This significant occasion in Luke 2:25-35 presents a unique “blessing” in the gospel records. We read here of a man mentioned only once in the Scriptures, “Simeon in the Temple.” He is commonly thought to be an elderly man; the phrases “he would not see death before” (v26) and “now You are letting Your servant depart in peace” (v29 NKJV) imply that he was advanced in years. Regardless, the distinct details recorded about Simeon establish the fact that he was fittingly used of God this memorable day.
Interestingly, the name Simeon means “hearing” or “harkening.” This suits him well, as we note his intimate communion with the Holy Spirit and consequent behavior. Luke adds that he was “just and devout.” “Just” refers to his standing before God, a man made righteous by faith. “Devout” indicates that his behavior was consistent with his standing. He was living a life of faith, devoted to his God. The final phrase of verse 25 marks him as one among a remnant people in Israel that verse 38 defines as “those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” This man earnestly looked for the coming Messiah, but not like many who saw His coming primarily as the means of delivering Israel from the dominance of Rome. Simeon saw far more than that.
It is worth noting that the “Consolation of Israel,” though a common basis for adjuration (swearing of an oath) by pious Jews, is distinctly drawn from verses such as Isaiah 40:1. That verse commences the section of Isaiah that some have called “The Book of Consolation” with the words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” In the LXX translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word “comfort” is the root word for “consolation” found here. The connection is evident: the “consolation” was the hope of the coming Messiah.
The numerous references by Luke to the Holy Spirit portray another worthy note. John 14:16 introduces the name “Comforter” in relation to the prospective work of the Holy Spirit. This word is related to the verb “to comfort” and shows us that Simeon was a man enriched by the person of the Spirit. The comfort he received was that he would see the Messiah before he died and therefore depart with peace. These various details provide insight into the character of a man who was prepared to provide a prophetic blessing to Joseph and Mary.
Simeon’s communion with the Holy Spirit led him to the temple on the day that Joseph and Mary arrived with the child Jesus. Appropriately, we note that they were there to do what God had required in the Law. This was the mark of their life, as previously written in verses 22-24 and recorded at the conclusion of this day in verse 39. Obedience to God’s Word was indicative of the devotion of their hearts. Likewise, what Simeon was about to do was “according to God’s word” (v29). We can see here that a prophetic blessing is only given if it is consistent with His Word.
The temple scene unfolds with Simeon taking the child in his arms, and immediately he “blessed God.” His hope of a peaceful departure is attributed to a personal revelation through the Holy Spirit (v26). His blessing to God continued and included “all people,” which was consistent with the Scriptures of old. When he said his eyes had seen God’s salvation he was holding the child in his arms; salvation is in a Person. Isaiah 52:10 would certainly give personal hope to Simeon. Yet when linked with Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, as well as others, it gave him unprejudiced insight into the potential in God’s promises for all the nations. This child was to be the means of saving “light” to Gentiles as well as the “glory” of the people of Israel. Isaiah 60:1-3, with other prophecies, would support his words regarding hope for Israel. One would wonder if there were a few raised eyebrows among those within earshot of the faithful old man. If so, not one could dispute his “song,” as some call it, for all that he said was clearly confirmed in God’s Word.
Simeon then promptly turned his attention to Joseph and Mary who wondered at all that he had just said. Luke simply says he “blessed them.” The term “bless” in Greek is a compound word that conveys “to speak well” (W.E. Vine). Perhaps we are left to imagine what Simeon said to both Joseph and Mary. Or perhaps what was directed to Mary in his concluding thoughts is the substance of the “blessing.”
One thing we should note promptly is that blessing does not always exclude pain. First, he notes that the child Jesus would cause some to “fall,” which word is only used elsewhere in the NT in Matthew 7:27 in reference to those who refuse the word of Christ. It is the analogy of a house built on sand that falls during the abundant rains. We can reasonably conclude that some would reject this child and thus fall in judgment (see Isa 8:14-15). Others would be the recipients of good in “rising again,” which in the majority of NT references is linked to the resurrection of the saved. The child would be the means of eternal blessing. But to those who will fall, He is a sign (from God) that is derided, rejected and “spoken against.” And in so doing, people reveal their very thoughts and hatred in their hearts for “this child.” This is certainly not the prospect that any mother would want for her son! That would hardly seem a blessing.
But more than that, the parenthetical statement that tells of a “sword piercing her soul” would no doubt be most haunting to Mary. In Luke 1:46, at the occasion of meeting her cousin Elisabeth, the two ladies both carrying children of promise, we read the words of Mary: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” What a stark contrast in experience for this dear young woman who, on the one hand, was moved to exclaim in worship that she was blessed with joy in the knowledge of God’s salvation. But now she must anticipate the awful piercing of her soul when her son faced the ultimate rejection of His people. But even this could not erase the certainty of “my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” The piercing would bring the fullness of blessing.