Last week I was exploring the idea of how God shows up in our lives. Remember the story of Elijah the prophet, who saw God’s answer to a 3 year drought in a small cloud. My point was that we often don’t recognize God’s presence or activity in our lives unless it is big and dramatic. I agree that sometimes God does just that – show up big. Sometimes He acts in ways that don’t fit our idea of how He should do things – He seems so unwilling to behave “responsibly.” And sometimes His approach to dealing with our situations or even other people’s situations is not what we would expect. While He is not capricious, fickle or random, He is unpredictable. So the question for us is, are we looking for God in unexpected places and ways? Do we miss His presence because it doesn’t fit our worldview? Here is a story of a man who recognized God’s fulfillment of His promise in a surprising way.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Here is a man who received a very specific and direct promise from God – you will not die until you see the Messiah. We don’t know how long before this story the promise was made, but clearly Simeon had an expectation and acted on it. Many at that time had already claimed to be the Messiah. Many at that time expected this Messiah to free them from Roman rule. Simeon went to the temple because the Spirit told him to. But what should he be looking for – a king or a warrior? He went expecting something – He didn’t know what. And when he saw the baby Jesus, Simeon was able to say, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” Now let’s make sure we understand this correctly. What Simeon actually saw was a baby boy just eight days old. A lot of people that day saw the same baby boy. Simeon, however, looked with his spirit, with his heart. He recognized God in the baby. He was sensitive to what the Spirit was showing him, he went to the temple with expectation and he recognized the Messiah. Simeon was willing to look for God to show up in unexpected ways. He didn’t place any limitation or preconceived notion on Him – Simeon didn’t just look for grown men who were “messiah-like.” Simeon simply let himself be directed by the Spirit.
What about us? As I said last week, I believe God is active and present in our lives all the time. He is active and present in other people’s lives all the time. He is intervening and answering prayers all the time. And I believe God has given us some very specific promises that He is fulfilling right now. The challenge for us is whether we will recognize Him. He may show up in ways we can’t envision or anticipate. He may even show up in ways we don’t want and don’t fit our model of God. When we say, “God wouldn’t do that,” we need to step back and ask ourselves “why wouldn’t He.”
Let Him open our eyes to all the possibilities of what He can do. Let us ask Him to open our eyes to His presence in the seemingly insignificant or unexpected moments of our lives. And when He does, let us wrap our arms around Him and praise Him for showing up – even if it looks just like a baby.