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. Luke 2:25
One of the noblest examples of Advent faith is found in this passage from the gospel of Luke. Simeon is described as a righteous man who patiently “waits for the consolation of Israel.” In spite of the discouraging political and social realities all around him, he has kept this unfulfilled hope alive in his heart for many years. We know very little about Simeon, but it is difficult to imagine that his prayers are overly tinged with anxiety or impatience over the delayed fulfillment of God’s promise. We picture rather a man who is peacefully resigned to the fact that God will reveal to him, according to the Lord’s good timing, all he needs to know.
Unlike Simeon, most of us are not as patient with God, especially when it comes to waiting for our destiny to unfold. We often feel stuck in the mud with the slow “progress” of our lives, and have trouble understanding why God seems to delay the promises we feel He has made. Why is there such a lapse between the Word and its fulfillment? What is God’s purpose in allowing so much in-between time? Perhaps it has everything to do with how the God-given necessity of waiting—the very posture that we highlight at Advent—helps purify our faith.
There are many dispositions from which to wait on the Lord. Some postures honour God while others simply highlight our anxieties or lack of trust. We often despair when we are made to wait too long for something we feel our hearts so desperately need. And yet those who are peaceful in their waiting exhibit a unique grace that must surely be the fruit of God’s purposes in the protracted delays we often endure.
Scripture is full of examples of people who deal poorly with their unfulfilled needs. Most obvious are the many episodes of the Israelites in the desert, acting out their impatience when things don’t unfold as expected. The prodigal son is another example of someone being impatient with the slow progress of their lives. We know what we need. God is taking too long. We can’t wait. And so we act on our own.
But Scripture also offers examples of how to wait well for God. We see quite a different disposition, for instance, in Abraham—a much more gracious expression of godliness in waiting. The Lord tells the patriarch to leave his homeland and “go to the land I will show you.” Without questioning the vagueness of this command, Abraham seems to exhibit no anxiety over the where, when or why of its fulfillment. He just keeps walking, trusting that God will reveal to Him what he needs to know, when he needs to know it.
And then there is Simeon—a man Luke characterizes as righteous and devout—who waits in the temple each day for the “consolation of Israel.” Because of his devout prayer life Simeon is able to maintain a posture of hope with regards to the mystery of God’s ways. He waits in the certainty of faith, and his faith is rewarded. Like the wise virgins, he has kept his lamp full of oil in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise. And, like Abraham, such devout and patient faith is credited to Simeon as righteousness in God’s sight.
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
written for Advent 2014
FOR GROUP DISCUSSION:
- Why do you think faith, expressed in waiting, is credited to us as righteousness? How does our waiting in faith honour God?
- What characteristics of waiting do you see in the prodigal son story? Can you think of examples in Scripture where people did not wait well?
- In what areas of your life have you been tempted with impatience or a challenge to faith over unfulfilled hopes? Have you found a way to wait?
FOR PRAYER: Take time in prayer to express your trust in the Lord’s timing for every God-given hope you have.