Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Token and the Presentation

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "The Token and the Presentation"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We read today a single verse about the circumcision of Jesus. It is according to the Law of Moses that this is still done to every Jewish male born. Luke states it simply and directly, because it was the common practice for every male in a Jewish household, and it was no big deal in that cultural setting. It was expected, and it was done. Period, end of story. But there’s a back story all must hear!

In Leviticus 12:3, the Law of Moses required that male infants be circumcised on the eighth day after their birth. But the practice was first required of the Jews in Genesis 17, which is an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant given to Abraham in Genesis 12. There in Genesis 17 we find the reason for the Jewish practice of circumcising their young males.

The ritual set Jewish men apart from the rest of the world’s male population. It was a visible, outward sign of possession and belonging. Verse 11 of chapter 17 declares that circumcision is a token of the Abrahamic Covenant, God’s promises to His people. So, it was 1) a physical identification that the infant child was Jewish, and 2) had been set apart to be a child of Jehovah, one of God’s Chosen People. It would serve as a reminder to the child that he was a Covenant Child for his whole life.

Since it was performed on a private member of the body, it became a very personal reminder to that child or man. This therefore speaks of our own need for a personal relationship with God, a continual, daily reminder that we too are set apart from the rest of the world. Paul further writes in Romans 2:29 that even the Jews though, must experience the circumcision of the heart. For it is not a fleshly token that saves us, but an inward change in our hearts. Salvation, then becomes a matter of the heart. It is not just the outward appearance of ethnicity, nor of religious piety and humility.

Every man, woman, and child must go through this kind of heart purification, and purging of the fleshly parts of our thoughts and lives. To live with a heart purged from sin, and trusting God and Jesus Christ to guide us through His Spirit; this is what opens the door for Christ’s salvation.

Revelation 3:20 -

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Bobservations' Column: Audio Version:

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
Luke 2:21-40 - "The Token and the Presentation"

Summary/Bible Notes

Today, we are continuing our study from last week in the second chapter of the gospel of Luke. Luke is the writer, and he has recorded for us this divinely inspired account of the birth of the Savior, the consolation of Israel, the Son of the Most High God, the Lord Jesus Christ. And with that birth, redemptive action, redemptive purpose, and redemptive accomplishment is initiated because the Savior of the world, the Messiah, the Lord, and King has arrived.

From verse 21 down to verse 39, brings into his account the testimony of three witnesses: The parents of Jesus, an old man named Simeon and an old woman, a prophetess, named Anna. These are eyewitnesses who corroborate the identity of the child born of a virgin, through faithful testimony.

What does that mean?  A witness needs to be credible if they are to be believed. The scriptures attest to the godly virtue of these 4 individuals.  

We know from the scriptures that both Joseph and Mary were righteous. They were committed to fulfilling the law of the Lord, the law of Moses, the Old Testament Scripture. They were obedient. They honored God. They are true believers. It's important to understand that whenever the Bible says someone is righteous, it means that God has declared them righteous, not by virtue of anything they have done. Righteousness is not obtained by our own will or our own works, it is a gift of God to those who come to Him in penitent faith, acknowledging their sinfulness and their need of grace. And so it was that Joseph and Mary belonged to God, they were a part of the believing remnant in Israel.

Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to Jerusalem, in keeping with the law.  Verse 21 takes place eight days after the child was born and that is the scene of circumcision, and the naming of the child. Then verses 22 to 24, which takes place forty days after Jesus' birth when He's a month and ten days old and this is the scene of the purification ceremony, where a sacrifice would be offered, and the child would be offered to God for His service.

The actions that Joseph and Mary took are a clear testimony of their faith as they affirmed the identity of the child.

Next, we meet a man named Simeon. Simeon means "God has heard." The scriptures tell us that he was a righteous man, a true believer, one who stands out amongst the crowd of "believers."  He knew the Word of God.  He looked to the fulfillment of prophecy anxiously waiting for the arrival of the Sun of righteousness (see Malachi 4:2).  He personifies the true, believing, saved remnant in Israel who believed in God for their salvation, who understood God's grace, that their salvation couldn't be obtained through works.  Even though the Messiah hadn't yet come, they understood that they could not keep God's Law, they were looking for their Savior.  They believed the Old Testament scriptures, the prophets and they waited for their Messiah to come while living godly lives. 

Simeon is righteous and devout.  He knew God's Word.  He wasn't a forgetful hearer.  He believed it.  He loved it.  He was careful to obey it bringing glory and honor to God, and a witness to everyone around him. Luke reveals that the Holy Spirit was upon him... Spirit-filled!  He was specially anointed for a special service unto God!  Further, the Holy Spirit came upon him for the purpose of revealing to him from the divine God Himself that he wouldn't die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. What a promise!  What a blessing!  His longing, his waiting, and looking for the Messiah throughout his whole life, and the Holy Spirit says, "you're going to see Him."  

In verse 27, it says, "He (Simeon) came by the Spirit into the temple."  "In the Spirit" simply means the Spirit's leading him.  Forty days after the birth of Jesus he's prompted by the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note that Simeon doesn't know Joseph and Mary. But the Spirit of God leads Simeon into that place and Joseph and Mary are there with this little baby.  Now picture this, there were probably other women there with babies having purification ceremonies, and yet Holy Spirit leads Simeon right to Jesus.

Luke 2:27-28, "And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God,"

He took the baby from Mary into his arms. One can only imagine what kind of joy flooded his heart, what kind of thrill came over him as he realized that the promises of God had come to pass and he was holding in his hands the Messiah, the Menachem, the Comforter, the Consoler of Israel, the Savior of the world.

"Mine eyes have seen thy salvation... " What a testimony!!! A man who is utterly unknown to anyone, is a crucial witness to who this child is, Jesus the Savior of the World.  Yes, not only is God the Savior but Simeon says God has prepared a salvation for the world. He's prepared it in the presence of all peoples so that the Messiah is a light of revelation to the Gentiles as well as the glory of the people Israel.

In verse 36, we meet a prophetess named Anna. She's an elderly woman, 84 to be exact, and a daughter of a man named Phanuel out of Asher, and a widow of many years. What is so remarkable about her, is even at the old age of 84, it says that she never left the temple, not idly hanging about, but serving.  That's amazing!  She served day and night in fasting and in prayer.  Here is another example of a true believer.  Faithfully devout.  Her age didn't keep her from serving the Lord.  In fact, her example puts the vast majority of believers to shame. 

In verse 38, "At that very moment she came up." What very moment?  The moment that Simeon prophesied. Her one focus in life is fulfilled.  God and His glory, the salvation of Israel. The Messiah had come, and this lady, would spend the rest of her years speaking of Him, sharing with all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem, the remnant, that the Messiah had come. 

God's faithful witnesses.  God's incredible work.  The prompting of the Holy Spirit.  
 There is a greater testimony given to the identity of Jesus found in verse 40, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him."

More than the testimonies of Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Hannah combined, the greatest testimony given to the identity of Jesus comes from the Father.  The word "grace" here, literally means the loving favor of God.  The loving favor of God was on Him.  Who is Jesus Christ?  He is the Son of God in all His glorious perfection.  

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