How to Be God's Friend: Part 3: Simeon & Anna

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Part 3: Simeon & Anna

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How to Be God's Friend: Part 3: Simeon & Anna

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This is the third part in the Bible study series: How to Be God’s Friend. What do the little known stories of two elderly Israelites tell us about walking with God and becoming His friend?

Transcript

[Darris McNeely] Well good evening everyone. Welcome to our Bible study here in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the home office of the United Church of God and to all of you who are listening in at this time, or will be viewing this online afterwards. Hello and good evening. It’s a beautiful summer night here. It’s summer for us here in Cincinnati. I’m Darris McNeeley and I’ll be doing the Bible study tonight – I did mention that Steve Myers would be doing this one, but we had a switch for some other scheduling changes. I’m doing it tonight and according to plan, Steve will do it in two weeks and the following two weeks Gary Petty will conclude. So, before we get started tonight, if you would all please rise, I’ll ask God’s blessing on our study and we will get started.

“Our God and Father in heaven we bow and give You thanks for this evening and this opportunity to gather as friends and family and to study Your word; to look into something, Father, that is a very, very important topic that we have chosen here of walking with You and determining that through the examples of many people in the Bible, both known and well known. Tonight, Father, as we study into the example of Simeon and Anna, we pray for Your blessing and guidance upon us all and help us Father to learn and understand the examples of two people that, perhaps, could be overlooked in the story but yet give us some very important and valuable lessons for how we can develop a relationship with You. Thank you and we commit this study into Your hands and we ask Your blessing. We do so in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.”

As I mentioned, tonight we will be talking about Simeon and Anna. Two figures whose story covers about, I think it’s about 13 verses in Luke, Chapter 2 . So you can go ahead and begin turning there.  Some of you might be thinking, “How can you do a whole Bible study on two people that we don’t have a whole of information about in the Bible? 13 verses. How can you talk for an hour?” Well, my wife asks the same question (laughter). And knowing me I said, “Honey, after I got into this, I could give several Bible studies on this.” But I only have an hour tonight so we will focus on their story as it applies to the subject we have been talking about in this series about walking with God, developing a relationship with God.

I chose this, these two; I actually pitched it as part of the package of figures from the Bible when we were talking about it a few weeks ago and I’ve just kind of picked this story out of the blue. And, knowing a little bit of the background, realized we could learn a lot from it. Little did I know as I’ve gone into it, just how much we can learn, especially as we are dealing with this concept and this theme that we’ve chosen, walking with God. So as I go through their story tonight, I’m not going to exhaust everything that even the scriptures that are tied to their story can tell us. We’re going to focus on the relationship aspect and what we can learn in terms of our own walk with God in our own life which I can think we can learn several key points. So we will not have an exhaustive, in-depth analysis of everything that could be done here which, as I said, could take other Bible studies.

We’re talking about walking with God and there was one verse I just wanted to quote at the beginning and that is in Psalms 25:4 Psalms 25:4Show me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
American King James Version×
. There are a number of passages that talk about walking with God; our paths and God’s word is like a lamp unto our feet. But in Psalms 25:4 Psalms 25:4Show me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
American King James Version×
, it says:

Psalms 25:4 Psalms 25:4Show me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
American King James Version×
“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.”

“Teach me Your paths….” We do walk with God. We do walk in a path of righteousness. God’s law is a lamp unto our feet as we are walking in this way of life all of our lives.
That has been our theme. And, as we look at these two individuals from the Bible tonight, there will be a great deal for us to learn. So, let’s jump into it and try to get through it here before the 8:00 hour, when I turn into a pumpkin. We don’t want to see that happen. That would be disastrous.

A little bit of the setting. Luke, Chapter 2 . It is the period of Jesus Christ’s birth. He has just been born in Bethlehem. His parents have made the journey from Nazareth. You know that part of the story as Luke accounts for it. We do know, as we put together the key markers of the story of Christ’s birth; with Mary; with Elizabeth; with Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband, and the service was in the temple, that this birth did not take place in the midst of winter, in late December; that it took place sometime in the fall, alright?

Now we can determine that. We’re not the only ones who have that knowledge. You can find that in other sources as well but let’s keep it there. We could go into other speculations as to exactly when in the fall of the year that might have been. And there are speculations about that as well. But we’ll leave that because that’s not really our point. Suffice it to say that they were in Jerusalem. The story here of Simeon and Anna was during; they were in the temple in Jerusalem shortly after Christ’s birth; in fact eight days because He comes into the temple to be circumcised.

