SIMEON, A MODEL BELIEVER
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People sometimes tell me how much they admire missionaries. They say that they wish they had the gifts, education, training and experience to serve the Lord.
The seven greatest and most effective ministries of a Christian, however, require no special training, experience, gifts or calling. Furthermore, every Christian can and should be involved in all of these ministries!
1) Keeping fellowship with God
2) Living a godly life
3) Listening, Concern for others
4) Interceding, Praying
These seven things characterize all great men and women of God.
OT: Noah, Job, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Daniel, David.
NT: We generally think of the apostle Paul as a great preacher and teacher, but his greatness can be seen just as much in these five attributes (Timothy, Onesimus, Felix, shipwreck, Philippian jailor).
Annanias (Acts 9), Zacharias & Elisabeth, Joseph & Mary (Luke 1), Anna (v.36), Simeon (Luke 2:25).
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:25-35
1) Simeon kept fellowship with God
These brief verses reveal all we know about Simeon, yet we get the picture of a man of God. After four centuries of silence during the Maccabean era, there was little spiritual life left in Israel. The Romans were in power. A wicked King Herod levied heavy taxes in order to build monuments to his own glory. One was a temple to appease the Jews, who were sharply divided. Pentecost didn't come until three decades later, yet we read of a man who lived in close communion with God and was filled with the Holy Ghost. Verse 25:
"The Holy Ghost was upon him." Verse 26: "It was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost." Verse 27: "He came by the Spirit into the temple."
Most Christians have very limited fellowship with the Lord. And it doesn't bother them because they think they are no worse than most Christians. "I don't watch as much TV as some." "I go to church every Sunday."
2) Simeon lived a godly life
Simeon had a reputation. I have trouble living mine down because "a prophet is not without honor save in his own country." I was born and raised just a few miles from where I now live and a lot of people still remember!
Simeon walked the walk and didn't just talk the talk. Luke describes Simeon in 2:25, "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."
When Jesus sent out his disciples two by two, he instructed them to enquire in the towns, "who is worthy?" and to abide in that home. If someone asks your neighbors or relatives who is worthy, how would they answer? Would they perhaps think of you?
If you look around, you can find a few do-gooders, but most do it for profit or recognition. In Luke 17:10, we read,
"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
3) Simeon showed concern for others
He loved God's people
He loved God's House
He had a missionary heart.
"For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."
Simeon was watching and waiting and listening for the Messiah. Paul said that there is a crown of righteousness awaiting all those who "love his appearing" (II Tim. 4:8).
When you love and serve the Lord, you also love and serve people. "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40). Our son, Richard, worked 10 years with the severely handicapped and this verse was a great encouragement.
Here is an elderly man who could be enjoying his retirement, but he is ministering. It isn't some sort of official ministry, but he ministers to the Lord and to the people around him.
He was sympathetic, listening and hearing. He sought to discern without jumping to false conclusions. Others perhaps looked down on Joseph and Mary because they brought a poor man's offering (turtle doves) and were not dressed in expensive clothes. The townspeople from Nazareth knew them well and it is likely that the rumors about Mary's pregnancy before marriage and the baby that was born in a stall had spread. If human nature was the same back then, they were the subject of jokes. Simeon was filled with the Holy Ghost and he saw Mary & Joseph as God saw them. He had a loving and caring servant's heart.
Some might be tempted to think that Simeon's words showed little feeling or concern. "Simeon 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; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
There are people who don't share Christ because they don't want to offend, but people need to know that they are sinners and need God's salvation. There are things that we need to hear and see and know that may not make us happy. I go regularly to the dermatologist and the dentist. They sometimes tell me what I dread to hear but I am happy for the information and even pay for it.
Simeon "blessed them." The Bible says that "Mary pondered these things in her heart."
