In Discipleland this morning we taught the kids about prayer, based on the verse from Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” I was especially challenged by that last phrase, ‘…with all your heart.”
I challenged the children with what I believe tonight’s text challenges us. There is a way that we can live our Christian life – dully, religiously, legalistically, ritualistically; and that’s how we do often live it.
But the Christian life that God has called us to is vital, dynamic; it affects our eternity, sure, but it also has the chance of changing our day-to-day activities.
What a wonderful experience it is when we give our every moment over to the Lord, and He interrupts our plans with His!
We’re going to hear one such story, about Simeon who SAW God because he SOUGHT God.
Let’s read our text together.
[READ Luke 2:21-40] Pray
2. MARY AND JOSEPH
In our text tonight we encounter 2 pairs of people: Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna. Let’s look first at what this text shows us about Mary and Joseph.
I wonder if you noticed how careful Luke is to show Mary and Joseph’s attention to the Law of the Lord.
They took Jesus to be circumcised when it was time to do that, in accordance with the Law.
They went through the time of purification, according to the Law
They presented Jesus to the Lord, as it is written in the Law
They offered sacrifices, in keeping with the Law
Mary and Joseph were following God’s commands meticulously.
So the setting for our text tonight is steeped in Old Testament Law.
When Jesus was 40 days old Mary and Joseph travelled to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfil the requirements of God’s Law. You see, many, many years before Jesus, God had given Moses laws for His people to obey. One of those laws was that any family who had a firstborn son had to take that son and have him dedicated at the temple. To dedicate someone means to offer him to God.
The parents of the firstborn son had to take an offering with them as they dedicated their son to God in the temple. The offering needed to be a lamb. If a family didn’t have enough money to bring a lamb, God allowed them to bring 2 birds.
Mary and Joseph loved and obeyed God. They obeyed His laws regarding their firstborn Son. Mary and Joseph began their travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem bringing the only offering they could afford 2 young doves.
When they got to Jerusalem, they went up to the temple with their offering. You can imagine what the temple would have been like. Priests walking about in their priestly garbs, fulfilling their duties to the Lord. Other young families bringing their little ones to be dedicated at the temple too. Jewish men and women making vows to God. Altogether, a normal day at the temple.
But I want you to recognise something. Although this Levitical ceremony in the temple is the setting for this story, our focus is not on the details of the ceremony, but rather on the two people who interrupted that ceremony: two ordinary people who have an extraordinary testimony.
One of these was Simeon. Even as we highlighted Luke’s carefulness to show Mary and Joseph’s attention to the Law of the Lord, we need to also look at Luke’s emphasis on Simeon. The Bible tells us that he:
Was righteous and devout – Whenever we read that someone is righteous in the Bible it means that their faith was in God’s promise to forgive their sins.
The Holy Spirit was upon him
The Holy Spirit was speaking to him
The Holy Spirit was moving him
We’ve seen how Mary and Joseph seemed, in a sense, to be just going through the motions of their religious requirements. Now don’t get me wrong; we find from many other passages that their hearts sought the Lord – that’s a reason God chose them for their task. But on this day, they were simply going through the motions of what God required, seeking to be obedient.
But let’s look at the story of Simeon for a bit. Who was Simeon? We don’t know. Apart from these verses, there’s nothing more that we can tell.
Now that doesn’t stop people from speculating and imagining. As I was doing research for this message I was surprised to see the way the world has treated this man.
Because of his words, it has been popularised that he was a very old man, probably kept to a supernatural age in order to hold little Jesus in his arms before dying.
Because of his actions, it has been popularised that he was a very important figure. In fact, in artworks from about the 15th century, they started depicting him wearing high-priestly clothes.
But actually, Simeon was neither of these. I mean sure, he could have been of an old age. And perhaps he was a priest, but that would have been mentioned. Perhaps he was a farmer, who had come to dedicate his firstborn. Perhaps he was a tent-maker, like Paul was. Perhaps he was a shop-owner. Perhaps he was a financial consultant. I don’t know what he was.
But so far as we are aware, here we have an ordinary man who loved the Lord God and desired to live for Him. And he sought the Lord. He desired to hear from the Lord. He feared the Lord and walked in the ways of the Lord. And because of this, the Lord spoke to him.
4. GOD’S DESIRE FOR RELATIONSHIP
I want you to know something – the Lord makes Himself known to those who seek Him. He speaks to those who seek Him. He reveals His plans to those who seek Him. He blesses those who seek Him.
As it says in Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Psalm 34 tells us that those who seek the LORD are those who fear the LORD, and those who fear the LORD are those that God confides in – He establishes a close and intimate relationship with them, He reveals His plans to them.
I wonder if you realise that God has a cry to us – He calls out for relationship with us; He invites us to come to know Him, to come to know His plans.
But He doesn’t reveal His plans and His heart to just anyone – no! He reveals His plan and His heart only to the one who will seek Him.