Luke 2:21 Luke 2:21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
American King James Version×
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”
V.22 “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;”
V.23 “(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)”
If this was in the fall of the year then it’s going to be at or near the fall festivals. And if that’s the case, which I think that it is, the crowds in Jerusalem are larger than normal. Jerusalem was a large city to begin with. And the temple would be, as it always was, the focus of activity. And that’s what is important; I think to set the stage for the story.

The temple in Jerusalem was a very, very busy place on any given day. Any time there was a festival or Sabbath, it was even busier, more people. And Luke focuses his story on two people. Simeon and Anna who were in the temple at the very time Christ comes into it in the arms of His mother, Mary. And these two individuals recognize who He is. They are drawn to Him by God’s spirit. And they’re drawn to Him at a time when all kinds of people are there; probably from many different lands. Many worshippers in and around the temple. Lots of priests; lots of Levites were doing the work of the temple. And only two people; only two recognize who is in their midst. That’s significant. Let’s read the account beginning in Verse 25 . We’ll just read through it so we get the overview and then we’ll go back and we’ll talk about parts of it.

Luke 2:25 Luke 2:25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was on him.
American King James Version×
“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”
V.26 “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
V.27 “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,”
V.28 “Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,”
V.29 “Lord,” (this is a prayer from Simeon to God) “now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:”
V.30 “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,”
V.31 “Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;”
V.32 “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”
V.23 “And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.”
V.34 “And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;”
V.35 “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

And then the scene shifts to Anna.

V.36 “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Panel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;”
V.37 “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years…” (about 84 years) “which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”
V.38 “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

Two people. Two elderly people. One, a widow. The other an elderly man. In the midst of throngs of people, two people recognize who Jesus is. And on this day, their paths crossed. Not by coincidence. They were led by God’s spirit. Anna evidently lived there. There was a section of the temple compound that was called “The Court of the Women” into which the women could go and they could go no further, closer to the temple. Now there was a colonnaded area. There were probably rooms and a lot of things going on there probably and if she did not depart from the temple but served God there then we have an indication that somehow she probably lived there; had her permanent residence there as part of whatever. Maybe an order of people. She was a prophetess. And so she was there. They were both there by God’s direction at this time. And Luke, later on as he gathers his story, years later, he hears of this account because this was not done in a corner of the temple. It gained attention that day. And later the church knew about what took place and it became a part of the story. Luke heard it. He’s inspired to put it down into his record of the life of Jesus. So that’s how we have it here. No other gospel writer records this story; only Luke does. Keep in mind we have two people in the midst of a very, very busy scene and yet they are the ones who recognize Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, as a child who has come to the temple.

Now last time I put some little thoughts up here on the board. I’m going to do it again tonight. My “ponders”, or my “pondering” last time. So I’m going to do that again here tonight.

This is Ponder #1, alright? Little archaic language, I realize, but it gets the point across. Here’s the first thought for us to consider.

Ponder #1:  Two people were not too busy to see Christ. How about you? Are you too busy to see Christ?

We’re not running around and walking in the midst of a physical temple today but we are a part of a spiritual temple that is being put together and Christ is the Head of the church. The church is described in that way; a spiritual body; a temple, Paul uses to describe it. Christ is the Head of the church. Christ is involved in this work. Can we get too busy in our own lives that we cannot see Christ leading us? We cannot respond to His lead and His direction? Think about that.

Simeon and Anna were the only ones who recognized who Jesus was. They lived a life where they literally walked with God each day in a very deep way through their prayers and their thoughts. One a widow. Both elderly. A widow in that day had a hard life. Women were not always treated the best in Jewish society. The elderly however, did have a certain regard within society. They were treated with a bit of respect but every society begins, at some point, to marginalize the elderly and no doubt that would have been the case here as well. And these two elderly people would have just been overlooked.

But Luke has a proclivity about his writings that you will notice in the gospel and in the Book of Acts. Luke singles out the ones that people forget about and overlook. The Gentiles. The women. The elderly. He focuses on those people and he tells their story. To him, they’re heroes. They are the true heroes and Luke collects them all in his story of Christ and the church in those two books. And these are the first two, Simeon and Anna, that we have a connection to here.

