Last week we commenced a new series that will take us up till Christmas. It is the encounters that Jesus had people as told through the eyes of Luke.
Last week we said that we don’t know much about Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. But we do know that Luke was a doctor and the only non-Jew to write any part of the New Testament.
Luke was a close friend of Paul (Colossians 4:14 NIV) who also worked with Paul (Philemon 1:24 NIV). Luke joined Paul in Troas in Asia Minor during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:6–11). Luke was left in Philippi during the second missionary journey (Acts 17:1) and picked up again to travel with Paul in the third journey (Acts 20:5). Luke accompanied Paul on his journey to Jerusalem and Rome and was with him during his imprisonment there (2 Timothy 4:11).
Scholars say that Luke had an outstanding understanding of the Greek language and had a special love for recording geographical details. All this indicate that Luke was a well-educated, observant, and a careful writer.
Well, Luke introduces us to Simeon. We learnt about Simeon last week. As 40-day old child, Jesus had a profound impact upon Simeon
Luke 2:25-35 tells us about this encounter. Just about all Jews regard themselves as the chosen people. And as such they saw that one day would attain supreme world greatness. To bring in that greatness some believed that some great, celestial champion would descend on the earth; some believed that there would rise another king from David's line and that the glory days would revive; some believed that God himself would break directly into history by supernatural means.
But in contrast to all this, there were some who were known as the “Quiet in the Land”. They had no dreams of violence and of power and of armies; they believed in a life of constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until God should come. All their lives they waited quietly and patiently on God.
Simeon was like that; in prayer, in worship, in humble and faithful expectation he was waiting for the day when God would comfort his people. God had promised him through the Holy Spirit that his life would not end before he had seen God's own Anointed King. (Daily Study Bible, Luke, William Barclay)
God kept His promise and so moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon went to the Temple the same day that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus. When he saw the baby Jesus He knew within his heart that He was the One. He took Jesus and praised God for Him and them says about Him, “For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30 NIV). In other words, Simeon is saying “this is the One”. This is the One who will bring salvation not only to the Jews but to the Gentile – the rest of the world to as mentioned in verse 32. This is the One! Simeon knew in his heart that this infant child Jesus was the One. The Spirit had moved Him. The Spirit moved Simeon to be in praise of God and inner peace that Jesus is the One. What an encounter that the baby Jesus had with a man was waiting and waiting and waiting for The One.
And on that same morning, Luke introduced us to another person who had a special encounter with the baby Jesus.
Her name is Anna. Luke tells us in verse 36, “There was also a prophet, Anna…” (Luke 2:36 NIV). Notice this she was a prophet. A prophet had a special gift of declaring and interpreting God’s message. Other female prophets in the Bible are Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Hulduh (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), and the wife of Isaiah (Isaiah 8:3). The evangelist Philip had four daughters who were prophets (Acts 21:8-9). There are forty-three references to women in Luke’s Gospel, and of the twelve widows mentioned in the Bible, Luke has three (Luke 2:36-40; 7:11-15; 21:1-4; and note 18:1-8). (Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament).
It seems that she had a tough life. Luke gives us a little bit of insight into this: “she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four” (Luke 2:36-37 NLT). Widows didn’t have an easy time in that day; often they were neglected and exploited in spite of the commandment of the Law (Exodus 22:21-22; Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Isaiah 1:17).
As tough as her life could had been, Luke tells that “she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37 NIV). What an amazing woman. Despite what was happening around her, she was a devout person of faith who fasted and prayed.
And again Luke seems to hint what the Prophet Anna was praying and fasting about; verse 38 says, “…the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 NIV). Like Simeon, Anna was another one who was known as the “Quiet in the Land” – that is they had no dreams of violence and of power and of armies; they believed in a life of constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until God would break through. All their lives they waited quietly and patiently on God.
Then we read about Anna’s brief but impacting encounter with Jesus. Luke simply says in verse “She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God” (Luke 2:38 NLT). Like Simeon, Anna just knew in her heart that this baby Jesus was The One. She came up to Mary and Joseph who had the 40-day old Jesus and Anna knew and began praising God. Her excitement after all these years were noticed by others as she could help but tell others about this child being The One. The impact of this encounter with Jesus upon this elderly lady was immediate – praising God and telling others about Him. Years of waiting had culminated into this beautiful encounter. Waiting, waiting, waiting – and then God came through. The redeemer was here.
Both Simeon and Anna were people who waited and waited on the Lord. Both were waiting on God to break in and raise up the promised Saviour and Redeemer. Waiting in prayer and even fasting is what they did, and for years.
Let’s puts this into perspective. Back a few months we spent time in the Book of Isaiah. When the people returned and rebuilt their Temple and reestablish their worship and way of life, the Old Testament history ended and the Intertestamental Period began – a period spanning 450 years.
Israel went through another wilderness. There was little hope during the Intertestamental period. For the Jews, the last time God spoke through a prophet was over 400 years ago. Then there were 400-years of silence. No prophet, no voice, no written record.
For 2000 plus years God had spoken through Leaders, Kings, and Prophets. He had revealed Himself through events like the Exodus. But for 400 years there was silence.
