How do we wait well for the promise of God? How do we live in the present knowing that the future is on the way?
Dealing with delay is no fun. Especially in a society in which everything can be instant. If we want food, we grab a ready meal and pop it into the microwave. If we want stuff, we go on Amazon, and there's same-day delivery. If we want information, we Google something and get 102,000,000 results in .42 seconds. We are hard-wired to expect immediate results, but some of the best things in life require us to wait.
1. Waiting in Faith
In Luke 2:21-38 we read about two peopole who encountered God's promise after a long delay. The context of this encounter is the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph to fulfil God's law with Jesus through the ceremonies of circumcision, purification, and dedication.
In the process of going to the Temple, they meet Simeon, a righteous, devout Jew who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. The Greek word for consolation means comfort, and it was expected that the Messiah would comfort God's people through deliverance (see Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 49:13, Isaiah 51:3, Isaiah 57:18).
Hope that continually gets crushed tends to decay; somehow Simeon remained faithfull. Simeon spent years living in the promise - not only that God would intervene, but that Simeon would not die before he saw the Messiah (Luke 2:26). Similarly, Anna lived in the promise of God's Messiah (Luke 2:38).
2. Divine Alignement
God brought these devout believers together with Mary and Joseph and Jesus. It was a moment of divine alignment: Mary, Joseph and Jesus were there because they were fulfilling the law; Simeon was there because the Spirit led him; Anna was there because ... hanging out at the temple and praying was what she did.
Anyone of them could have missed it - Mary and Joseph could have brought Jesus the next day, Simeon could have ignored the Spirit, and Anna could have take the day off. But no: God has a way getting his people into the right place at the right time.
3. Double Entendre
The Lord was doing two things - simultaneously. As indicated in Simeon's prophecy (Luke 2:29-32), God was answering his promise to his people to send the deliverer. But God was also using this prophecy to encourage Mary and Joseph that they were doing the right thing, they were heading the right direction, and Jesus really was who they thought he was.
4. The Pain of Prophetic Participation.
Life isn't always sunshine and rainbows. Simeon knows that Jesus is God’s hope, but not everyone will respond positively to him.Not only is Jesus appointed for the rising and fall of many, and not only will he be resisted (Luke 2:34), but Mary is also going to experience pain:
and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.
As we’re going to see, even as a boy, Jesus was more dedicated to his spiritual family than his natural family. Jesus is more committed to being in his Father’s house than Mary and Joseph’s house. And so as much joy as came to Mary by having Jesus, he also brought her pain, because his commitment to the purpose of God shattered her sentimental vision of what their family should be like.
It's against this background that we learn how to future proof our lives. To be future proof means that our lives are not built on things that become obsolete, but rather, eternal. Simeon and both built their lives on the promise of God - but not just any promise - the promise of God's intervention in Christ. That is, to the degree that we inhabit the promises of God in Christ, our hopes and dreams become eternally rooted.
So how do we future proof our lives?
- Know the promise: it's hard to experience a promise we don't know.
- Believe the promise: act like God's not a liar, and believe him!
- Wait for the promise: this is the hard part, but if no waiting were involved, it wouldn't be a promise.
- Receive the promise: like Simeon taking Jesus into his arms, when the promise comes, we have to receive it.
Building our lives on anything else sets us up for dissappointment; buildling our lives on Christ positions us to always live well in the now while we wait for the future.