One other thing that Luke does; we’ll talk about this as we get into Simeon; as we look at his story here at this point now. One thing that Luke does is he focuses, more than any other gospel writer, on the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned more times in his writings than any other of the gospel writers. And we will see that even as you look at what he says here about Simeon because he says about Simeon, back in Verse 25, that “the spirit was upon him….”

Luke 2:25 Luke 2:25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was on him.
American King James Version×
“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”
V.26 “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
And then in Verse 27 :
V.27 “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,”
It’s not a coincidence that he came into the temple that day; that hour. He was led by God’s spirit to do that. Again, this is just an example of two verses how much Luke does this and it is repeated throughout Luke and also the Book of Acts many, many times.

Let’s look at what he says about Simeon. He says that he is “devout” and “just” , in verse 25. A devout man and just, upright in his dealings, walking righteously.

There’s one other man that Luke talks about in a story that is similar to this and that’s the Gentile named Cornelius in Acts, Chapter 10 . Cornelius is listed not only as devout and just but also in Cornelius ’case, there’s a third trait:  he fears God, which I don’t think we could deny Simeon as well. But they’re both called devout and just. Again, Luke seems to focus on that; God leads him to do that.

Now it says here that “he waited for the consolation of Israel”.   Simeon knew the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew all the prophecies that discussed the Messiah and the promise of the restoration. The reuniting of the House of David. The millennium as we look at it; the restoration of the kingdoms of Israel and the promise of a suffering servant in the Messianic scriptures. He knew them all and he knew the hope that was intrinsic and the whole story of Israel that here is wrapped up in this phrase, “the Consolation of Israel”.   Understand that Judah, the nation, Israel at this time, they were looking for answers to those scriptures; to that promise; to that hope. They read their sacred history. They knew it very well. They knew about Abraham. They knew about Solomon. They knew about David. They knew all the details of the stories that we have in what we call “The Old Testament”. And they looked for something to, not just break the yoke of the Romans over them at the time, but to also to restore the House of David; to restore Israel to its former glory as a strong, independent nation. Some even wanting to reflect the way of God no doubt. People like Simeon wanting the nation to return to its righteous heritage and paths. That’s what is meant here by the “consolation of Israel”.

Look at that word, consolation. We know what that means. It means “to comfort”; “to encourage”. When you console somebody who is sad. It’s a little child. You’ve got to bring them up on your lap, wrap your arms around them, dry their tears. You rock them as a mother does to console them and eventually the waves of tears and sobs subside and the baby falls asleep – most of the time (laughter) – sometimes they don’t. But we console a person who is suffering, who is grieving. The whole nation needed to be consoled and Simeon was said to be looking for that consolation and the hope that was there. A long history. Hundreds of years at this point in time. The story of Israel at the time of the first century story here was already old; ancient. Hundreds and hundreds; over a thousand years old. More than 1500 years old, going back to Abraham. It’s an old story in the time of Christ. And it’s even longer today. They were trying to figure out who they were; why had they been exiled. Why did they go to Babylon? Why was the first temple destroyed? Why were the other tribes carried away? What did it mean for them as a chosen people? They needed answers and they were looking for answers. They needed consolation.

In Luke, Chapter 4 , where Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth and He picked up the Scriptures and started to read from the Scroll of Isiah, and that how “He has come to proclaim liberty to the captives.” He did that on Pentecost. That is emblematic, or shows that, you know, the consolation, the comfort that they were looking for. Later Paul would write three chapters in the Book of Romans. Chapters 9, 10, and 11, where he would explain, not just the Jews place but all of Israel’s place, ultimately, that they would be grafted back on. He explains that and the story had not ended here and it’s not ended today. It’s still yet to be fulfilled.

Luke 4:17 Luke 4:17And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
American King James Version×
“And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,”
V.18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,”
V.19 “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
V.20 “And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.”
V.21 “And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

But at this point in time there was a need for some comfort; some consolation; some understanding. And Simeon was looking for it and when he looked upon Christ he found it. Which brings me to Ponder #2.

Ponder #2:  Do you look for some consolation?
What kind of consolation do you look for? What do you need in your life that would enhance your walk with God?

I recently had a conversation with a member whom I’d known for a number of years. Long story. We share a long story in the Church of God and this lady, this member, has hopes for some family to return to the faith. We talked about that and that is her consolation. She prays, yearns for some children to return. When you read the story in Jeremiah of Rachel weeping for her children. That poignant image there in Jeremiah still lives on today.

