By Diane Barstow

Luke 2:25-33, 36-38

Simeon and Anna


When Jesus was 8 days old He was circumcised and given His name. When Mary’s 40 days of purification were complete, she and Joseph went to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord, and to pay the required sacrifice to redeem Him. The firstborn of man and beast belonged to the Lord, so an offering was prescribed. Because they were poor, they were only required to bring a pair of turtledoves or pigeons. As they were leaving the temple, they were greeted by a very excited old man!

‘And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Now Lord You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, “A light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

I asked myself, ‘If they’re looking for the consolation of Israel, what does consolation mean and why do they need consoling?’ Which led me on a long, long rabbit-trail of Old Testament history. We don’t have time to go over ‘the why’ in detail, so I’ll briefly sum up thousands of years of history!

In the beginning God made Adam and Eve. They introduced sin into the physical world resulting in physical death and estrangement from the life and presence of God. But even in their disobedience, God had a plan. Sin had corrupted the world to the point that God was sorry He had made it, and destroyed it with a flood, preserving only 8 people - Mr and Mrs Noah, their sons, and their wives. A few generations later Abram arrives on the scene, and God chose him to father a people as His own possession - the Jews. They flee from famine to Egypt and suffer enslavement, so God sent Moses to lead them back to the land He had promised to Abraham. As they settle in the land God sends Judges to lead the people for Him until they demand a King just like all the other nations. A series of good, bad, and awful kings follow, as well as a civil war which destroys the kingdom. Atrocious kings result in rejection of their God, idolatry and judgment by various nations and empires. God sent numerous prophets to warn of the coming judgment, but also to bring hope that they were not utterly forgotten and that one day God would send a Savior to restore their fellowship with Him, take away their shame, and restore them as a nation to their land. It would be 400+ years before God would speak to the Jews again. Some Jews lived in Israel, but again found themselves under a wicked king (Herod) and foreign rule again - this time the cruel Roman Empire. But God used the Romans to bring about the specific circumstances that resulted in Jesus being born in Bethlehem, just as had been prophesied hundreds of years prior. It’s interesting to note that according to Ezekiel’s vision (9-11) God’s presence exited the temple because of their gross idolatry. It wasn’t until Jesus was dedicated in the Temple, that God again entered the building. And it won’t be that God inhabits the Temple until Jesus rules and reigns in the millennial kingdom.

Isaiah 40-44 are called the prophecies of consolation, where God reveals His plan for the redemption of Israel after He has used the nations to discipline them for their idolatry. Isaiah 40:1-2 says, ‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God. ‘Speak kindly to Jerusalem; call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.’ He’s telling them to wait, to wait for His plan for their redemption to come to fruition, for the vindication and glorification of Israel. This is the state in which we find Simeon and Anna - looking, hoping, waiting for God to save. Many others were waiting, but they were waiting for a political savior, not a spiritual savior, which is a common theme for the Jews especially.

Now we know why they needed consolation, so let’s look a little at the word ‘consolation.’ It comes from the Greek paraklesis - that which affords comfort or refreshment, or He who embodies this salvation, or thru Whom God is about to achieve it. So in a broader sense the Jews were looking for comfort in their tribulations, but in a narrower sense, as we see in both Simeon and Anna, they were looking for that comfort in a person - the Messiah. Jesus embodied this consolation for the Jews, and when He had accomplished all that the Father had sent Him to do, He promised to send another Comforter - the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18).

And for us, this also great news because He is not come for just the Jews, but for us gentiles as well. That’s another evidence that ‘the consolation of Israel’ is spiritual and not political. Yes, it’s intended for the glorification of Israel as they become the light to the gentiles, to illuminate God’s mercy and grace for all - beginning with Israel. It’s important to note that Jesus made His opening salvo in Nazareth when He read from Isaiah 61 and then proceeded to tell them that God chose to heal gentiles and not Jews through Elijah and Elisha. They were so outraged, that they tried to throw Him off a cliff. If you’ve never been there, it’s very steep and rugged!

A little about Simeon - his age is not disclosed, but most commentators believe he was elderly. He is described as being righteous (having right behavior with others) and devout (having a serious relationship with God). The Holy Spirit was upon him, (as He was upon the prophets of old) he heard the voice of the Lord, and he was obedient and faithful to wait for what the Lord had promised him - that he would live long enough to SEE the very consolation for which he was waiting! He’s such a great example to us who are older - stay faithful, hopeful, and filled with the Spirit!

‘And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of 84. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.’

Anna is described as an 84 year-old widow who never left the Temple, but served the Lord full-time. What reason did Jesus give for His disciples to be baptized with the Holy Spirit in Acts 1? That they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. I observe that she also was filled with the Spirit because of her boldness to ‘speak of Him to ALL THOSE who were looking or waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem {present tense continually looking} (Joseph of Aramathea Mark 15/Luke 23). Same word found here, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of he glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,” (Titus 2:11-13). She understood that the ‘redemption of Jerusalem’ would be a spiritual awakening, not a political overthrow of the Roman empire.

Note the fruits of the Spirit displayed in these two people - patience and faithfulness. Which both ironically require an element of time - patience is displayed over time, and faithfulness (both ours and God’s) is revealed as we look back.


Are we bold, like Anna, to tell everyone about Jesus? About what the Lord has done for us? The salvation to be received in His name? Are we pointing to Jesus alone as the answer to today’s difficulties? I can tell you that I've had ‘compassion fatigue’ and disappointment depression. That the last few years have been a test of endurance and faithfulness and have made me LONG for my heavenly home. Have we been hoping for a political solution, for a better President to lead our nation back to the Lord? Or are we like Simeon? Filled with the Spirit, only satisfied when we can see Him face to face? “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

Waiting - yes we have been waiting too, but we have a HUGE advantage over the OT Jews. We have the entire Bible to give us the whole story, we have the Holy Spirit. Yes, we have waited nearly 2000 years for Him to return, but this whole time we have had both the Spirit and the Word to console us. Jesus told His disciples that it was better for them that He went away so the Holy Spirit could come and do what He could not - be everywhere, in every one, at the same time. That the Holy Spirit was perfectly suited for the tasks which God intended - to fill us to overflowing, to illuminate/explain the word to our hearts and minds, to remind us of what Jesus has said both individually and through His Word, to increase our faith, to empower our obedience and testimony, to guide in every way in which we allow Him to, to inflame our passion and worship of God, and to make us long for our home of true citizenship! Like birth pangs which come with more and more frequency, more and more intensity and discomfort - we have the last days playing out before our eyes IN REAL TIME! The internet has granted us instant information at our fingertips. This very same internet grants us opportunity to offer hope to the hopeless, answers to the desperate.

“Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness; looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11-13)