Looking for the Messiah -- Simeon, Anna, and the Wise Men
From the devotional Walking with Jesus by Dave Glock:
Luke 2:21-39; Matthew 2:1-12
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting 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. . . . Now 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 a husband seven years from her virginity. . . . And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:21-26, 36, 38)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” . . . And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-2, 11)
Gabriel had given the name for the Child in his communication to Mary. Joseph had been given the same name by the angel in his dream. In obedience to the commands from heaven mediated by angels, and in obedience to the law of Moses put into effect through angels, the obedient couple presents Him to God. He in whom all of the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, although a small body, is presented to God by His servants, Mary His mother and Joseph. Sacrifice is made, the sacrifice of poverty—two young pigeons. Mary, not able to bring a lamb?
“This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female. And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.” (Leviticus 12:7-8)
Mary brings the Lamb of God that bears away the sin of the world. She brings God’s Lamb and presents Him to God. She brings the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. But she also brings two pigeons.
Simeon, a righteous man, was longing for the restoration of Israel. As Jesus would later say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” When the kingdom comes, Simeon’s longings will be satisfied. The Holy Spirit was upon him. By special revelation of the Holy Spirit, Simeon was told that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. By the Holy Spirit, Simeon is directed to go to the temple at the exact time Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus arrive there. Picture Baby Jesus in the arms of godly Simeon. Capture the smile of delight as Simeon gazes on the infant Messiah. Deliverance for Israel is coming because the Messiah has come. It is appropriate that Simeon begins his response with the word despot, meaning “Sovereign Lord.” God the Holy Spirit had personally intervened in the life of Simeon and brought him to his Messiah. More so, God was intervening in the affairs of all peoples in bringing light to the Gentiles and glory for the nation of Israel—as it will be when Jesus reigns—when the longings of Simeon will be fully satisfied.
Aged Anna the prophetess had chosen a life of extreme piety. Widowed early in her marriage, she gave herself to fasting and prayer, remaining in the temple day and night ever since. She was a widow indeed, worthy of special honor! Anna spoke of the Child in relationship to the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem. With the coming of the Messiah, Jerusalem would be redeemed. And she told all of that glorious time when Jesus will reign.
The wise men from the East endured a very long journey in seeking the Messiah, the King. Natural revelation of God, the stars and His star, brought them to Jerusalem. As Herod summons the scribes (the experts in the law of Moses) special revelation from God gives detailed direction.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
Herod sends the wise men to Bethlehem, and the Messiah’s star reappears to conclude the journey of the wise men to the King. They find Mary and the Child and they fall down and worship Him. This was the purpose of their long journey—to find and worship the King of the Jews. They bring gifts, appropriate gifts.
“Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain: gold I bring to crown Him again.”“Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh.”“Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom.”
Two dreams follow. The wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and they depart back to the East by another way—no star guidance on the return trip, only obedience to the special revelation of God. They were truly wise men. In a second dream, Joseph is warned by an angel to flee to Egypt, and they flee in the darkness of night.
Herod was troubled, and when Herod was troubled, all Jerusalem was troubled. What’s more, that trouble would engulf Bethlehem! Herod saw in Jesus a rival king with a competitive throne—a threat to his kingdom. Herod was the king of the Jews; who was this Jesus who had been born King of the Jews? There was a simple political solution: kill the baby! Kill all the baby boys under two years of age in Bethlehem! Thus began the open opposition and rejection of Jesus that would conclude some thirty years later with the answer of the priests, “We have no king but Caesar.” Yet Jesus shall reign.
Simeon, Anna, the wise men, and even Herod saw in the Christ-child the King of the Jews, the Messiah. These responses, combined with the messages of Gabriel, the statements of Mary, and the prophecy of Zechariah all point to a literal, earthly kingdom, the nation of Israel, with Jesus ruling from Jerusalem on the throne of His father David.
Once again, we are reminded of the precision of God’s execution of His eternal plan. Faithful Jews, Gentile wise men from the East, antagonistic rulers—all move through life within God’s purpose and redemptive plan. The movement of our lives is no less directed by God within that same grand plan:
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27)