Well what is it that you would look for in your life? What is the consolation that you might need that would fill a hope and therefore a void in your life? Write it down. Think about it. These are thoughts for you to answer not just tonight but later on as you think about your walk with God. In Simeon’s case he continued his devoted walk with God year after year after year still looking for that consolation. For something to be fulfilled and not just in his own life, but in this case, certainly the consolation of all of Israel. But the lesson, I think, for all of us is no matter what we hope for we have got to pray. Never give up hope. Whenever we give up hope, then we’re “dead in the water” spiritually. We’ve stopped in our walk with God if we don’t have hope that God is not yet working out some point, some purpose, whatever it is that may be going on in your life. Whatever it might be that you are hoping for. Whatever it is you need to be consoled. Never give up hope. As someone once said, “Keep hope alive.” Because if we stop hoping, we’re dead, spiritually. We’ve stopped and we’re going to be looking around for something else. And that’s when likely, possibly, take us off on a detour of our walk with God. Think about that. Be like Simeon. Keep coming back into God’s presence; into the spiritual temple before God today to look for that hope. Never give up hope.

You know sometimes God, through His spirit, leads us to be patient and we have to be very, very patient for His timing where certain matters in our life is His and His alone. Simeon had to wait a long time at this point, as well as Anna. Decades in their lives. And then they were in the right place at exactly the right time because they were led by God’s Holy Spirit. We’ll talk a little bit more before we conclude tonight about what it might mean; how we can understand whether or not in certain points and junctures in our walk with God we’re truly being led by God’s spirit because you look at this phrasing here and, Verse 26 , about Simeon. “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit…and he came by the Spirit into the temple.” 

 In the Book of Acts there is an occasion where the Spirit forbids Paul to go to one point, one city and to the second city and then, ultimately, he was led by the Spirit to go to the right place where God wanted. You read that and when I do it; I teach it, I think. “What does that mean?” How did the Spirit forbid him? Luke doesn’t tell us all these things but maybe we can, as we go through this, find a few clues. Not the complete answer but at least it’s some clues because God does lead us by His Holy spirit along the path of life and it is important that we understand whether or not we are being led and can discern whether we are being led. I’ll give you one hint. Usually we’ll come to a conclusion about whether or not we’re being led by the Spirit after the fact. Sometimes it can get dangerous if we think at a certain point God’s Spirit’s leading me and we charge off in a certain direction. My own personal experience – I look back on it and then I can pretty well determine, “Okay, I think God was leading me there.” And there are other times I can look back on and say, “No”, that was me leading me. That wasn’t God.”   So you have to be careful. We’ll come back to that.

Now it says here that Simeon blessed them and then he turns to Mary and he said… Let’s go back again to Verse 34 :

Luke 2:34 Luke 2:34And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
American King James Version×
“… Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;”

Now he’s speaking directly the mother. He’s blessed them; we can assume all three, with a blessing. And then he turns to Mary, looks her in the eye, “… this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;”
Kind of ominous. And then in parenthesis:

V.25 “(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
We could say, “Okay. She’s going to watch Him die .” But she’s being told this when He’s just a few days old. And in this “a sword’s going to pierce through your own soul that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  

This is kind of a forerunner of what Jesus Christ Himself would say in Matthew 10:34-38 Matthew 10:34-38 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me.
American King James Version×
.
I won’t read all of that. But in Matthew 10:34 Matthew 10:34Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
American King James Version×
, Jesus makes this statement which we all know. He says:

Matthew 10:34 Matthew 10:34Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
American King James Version×
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
And then He goes on to say that:

V.35 “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”
V.36 “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
V.37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
V.38 “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

“Don’t think that I have come to bring peace, I have brought a sword.” You know there are a lot of scriptures that are hard scriptures. Maybe not a lot, but there are a few that are really hard and that is one of them. That’s a hard scripture. That’s a hard saying of Jesus. And we read over it , “Oh, well, alright, they killed Him and, you know, we suffer persecution. He didn’t bring the Kingdom of God so there’s not total peace and the righteous will suffer persecution. Through much persecution we will enter the Kingdom of God”, Paul says. And we do our little concordance think, or our margin Bible think. Oh yea, this verse says this. This is what I heard by my Pastor 40 years ago. This is what I’ve got written down. This is what I’ve heard. And we think we know what it means. No we don’t.