4) Simeon was a prayer warrior and an intercessor
Half of these ten verses about Simeon are prayer. He prayed specifically, faithfully and earnestly for others and for the coming of his Savior. He blessed or praised God. He blessed Joseph and Mary. He prayed for God's people and the Gentiles. He prayed about his own salvation and even prayed about his own death.
5) Simeon suffered
We don't know much about Simeon, but we can assume that he suffered. The normal maladies of old age, tiredness, waiting in doctors offices, aches and pains are unpleasant to say the least, but Simeon doesn't complain or even mention these. Life is filled with sacrifices, hard labor and doing without things. We talk about "suffering loss" on the stock market or in business. We all suffer from sickness, disease and injury from time to time. Some suffering is voluntary (sports, work, dietÖ) and some is not, but suffering is a part of life. Simeon mentions none of his own troubles.
Because he was godly, Simeon also suffered persecution. "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution"
(II Tim. 3:12). The apostle Paul thanked God for sufferings. His letter to the Philippians was written from prison, but it is filled with rejoicing.
Gamaliel's father was named Simeon. Although there is only circumstantial evidence to support the conjecture, I personally believe that the aged Simeon mentioned in Luke 2:25-35 was Gamalielís father. And I am not alone.
In the 40 years prior to Christ's birth Hillel was the most important Rabbi in Israel. He was the first of a five generation lineage of Rabbis, who served as Nasi, President of the important ruling body of the Sanhedrin. This ruling body could be compared with our Supreme Court here in America.
Hillel had a son named Simeon who was also a highly respected Rabbi and member of the Sanhedrin. He too served as Nasi or President of this body. Simeon would have been advanced in years at the time of Christ's birth.
The Simeon named in Luke two claimed to have received a revelation of the Holy Ghost, that he would not die before he had seen the anticipated Messiah. If some ordinary Jew had made this statement, it would hardly have been deserving of special notice. Many Jews were expecting the imminent appearance of the Christ, as can be seen in Matthew 2:3; Luke 2:25-40 and Luke 3:15. Luke describes Simeon as
ďa just and devout man of Jerusalem.Ē Simeonís prophecies concerning Jesus and Mary would also indicate that he was a special personality and what he said carried weight.
If this Simeon was truly Hillel's son and Gamalielís father, he would have lived his entire life in the shadow of his illustrious father. Patriarchs maintained prominence throughout their entire lives and Hillel reportedly died around 10 AD at 120 years of age! Simeon would have been 80 - 90 years of age at the time of Christís birth and his son Gamaliel had likely achieved considerable recognition as a learned Rabbi by this time. Hillel became Nasi of the Sanhedrin around 30 BC and by the time Simeon became Nasi, Gamaliel would have been a respected teacher in Israel. It is even likely that Gamaliel became a member of the Sanhedrin during the lifetime of both his father and grandfather. Gamaliel claimed to have learned at the feet of the great sages, which would have included both Hillel and Simeon.
Simeon was known more for his deeds and quiet wisdom than for leadership abilities for which Hillel and Gamaliel became famous. Gamaliel certainly had a high respect for his father, for he named his eldest son Simeon rather than naming him after his famous grandfather, Hillel.
There is another reason why I believe Gamaliel's father was the man mentioned by Luke. Hillel, Gamaliel the Elder, Simeon II and Gamaliel II are all honored in the Mishna, but the elder Simeon is not mentioned at all! The complete absence of any reference in the Mishna to Simeon, father of Gamaliel and son of Hillel, is remarkable when one considers that all 5 men served as Nasi, presiding over the Sanhedrin. The Hillite dynasty dominated the Jewish nation for five generations!
