealt with and though the practices seem quaint and exaggerated.it does remind us that GOD IS GOD, AND IS NOT TO BE TRIFFLED WITH.  ‘I dd it my way’ does not hold credence when God has set out the procedures to follow – the ordination of Aaron’s sons and their decision to add their own touch to what God required as regards their sacrifices,   (Leviticus 10:1 -3) demonstrates the importance of trusting what God says.  

Chapters 11 and 12 cover health and social regulations which must have been appropriate for the wandering tribes.

However, like Iris on Thursday, it has been a relief for us to turn to the Corinthian passages and discover again the assurance that GOD HAS DONE ALL THAT IS REQUIRED FOR OUR SALVATION AND RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.  No ceremonial is required on our part but instead, BELIEF, as He has done all that is required.  It is a bit overwhelming, but worth the effort, to sit and read over again passages like

 5:15  and He died for all, that those wholive should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

5:17-18  Therefore if anyone is in Christ the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ

6:1  as co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain –       –  just enjoy with thankfulness what we’ve read.

No more sacrifices, or fear we may not have covered all our misdoings.

Join us in taking some time today to let these promises sink in and then let’s all go out and live in love and thankfulness as though we believe it is true and that the BEST IS YET TO COME.

Peter and Elizabeth.