During this Intertestamental Period the world was experiencing their own global financial crisis. The Roman world had its beautiful buildings and shining cultures but beneath all this luxury and magnificence was unrest and poverty. Two out of every third person on the streets of Rome were slaves. In many quarters of the Roman Empire the economic situation had reached the point of crisis just before Jesus came. Lot of the writings of back then that spoke of the Golden Age was generally a reflection of the time a few hundred years earlier.
In Palestine the financial crisis was bad. There was the disastrous aftermath of the war, the extensive extravagance of Herod the Great, the burden of heavy taxes and the growing population outstripping the production of food all contributed to a world experiencing a global financial crisis - most likely a depression.
Their wilderness was long and dry.
And yet there were a group of people that waited and waited and waited – and Simeon and Anna were those who also waited only that they got to see God’s promised Son.
God’s timing is perfect. In Galatians 4:4 Paul wrote: “but when the fulness of the time came”. God’s timing is perfect. “but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son…” (Galatians 4:4 ASV).
And for Anna and Simeon, the fulfilment of time was in their time and so when the encountered the baby Jesus, they knew. God had answered their prayers.
The theme of “waiting” is prevalent in the Bible. It is a theme that we need to be reminded off and practice today.
We live in an instant culture. We like things now and fast. We’ve invented Instant Coffee – tastes bad but its instant! We have our restaurants that are known as “fast food” because we want our food now. You know what it’s like, we have a little huff when at the drive through they ask us to pull into the “waiting bay”. We huff because we don’t like waiting in the waiting bay. I mean, waiting another couple of minutes. It’s a bit like the internet. How many times do we complain about slow internet service? I mean, waiting a few more seconds for that page to load – how inconvenient! What about txt messaging. We expect instant answers to our texts. We have no idea what the other person is doing but we get a bit impatient when they don’t instantly reply to our most important question.
There are many examples that slow that we live in an instant culture and so waiting goes against our recent fashioned expectations.
The bible says wait. More specifically, wait on the Lord.
In the Old Testament, it is more about waiting for the Lord’s providential care. Proverbs 20:22 says, “Wait on the LORD, and He will rescue you” Proverbs 20:22 (HCSB). And most New Testament references relate to Christ’s second coming – again, a time when God will break through into the world’s affairs. In all cases, it is about waiting expectantly and with hope. Fundamental to being able to wait is trusting God’s character and goodness.
Waiting on the Lord is about holding on tight, hoping with expectation and trust, knowing that our Lord will break through at the fullness of His time.
Waiting on the Lord requires a complete dependence on God and a willingness to allow Him to decide the terms, including the timing of His plan which isn’t always easy to do.
The word wait in the Bible carries the idea of confident expectation and hope. “For God alone my soul waits in silence… my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:1,5 ESV). To wait upon the Lord is to expect something from Him in hope.
To wait on the Lord is to rest in the confident assurance that, regardless of the details or difficulties we face in this life, God never leaves us without a sure defence. As Moses told the panicky Israelites trapped at the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s army, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14 NIV). Perspective comes as we focus not on the trouble but on the Lord and His Word.
When we don’t choose to wait on the Lord, we are asking for trouble. Abraham and Sarah did not wait on the Lord for their promised child; Instead, Sarah offered her maid, Hagar, to Abraham in order to have a child through her. The account in Genesis 16 and 18 shows that their impatience led to a lot of hardships. Any time we fail to wait on the Lord and take m
atters into our own hands—even when we’re trying to bring about something God wants—it leads to problems.
The command to wait on the Lord means that we are to be near Him as Anna and Simeon were. Keep up your prayers. Keep doing your daily readings. Keep coming to church. It can be so hard to wait that we can slow start giving up the prayers, bible reading, and church. Keep going in waiting on the Lord.
Waiting on the Lord renews our strength. The prophet Isaiah declared, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV). Wait, wait and wait.
Do you need healing? Be patient and wait on the Lord.
Are you anxious for your kids? Be compassionate and wait on the Lord.
Concerned about our world? Don’t despair, wait on the Lord.
Stressed about conflicts. Be trusting and wait on the Lord.
Fearful of Satan’s influence. Be watchful and wait on the Lord.
Wait, Wait and Wait on the Lord and He will come. King David wrote, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalms 27:14 KJV).
David says there are three things to do as you wait:
Wait quietly: “I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him” (Psalm 62:5 NLT);
Wait patiently: “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act” (Psalm 37:7 NLT);
Wait expectantly -- “I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised” (Psalm 105:5 LB).
And this is so important: you must expect to hear from God. Expect for him to give you a dream, an insight; this is the faith factor where you wait expectantly. Waiting on God is never a waste of time. In fact, it's some of the best time you are ever going to invest in your life.
In the Bible, Paul and Silas knew about waiting, and they waited well. Acts 16 tells the story of how they were attacked by a crowd, beaten and thrown in jail. Verse 24 says the jailer put them into the inner prison (the dungeon) and fastened their feet in the stocks. He was making sure they couldn't escape. But about midnight, God showed up. Now it would have been nice if He'd come a little earlier, but Paul and Silas didn’t seem to mind—they just decided to start singing and began to worship the Lord. They began to wait on God.
And Luke tells us what happened, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone's chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26 NIV). God broke through!
When people patiently and expectantly wait on God in the midst of horrible circumstances, God breaks through.
So don't give up! Don’t stop believing! Stay full of hope and expectation. God's power is limitless, and He'll breakthrough for you.