Some historians have attempted to explain the omission of Simeon as a copying error, but that would be a rarity, since the Scribes were very meticulous in such matters! This strange silence would rather lend to argumentation for the Simeon of Luke 2 being Gamalielís father. It would certainly have been an embarrassment to Jewish leaders when Christians later made reference to Simeonís pronouncement that Jesus was the promised Christ. Simeon would have fallen into disfavor with Jewish leaders for making such a bold prophecy. Gamalielís son Simeon II is quoted as saying,
ďAll my life I grew up among the sages, and I found nothing better for a person than silence. And not the learning is the thing, but the doing. And whoever talks too much causes sin.Ē A later sage, Avtalon, could have had Simeon in mind when he spoke,
ďSages, watch what you say, lest you become liable to the punishment of exile, and go into exile to a place of bad water and die, and disciples who follow you drink bad water and die, and the name of Heaven be thereby profaned.Ē
(Perkei Avos 1)
1) Keeping fellowship with God
2) Living a godly life
3) Listening, concern for others
4) Interceding, Praying
The greatest and most effective ministries of a Christian require no special training, no experience, no special gift or specific calling. Furthermore, every Christian can and should be involved in all of these ministries!
Are you keeping fellowship with God? Do you have a personal time in your Bible and talking to God? Are you faithful in church?
Are you living a godly life? Actions speak louder than words. Do your actions speak so loudly that people can't hear what you are saying, or do your actions confirm what you say?
Do you have a concern for others? For the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ? What about the people around you who have physical or financial needs? Or who are having marital problems or have children who are causing their parents grief or terrorizing the neighborhood? I was one of those but someone cared and took an interest in me.
After retiring from missions in Austria we agreed to do recruitment for our mission. We visited Christian colleges and universities, promoting missions for 7 years, but there was very little interest. This year we prayerfully decided not to visit the colleges. It got too expensive and demanding for old people like us, but mainly, we stopped because there were no results. Now we are missionaries again. And God is giving fruit. One neighbor who most people had written off as a lost cause, gave his life to Jesus. He is witnessing to his friends and even signed up for a mission trip!
Do you pray? Few Christians have a personal prayer life and even fewer attend prayer meetings. Many church prayer meetings are "organ recitals" (health issues), personal job applications, requests for things and solutions to problems. Few intercede for others. In the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, Jesus makes no mention of his own problems and sufferings that were only a few hours away. But he mentions his disciples dozens of times! And he mentions all those who would be saved through their testimonies. You and me!
How do you pray when you are not with a group of Christians? When you are alone with God and no one is listening, how do you pray? Or do you pray at all?
"Let him ask in faith, not doubting" (not faith in getting the desired results, but faith in God and in prayer.)
How do you suffer? All of us are prone to sufferings, some more than others. We may suffer as punishment or consequence of our own sins or errors. We suffer physically from sickness, disease and accidents. Or we may suffer mentally -- persecuted, slandered, misused, abused, slighted, ridiculed, falsely accused or maligned. Whether justly or unjustly, it can be a ministry. How well do you suffer? Sports stars train until every muscle hurts. A man will make great sacrifices to buy a new car or boat. Do you willingly sacrifice for God?
The greatest work of all ages was the work of salvation when Jesus was crucified. What did he do? He suffered! Others did the work. He could have called ten thousand angels, but he chose to suffer. When we are called upon to suffer, we wish we could call ten thousand angels. When we get old; when loved ones die; when we feel useless -- this too can be a ministry. I have watched both the ungodly and the godly die. Unfortunately there is little difference between the sufferings of many Christians and non Christians. That is a tragic waste of suffering.
Christians are being persecuted in many lands. Even in America, Christians are no longer protected from many forms of persecution. Only those who reject God's Word are protected, but they have different names for it. It's now called "bullying" or a "hate crime." You can call Christians just about any unflattering name you want without fearing retribution. But even reading certain Bible passages that speak of specific sins can be prosecuted by the courts of law. The time may soon come when Christians will be imprisoned and even killed for their faith. Will it be a ministry? Or will we waste it?
Are you giving as you should? Not just to the church or missions?
Are you helping where you can and should? Like the Good Samritan, or like the Levite and the Priest?
Ralph V Harvey