Think about your family turning against you. Think about your son turned against you. Think about your daughter-in-law spitting in your face. Think about a division in the family because of Christ. That’s hard. Can you deal with that? Why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t it be you? Why shouldn’t it be me? Why shouldn’t that verse apply to me? People go through a lot of trials, suffering in their lives. Children are born challenged. Sometimes they’re not born at all. Sometimes an illness comes on that lingers and is a chronic illness year after year after year and we have to deal with that and we pray for them and we anoint them and people suffer. Somebody said to me one time, just recently – sometime in the last two months - said to us, “Why shouldn’t it be me?” Something bad had happened.  A bad diagnosis I believe it was. And they said, “Why shouldn’t it happen to me? It’s happened to others.” We know that it is through much suffering and we share in His sufferings and, again, this is what the account says and that’s part of our walk.

There are valleys. We do have to walk through some shadowy valleys, the Psalm says. And this is what Simeon says. Even as they’re rejoicing over this beautiful, little baby. And the reality of this verse is really hard to think about but it is a forerunner of what Jesus says in Matthew 10 . It’s hard. Can any of us bear up under its implications? Something to think about.

Now Simeon goes on here and he says, “Now you’re letting your servant depart in peace.” Remember it is said about Simeon that he had been told he wouldn’t die until he had seen this child. This Consolation of Israel. And now he says, “I can depart in peace.”   So now he had seen Him. You have to kind of wonder, whenever Simeon walked away from it; thought about it a few hours later, “Is my life coming to an end?” Are the ‘sands of the hourglass’ completely run through with the days of his life gone?” (Only three or four of you know what I am saying there. Laughter). And so in a sense his life was complete. He was complete. He’d seen scripture fulfilled before his eyes and I have to think that he was probably a bit content. So that’s the next ponder.

#3: What do you want to see God do in your life?

What do you want God to do? Simeon lived a long time with the knowledge that he would see this event this day. Now it’s come. What do you want God to show you? What do you want God to bring to pass before your life is complete? Or would complete your life, let’s say. It’s another way to look at it. Think about that. Because this is, again, we want to be consoled. Maybe we even have our own ‘bucket lists’. I need to update my bucket list. I had one working a few years ago and accomplished a few of them and kind of let it drop. I probably should update it. My sands are tickling away too. So, think about that though and take that to God and look for that in your relationship with God.

Now let’s shift gears here; let’s look at Anna for a few minutes.

A woman, an elderly woman. She spent many decades, upwards of 60 years perhaps, in the temple. And as I said earlier, she was relegated to the Court of the Women. The temple had various courts. The first court, the outermost court, was the Court of the Gentiles. Beyond that a Gentile could not go. They could get so close but that was it, to the temple. And by the way, it was in the Court of the Gentiles that the Jews had set up the moneychangers and that’s where Christ went to turn over the tables. You think it tells you something about what the Jews thought about the Court of the Gentiles. That’s where they conducted the business of the money. But that’s where Christ went and turned it over and said, “My house is to be a house of prayer for all nations.” He did that in the Court of the Gentiles. The nations whom the Jews looked down upon. Then there’s the Court of the Women. Then there was a Court of Israel to which the women could not go. The men could go there and all the priests and Levites. And then there was the temple building proper into which only the Levites, certain Levites, could go and the priests and then there was the Holy of Holies inside that.

But Anna was in the Court of the Women. So there were certain restrictions on women in their worship of God in this most sanctified of spots, the temple, where God’s business was done; where God was approached. And yet she spent her time there, day in and day out, with prayer, with fasting, showing us that she had a very strong love for God and she did not care what earthly regulation was put upon her as a woman. She didn’t let it hold her back. There’s no organization; no rule of men that was going to restrict her devotion and her service to God. And on top of that she was of the Tribe of Asher, probably mentioned by Luke because to establish her lineage. But she was also a prophetess in that she somehow delivered – if it was only to women – the message that reflected the will of God in her teaching. But she did her daily work for God in the very structure of the temple that was built as a house of worship. The second temple had its problems. The biggest problem was God’s presence wasn’t there. You have to understand there were two temples. The one Solomon built. That was destroyed by Babylon. The Jews rebuilt a less grand temple when they returned. Later, Herod the Great, refurbished it, made it bigger and the entire complex was quite a sight.

But God’s presence was not there. We have no record in the Bible that it came down as it did at the time of Solomon on the first temple. Now Christ was there from time to time during His earthly ministry and that would technically be the only time I think that we could say that Christ, God’s presence, was literally there. But it was not in the same sense as in the first temple.