I wonder if you noticed that God sent His Son, the Saviour of the world, right into the middle of the temple filled with people who had His Word – rabbis who studied and taught His Word, priests who practiced His Word, Pharisees who emphasised His Word, but who was the one who came and held the Saviour of the world in his feeble arms? The man who sought God.
5. WILL WE RESPOND?
I don’t know about you, but many times for me SEEKING GOD is the hardest thing to do in life.
It’s relatively easier to do projects at work. Sometimes we can stay up until 3 in the morning every morning for a week to make sure a project will get done on time.
It’s relatively easier to finish an assignment for varsity. I have a friend who stayed up three days straight working to get everything ready for a final crit.
It’s much easier to spend our spare time scanning facebook, in watching movies, braaing with friends and family, going fishing. It’s much easier cleaning the house, baking a cake, helping kids with homework. I know that there are times when we’d rather do our taxes then seek after God, rather go to the dentist, rather paint the garage. Anything but seeking after God.
Why is that? Why is it just so hard to do? Because we battle enemies of God. We battle in the spiritual realm with the devil and his hordes who will do anything they can to tempt us away from following after God. And we also battle our own sinful nature, which is determined notto do anything that will notsatisfy its own selfish desires.
So the devil and his hordes tempt us away, and our sinful nature pulls us away.
But I want to remind you that God is there to be found. He wants to reveal Himself, and He does reveal Himself – but only to those who truly seek Him.
But think about this. What difference would it make in your life if you began to seek the LORD with all of your heart? What if seeking God was more than just going to Church, more than just reading the Bible, more than just praying at grace times and before bed?
I’m not against going to Church, I’m not against reading the Bible or praying at mealtimes. But what if seeking God was actually about finding God? What if seeking God was about seeing God?
Well I can tell you, and I stand on the authority of Scripture, that if you would seek God, you will find Him.
I think again of this man Simeon. He sought the Lord his God. He was filled with and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. And because he walked closely with the Lord, when the Lord spoke – Simeon listened and he obeyed.
Can you imagine Simeon on this day, going about his business; maybe he was on his way to the market or meeting a business partner for lunch, when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit said to him, “Simeon, go to the temple.” Simeon knew the voice of the Lord, because he’d heard it many times, and he went.
Maybe he didn’t even know why, maybe he wondered if this was the day the Lord would show him the Christ. And he went to the temple.
As he stood in the temple trying to listen closely to what the Lord wanted him to do next he heard some footsteps coming over the temple stairs.
A young woman holding a baby in her arms, and her husband walked through the temple doors. Then God’s Spirit spoke to Simeon again and told him that this baby was the promised Saviour. Immediately went to Mary and reached out to hold the baby boy.
And here Simeon is – holding the Lord Jesus in his arms. The Sustainer of the Universe held in the weak and humble arms of a man who sought the Lord.
What a privilege – what an unequalled blessing, which came to an otherwise ordinary man who simply sought the Lord with his life.
Don’t you think that God wants to make known His plan to you? Don’t you think God wants to fill you with the knowledge of who He is – His nature, His character, and His will?
Of course He does…God wants to be seen by His people. But He will only reveal Himself to those who seek Him.
I wonder if your heart desires to see God, to feel His guiding hand on your shoulder, to hear His voice saying, ‘Go this way…’ or ‘Go that way…’ This is the blessing that comes to those who seek Him with all their heart.
Let’s bow our heads and pray.
Perhaps tonight you’ve been trying to seek God, but it’s been so dry for so long that you’re thinking of just giving up on quiet times, or on going to Church. And maybe you agree that the biggest struggle in life is just sitting down with God’s Word and seeking Him.
If that’s true of you, I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand, but maybe to agree with me in your heart with this prayer. “Lord Jesus, You know that I want to follow You. I want to become more like you. I want to live more for you. But every time I try to seek You it just feels so pressured and I tend to push it off for other things. Jesus, I’m sorry for seeing other things as more important than you. I’m sorry for wanting to be comfortable more than wanting to be with you. I recognise that I’m in a war, and that the devil will do anything he can to keep me from meeting with You. Lord Jesus, I’m ready to commit to seeking You. Please would you call me to seek You, and please would you protect me in those times. Protect my mind from distraction and my heart from temptation, that I may know you and enjoy the great pleasure of a deep relationship with You. Amen.”
Perhaps tonight you recognise that though you’ve been reading your Bible and praying and going to Church every week, it’s been a long time since you felt like you really met with God in those times. Maybe you feel more like you’re just ‘going through the motions of the Christians life’.
If that’s true for you, agree with me in your heart as I pray. “Lord Jesus, lately I’ve been feeling that my times with you have been empty and dry. I haven’t heard you speaking to me clearly as You spoke to Simeon and others. But Lord Jesus I realise today that You are speaking to me, even when I don’t hear You. Lord Jesus, I’m going to continue seeking You, even through the dry times. I’m going to keep doing it. And Lord, I give you my heart, and when You want to speak to me, I pray that You would help my heart to be sensitive to it. Thank you for Your great love for me, and for calling me to draw near to You and to know You. I love You too, Jesus. Amen.”
I’m going to ask the worship team to come up for the final song.