There were hundreds of prophecies throughout the Old Testament of the coming Messiah as the people waited. Isaiah said “the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light,” and he talked about one who would be born of a virgin, who would be a Wonderful Counselor, an Everlasting Father, a Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:2-7). And they waited. And they waited some more, until Micah came and said “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). And on we go through the prophets, through Zechariah, and finally we get to the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, where the prophet ends his oracle, “for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). With that, the Old Testament closes, and God does not speak audibly to anyone for 400 years. Though other great works of God were recorded during that intertestamental period, the people began to lose hope. They began to think, “This promise that we’ve heard about a coming redeemer, a Messiah, hasn’t happened in more than 2,000 years. Why invest your hope in that?”
But God the Holy Spirit revealed to this man, Simeon, who we assume was advanced in years, that he would not die until he saw the face of the promised Messiah. “He was just and devout and waiting for the consolation of Israel.” The Consolation is derived from parakletos, or the Greek word for an advocate, a comforter, a giver of support. It’s also a synonym for the Messiah, the Lord’s Christ who comes to console, to heal the wounded, assuage the brokenhearted and give hope to the hopeless. We don’t know at what point in Simeon’s life the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die until he saw the Christ — it could have been the day before this event took place. But the text seems to imply the promise was made to Simeon years and years prior — not very different than when God promised Abraham that in his old age, while his wife was infertile, that she would conceive and bear a son, at a hundred years old. But it didn’t happen the next month, or the next year, or within the next five years. Abraham and Sarah, who laughed at the idea of Isaac, nonetheless had heard from the Almighty, and were made to wait. Abraham at least trusted, hoped against hope, and put his confidence in the Word of God — not in what his eyes said to him. Centuries later, the same Spirit of God revealed to a man of Jerusalem, “Simeon, you’re not going to die until you see for yourself the Lord’s Christ, the Consolation of Israel.” And like Abraham before him, Luke tells us, Simeon waited.