There were other problems there. These courts and these divisions were not quite what had been regulated or set down during the time of Moses. The money changes were a number of problems and the class of priests and Levites that had evolved to this time – the first century – there was a lot of corruption. A lot of corruption! And, of course, they were the ones who engineered Christ’s death because His presence upset their particular plan. So in the midst of this, all these problems, one woman’s story is told to us. Anna, who spoke for God. A living testimony of God’s truth and a person not letting outer circumstances of even the culture and the society be a justification for her letting down in her worship of God. We can’t do that if we’re really, truly going to be Christ’s disciples. We have to not let the society, with all of its problems and sin, lawlessness. We can’t let the church, any organization even, when it will have problems; or any human beings within it that might create problems, generally or specifically for you or I. We can’t let that create a wall by which we don’t do what we’re told in scripture we do as our devotion to God; in our walk with God. Anna is as much as anyone, probably; an example of what Paul later would call “a living sacrifice”. In Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×
:

Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
“Present yourselves living sacrifices,” Paul writes, “a living sacrifice.”

She devoted herself. She evidently did not remarry and she went straight to the temple and whatever order of people and service that she was involved with, she was obviously right in the center of it and a true widow, indeed, according to what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5 when he talks about widows.

1 Timothy 5:5 1 Timothy 5:5Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusts in God, and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.
American King James Version×
Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.”
She was not afraid to speak her faith because it says here that she spoke to all about the redemption in Jerusalem. I think it’s in Verse 35.

Luke 2:35 Luke 2:35(Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
American King James Version×
“Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
V.36 “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;”
V.37 “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”
V.38 “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

How about us? Do we speak boldly on our faith? About the paths of redemption? Do we truly understand that the truth that we have; the doctrines that we hold; the teachings we understand from the Word of God, reveal to us the paths of salvation for all? And we can talk about that and understand that. She did. She spoke boldly about her faith that showed her path to salvation.

Now when you take these two people, Anna and Simeon, as elderly members of the community, they obviously held some weight. I mentioned earlier that the elderly were treated with a measure of respect within the Jewish culture of the time. But, again, as any culture would do, human nature would marginalize that for a while as well. But they did hold some weight of being because their story was remembered for Luke to pick it up. And it was remembered from that day.

The older members today in the church, our elderly, are veterans. And I guess I have to consider myself a veteran. I got 40+; I’ve got 50+ in the church from age 12. So I’m a veteran too. But the examples. The lessons that people have learned of faith that we do have in the church. Sometimes we bemoan the fact that we have an older demographic. Well, we do. We also have quite a number of young people as well. But you go to some of our congregations scattered around. Many of them, you will find as you walk into them, it’s predominantly an older group. We don’t need to look at that as a problem. God will take care of any growth when He’s ready to do it. We don’t have to worry ourselves about that. Do what we should do; preach the gospel, yes, but for God will provide for that. But, when we look at those who have been in the church for a number of years and have lived full lives, they should be held in high respect for as long as possible their word and their experience should be part of the church dialogue.

I was up visiting my mother and father-in-law in Akron this past week, over the 4th of July weekend, and, when I go into their living room, apart from the den, sometimes, to get away just to read a book for a while, they have something that reminds me of something. There, sitting of one of their end tables is one of these dinky, little, trinkets that people give. I call them plaques (spelled nearly, almost, like a plague). But we love to get plaques. They were given this a number of years ago in their congregation as they kind of got old. And there was an earlier youth movement. So they were “put out to pasture”, or tried to anyway and the pastor at that time got somebody to put together this nice little piece of junk. And it’s sitting in a corner of the living room which they never go into. I’m the only one that sees it whenever I go up there. Joe and Bess Gabriel. Many years of dedicated service. Thank you. And you look at something like that you think, “40 years and its a few words on a plate. That’s what it all summed up.” I hate plaques. I hate cheap stuff like that because, to me, and I know the sentiment behind it is good, well meaning. But also I know in that case that they were kind of, “Well, we’ve gotta get the young people involved .” And, you know what? My father-in-law is still involved and my mother-in-law is still involved in their mid 80’s. Now they’re wearing down; they’re getting old and it’s not like they want to hold onto everything. He told me the other day, he said, “I’m still trying to take the offering on the holy days.”  He’d like to get rid of that. He’s long since handed off most of his duties and so has my mother-in-law. You know they, and many others, not only in that congregation but any of our congregations, they have experience. They have lessons to impart and they should and need to be respected. And they should be also examples that can be respected. It’s important that an elderly – older – person be of a stature and demeanor where they can be approached and they can be respected and held in regard as well. So this next ponder is for the elderly.

