Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 10
Thesis: The "blessing of God" boils down to His active intervention in our "death" to bring "life" into the mix.
Introduction: When we look into the Scriptures, we are supposed to be on the lookout for "doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in godliness" because they have been given to make us capable of every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). The most important aspect of this process is that one which Paul calls "doctrine" because it is out of "doctrine" that all three of the other aspects of the process arise. And, the most important aspect of "doctrine" is the Theology of God that Scripture presents because it is out of the truth about God that all legitimate teaching will arise. Thus, as we turn our attention to Luke's record to Theophilus, our major concern is the picture of God that is generated by it. So, as we turn our attention this morning to the record of Simeon's words to God as recorded in Luke 2:29, our primary interest is the discovery of the truth about God that these words reveal so that we might better understand the God Who is the Father of those who believe.
July 10, 2005
- I. The Setting of Simeon's Words to the Father.
- A. Luke gives us a major aspect of the "setting" by calling Simeon's words a "blessing of God".
- 1. This raises a major question: what does it mean to "bless"?
- a. Part of the answer rests upon another question: who is doing the "blessing"?
- 1) The word means one thing when God is presented as "blessing" men.
- 2) The word means something else when men are presented as "blessing" God.
- b. Part of the answer rests upon looking at what happens when "blessing" is mentioned.
- 1) When God is doing the "blessing", men become the recipients of God's Life.
- a) This, according to Deuteronomy 30:19, is what it means to be "blessed of God".
- b) Since man's experience of "Life" is a three-fold matter -- life can exist in man's body, his soul, and/or his spirit -- anything that makes a real contribution to any of these aspects of man is a "blessing" and anything that takes away from these aspects of man is a "curse".
- c) There are several critical distinctions involved.
- i. First, the issue is "life" as to its essential reality: true joy. This is illustrated by Simeon's demeanor as he recognizes Jesus for Who He is and takes him into his arms and breaks out into a "blessing". [True joy must be distinguished from simple emotion that arises from having "gotten one's way". True joy is the emotional condition of a person who can have his own agenda completely frustrated and not be frustrated because he trusts in the good wisdom of God.]
- ii. Then, the issue is "life" as God defines it, not as man defines it, as to its mechanism: deception runs rampant at this level. Man has been ruined, and is constantly being destroyed, by his "belief" that he knows best what the mechanism of joy really is. The true mechanism of joy is real confidence in the true word(s) of God. When a person understands what God has truly said, and believes it, an "adjustment" is made in his soul that gives him a sense that all is "ok" -- this is true joy.
- iii. And, third, the issue is "life" as only a part of man's experience. At this point in the Divine Plan man experiences only a part of the joy of true "Life" at any given time because the three aspects of man's being are in constant conflict with each other and compete for primacy. And, additionally, a great portion of the Life that is available to man is only available as his mind is turned to faith in the face of contradiction. Faith will someday be turned into the reality of experience, but until then experience must be met with faith in the words of God because a great deal of experience is of "death".
- 2) When man is doing the "blessing", God becomes the Recipient of his exuberance.
- a) As with the word "thanksgiving", "blessing" has moved from the activity involved to the recognition of that activity and the response for which that activity calls. When man "blesses God", he is essentially involved in expressing his experience of the joy of life. The expression may take any of several forms (the forms generally are determined by the level of the joy experienced and the personality of the individual experiencing it), but there is almost always a verbal element involved..."Simeon blessed God and said..." means "Simeon blessed God by saying...".
- b) Man does, then, in a limited sense, communicate "Life" to God when he "blesses" God, because it gives God joy to give man joy and it "does His heart good" to hear from man how he feels about being blessed.
- c. Thus, we can say that "to bless" boils down to "bringing a person's heart to the true joy of Life" either by word(s) or action(s).
- 2. This posits a major conclusion: man "blesses God" only after he has been "blessed by God": he is not an initiator, but a responder.
- B. Simeon, himself, identifies a major part of his "setting" with his words "in peace".
- 1. By mentioning "peace", Simeon addresses the reality of the (former) presence of conflict.
- 2. By tying his "release" to "peace", Simeon reveals the face of a conflict that Simeon had in mind.
- a. Simeon clearly had the promise of God, that he would not die until he saw the Christ, in mind.
- 1) This meant that Simeon was heavily invested in the promise of the coming of the Lord's Christ.
- 2) But it also meant that Simeon was heavily invested in the reality of his coming death.
- a) Everyone "handles" the inevitability of death in some way.
- b) Most everyone faces the inevitability with some trepidation, no matter how strong their faith is [Not everyone -- as Paul himself indicated].
- b. That Simeon felt that this promise "bound" him is revealed by his use of "Now you are releasing me...".
- c. That Simeon tied the "release" to "peace" signals that he was in conflict over the "binding" in some way.
- 1) There are only three causes of conflict: the body seeking dominance; the soul seeking dominance; or the spirit seeking dominance.
- 2) There is only one way a "promise" can "bind": the "promise" compels one or more of the aspects of man to be frustrated.
- 3) In Simeon's case, the only certifiable issue is that of the body: you will not die until you see the Lord's Christ. (I did suggest last week that the character of the temple might have been involved also, but it was only a suggestion).
- a) This suggests that Simeon's attitude toward death had been "binding", but was now "free".
- i. This suggests that either Simeon's confidence in the face of death had not been as strong as it needed to be in order to die without fear, or...
- ii. It suggests that Simeon's confidence in the face of death was all that it could be and he was looking forward to it. According to Philippians 1:23, it is not unusual for a mature saint to wish to die. According to Romans 8:18 even an immature saint ought to wish to die. According to Romans 8:20-23 there are plenty of reasons for wishing to die, and the interactions of the spirit and soul with what is going on in a corrupt world cannot be eliminated altogether either.
- b) The probability was that Simeon's confidence had not developed quite as far as Paul's expressions indicated was possible, but was "maxed out" by his privilege of seeing the Lord's Christ so that he no longer had any tensions about death. He could now die in perfect peace because he had had a "final" experience of the truth of the words of God.
- II. The Significance of Simeon's Words to the Father.
- A. They suggest a method for successful growth while living in the conflicts.
- 1. Simeon has been characterized in a way that we need to emulate (just and devout).
- 2. There was a reason Simeon was "just and devout" in a corrupt generation: his view of God and himself.
- a. He was the "slave" -- having fully bought into the servant-kingdom mindset.
- b. The Father is the "despot" -- the result of a potent sense of God's powerful and good sovereignty over his life.
- 3. There was a fundamental result of Simeon's view of God and himself.
- a. The word of God is of primary significance in terms of the questions of how to live. (It ought not to take us 30 years to decide to start driving the speed limit, or to make things right with those we've sinned against).
- b. The word of God is worth putting up with anything we have to put up with.
- B. They reveal the divine process of "growing our faith".
- 1. God sees the areas of conflict in our lives because of a weakness, or lack, of faith and He responds to those areas with "blessing".
- 2. As the "blessed" experience God's dealings with the areas of conflict, they "bless" God because their experience is one of relief from the conflict.