Can you imagine having received the message Simeon had, giving him the assurance he would see the Messiah before he died? Many had been waiting for the Messiah to come rescue them. It had been hundreds of years since the prophets had foretold a Messiah would come. In Simeon’s day, the Roman oppression was so great the people were anxiously awaiting the day their Messiah king would powerfully come to save them.
Simeon’s faith is commendable. Amidst the struggles of life under Roman control, and the natural aging process our bodies go through, Simeon never lost hope. He had faith in God’s promise. It seems as if his faith was the fuel that sustained Simeon through each day of waiting.
Who doesn’t like a good party? The opening scenes to this reading are filled with the anticipation of what is to come. The day has arrived when the completed wall will be recognized and celebrated. When parties have a purpose, they are even more enjoyable. When that purpose is to celebrate God’s faithfulness and love, imagine the great expectation!
The celebration appears to circle the city wall with songs of thanksgiving being sung and instruments being played. That sounds a lot like worship to me. How fitting the people would use the worship element to further honor God in this moment. What God had done among them already, and promised to do forever, was so generous. If only they could stay true to God alone. People continue to struggle with keeping God first in their lives today.
James introduces this section by suggesting a problem he must have observed. “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?” Certainly we’d all agree that faith should show itself through deeds of loving service.
In a recent Bible study discussion, I marveled at my pastor husband, David’s comment about this text. He posed an interesting scenario of observing a discussion about faith between our author here, James, and the apostle Paul. We’d see two very faithful men with two very different perspectives. Is that a bad thing? After all, the gospels all talk about Jesus’ life and ministry from different viewpoints. When it comes to understanding our faith, these differences can be confusing.
My self-confidence as a child was next to nothing. I was always picked last for games at recess, and I was often teased for being plumper than the other girls. It didn’t matter that my parents were proud of me or that teachers liked me. I never felt like I was good enough. My first husband added to that insecurity with his abuse and harsh words. Paul’s words truly liberate me, even today.
We don’t have to stress out about our own abilities. It is in Christ we can have all the confidence we need. He will never let us down. Paul reminds his audience of his Jewish credentials, but still his humility shines through. He acknowledges even he was nothing without Christ. The same is true for us. Whether we are popular or not, our value lies in our connection to Jesus.
David warned me the Book of Galatians would have its challenging passages. I had underlined a lot of what we read today at some point in my life, and verses 20-21 even got a little star by it. This must be important stuff. But then again, all of the Bible is “important stuff” that we should be consuming and using as our “life’s instruction manual.”
What’s up with Peter? And why did Paul put this little vignette in his story right before one of the most impactful of verses? I feel like Peter was really concerned for appearances. It was fine to share a meal with the Gentiles (of all people) when nobody was looking. But then as soon as some Jews show up, he steps away and back into being just Jewish. Didn’t there used to be a delightful British comedy called, “Keeping Up Appearances” following the life of Hyacinth?