Ponder #4: What is it that you can pass on?

What one piece of wisdom can you pass on to others in the church? Think about that. Perhaps sometime you may have an opportunity in some type of setting; a conversation at church around the coffee pot, or in some other type of setting, that can be passed on. But think about a significant spiritual observation that you could pass on. Maybe there are several of them and, in turn, we should ask others. We should ask our veteran members what they have learned. What do you think of this? What have you seen? In the years in the church experience, what is it that you have seen?

You look at these examples, as I said, at the beginning. We’re not exhaustively going through every nuance of every verse here, and everything that is mentioned here. We’re focusing upon what it means to walk with God. Now, we’ve talked about being led of the Holy Spirit, as Simeon was, into the temple. Now, I’m not going to get into the theological implications of what that means as opposed to the receiving the gift of the Holy spirit upon repentance and baptism and the laying on of hands. That begins in Acts and after Christ’s death and resurrection we see the church baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ and, upon repentance – faith and repentance – baptism, one receives the Holy Spirit and even then is led by the Holy Spirit. We have many examples prior to that of the spirit of God upon people; moving people. God’s spirit has always been active among His people. So, we’re not going to try parse the meanings necessarily with what the implications are for Simeon or anyone else. David prayed, “Take not Thy spirit from me,” he said. so, we’ll leave that for discussion at another time.

Psalms 51:11 Psalms 51:11Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me.
American King James Version×
“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”
But it does say Simeon was led by the Spirit to be there and it was upon him. God’s spirit even moved Cyrus. A Gentile ruler of the kingdom of Persia to do what he did. It was a servant of God as God moved upon him to come against Babylon. So God can work whenever, with whomever and whatever circumstance He chooses to do through the power of the Holy Spirit and as He leads and does that. God, the Lord, is the Spirit. We’re not talking about a third person entity in that sense, but it is the power of God. It is the essence of God. God, the Father, and Christ, they are spirit and we receive the spirit. Christ lives in us. We know all of that; what that means.

But when it comes to this particular application, of our walk with God, it is important that God’s spirit be leading us. In Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version×
. I’ve quoted around it so let me just read it specifically here.

Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version×
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
We’re led by God’s spirit. We’re sons of God. What does that mean, “to be led” by God’s spirit? How do you know when you are being prompted? Do we have an urge? Do we have an idea? How do you know if it’s of God? Are you being led by the Spirit of God or is it something else? Well, let’s try to understand this a bit because it does have important implications for our walk with God.

In 1 John, Chapter 4 , it says, in Verse 1:

1 John 4:1 1 John 4:1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
American King James Version×
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
V.2 “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:”
It’s a pretty important test of the Spirit of God. A confession and a belief that Christ has come in the flesh and is of God; is God; was God in the flesh.
V.3 “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

There’s one very specific application, as John puts it, to those who were denying Christ; God coming in the flesh. He calls that a spirit of anti-Christ. But he says, “Test the spirits to know whether they are of God.” And so, when it comes to our life and we read a passage like this with Simeon, and other passages, as we just did in Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version×
, or examples in the Book of Acts where the apostles; the disciples then were led by God’s spirit; and the Spirit moved upon them to do this; to do that, how we know that we are being led to be at a certain place at a certain day, at a right time, just like Simeon was, in the temple. As I said earlier you tend to look back on it later. But sometimes we have to make some judgments over events that come around in our life. We pray about it. We ask God to guide us; give us wisdom; sound judgment; understanding of certain times and periods and junctures and critical decisions that we might have to make whether it be taking a new job - job offer - or you know moving here, doing this, or getting involved here. All kinds of decisions that we make. Getting married. How to deal with a critical situation that comes up within the family. So many different things and we ask to be led by God’s spirit; to have wisdom and then we have to get up off our knees and, at some point, we have to make a decision and live the consequences. Well, there’s a lot of principles about wisdom and understanding and whatever we could go through but we’re talking about being led by the spirit and John does write, “test the spirits”. Test your impulses. Test your urges. What you think might be right. There are a number of different things to do.

First of all, certainly ask is what you’re wanting to do; is it lawful by God’s law; certainly by man’s law too? Is it lawful? Is it according to God’s law? Is it according, secondly, we could ask – and should ask – is it according to His word? Are there principles and stories and teaching that we can turn to that can give us guidance and a template and a path to help us understand that, okay, if we go this direction, or if we take this decision, we can see certain, basic principles from this story, from this admonition, this proverb, this example, that God would want me to do this. God would want us to do this. Is it according to the Word? You know, one of the tests of a false prophet that would come among the people, Moses said, was, you know, “If he does not speak according to this word and testimony,” you read of it. So, test your desire by the word of God.

You know another area to turn to and just ask is what you’re thinking and contemplating, is it Godly? Does it have the “ring” of Godliness about it? Go to the “Sermon on the Mount” and use that also as a template and the principles there of peace; being a peace-maker. Use that as a template.

Another point to do is to avoid self-will. You know sometimes we want to do something. We want to follow through on a choice and a path that is against every piece of advice that comes our way from a friend, from a parent, from a minister. “I don’t think you need to do this. I don’t think you ought to do this.” But we’re going to do it anyway because of self-will, urge. We want to do it. Paul talks about a minister should not be self-willed and people have charged people in authority and certainly a minister can, at times, think that they speak “ex-cathedra:  for  the Almighty” and, because they are in a particular position that, you know, their decision them must be backed up by God. And, we’ve all seen, and could probably point to examples, individually and even collectively, in the past of the church where circumstances and fruits and events lead to finally conclude, sometimes months, maybe sometimes even years later, that wasn’t of God. It was just a collective self-will or perhaps individual self-will. Again we can look back and see that it was not of God just as well as we can look back and make a judgment and determination that it was of God.

And then again, one other point to consider is just what I could. We talk about “common sense”. Good old common, “horse sense”. Well how about common, Godly sense? “Does this really make sense?” for us to do; for you to do; for your family to do at this particular point in your life? And there are many other factors to come in? Can you afford it? Are you mature enough? Is it going to create other problems; to be able to see the consequences immediately of the decision of those consequences and you back off. And, all of these and many, many more that we could talk about. We could certainly just talk about wisdom and the wisdom scriptures just from the Book of Proverbs alone could guide us in certain ways. But, we have to be patient. And when you look at the stories of Simeon and Anna you see two very patient people. Year after year after year of dedicated, devout, and just service to God in the temple. And you realize that they were indeed led by God’s spirit; that the Spirit was upon them and the fruits of their life show that. They weren’t the priests. They weren’t Levites. They weren’t giving the sacrifices and they were not in charge of anything in the temple. And yet we know their names but on that day we don’t know the names from the scriptures at least of the priests and Levites; of the people who were important then in the people’s eyes as they hurried about, perhaps wanted to get near a priest; wanted to be noticed by a priest or a Levite; really wanted to have a Levites’ job. “Gut that calf. Spread that blood on the altar. What a job! I want to be a Levite !” Maybe some thought that way. But the priests wore robes and they were looked up to and yet they couldn’t recognize Jesus that day. They didn’t know who He was. They didn’t know Mary and Joseph. They didn’t know the story because they read the same scriptures but they weren’t being led by God. Their walk with God was taking them in different paths.

One last point about trying to discern whether or not you’re being led of God. Avoid phenomena. If you hear a voice, probably not, okay? Don’t look for, you know, things to be moved. Don’t even try to do a “Gideon”. Unless your name’s Gideon, (anybody’s name Gideon, here?). Don’t go out looking for a wet or dry fleece. Avoid phenomena definitely. Our day and age I can pretty well guarantee you that you’re not being led by God in that particular direction. So, the last point to consider for you as I leave it here with you tonight.

Ponder #5: When might you have been led by the Holy Spirit in your past life?

Look back over an event; critical juncture that you came to 5 years ago; 10 years ago. What time, point, situation, event in your past life can you look at? I can look at several in my life and I know I was being led by God’s spirit. But I look back on them. I see the fruits and I made certain determinations as only you make determinations for your life.

But think back over your life and even through that exercise I think it can be instructive for us to help us understand when we are being led by God’s spirit in our walk with God and that can be very helpful for us to think about and, perhaps a very large and important lesson to learn and think about it here as we look at Simeon and Anna.

So, as I said, I’ve talked for an hour about them. And we could probably take another approach and talk for another hour as you can on any part of God’s word. So let an obscure story; a handful of verses or whatever passing on, keep you from digging deep into some part of the Bible to understand exactly what God is saying. Hopefully this approach is also instructive for you to help to understand it as well.

Thank you for coming out tonight. That will conclude the Bible study.