“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” Luke 2:25
Why have I come back a second time to Simeon? Well, I’m not really coming back to Simeon, but I’m coming back to the words that circle around Simeon and keep him aloft. Those words about Simeon “waiting for the consolation of Israel” draw me.
I think I am drawn by the same source of Simeon’s drawing. From before the fall of man and woman, the consolation had been planned. Sin was not a surprise to God. He knows our hearts. Jesus was no afterthought. Jesus has always been the consolation of Israel, and the consolation of Israel, is the promised consolation for the world.
Why is Jesus the consolation to Israel first? Why not just the consolation to the world? Could it be because the world had abandoned their consolation? Could it be that God called out a people for His own to refocus them so that they could help refocus the world on Him?
Paul was pretty adamant about this consoling. In Greek, it’s the word paraklesis, which means comfort, consolation, exhortation, intreaty. But think of it this way. When the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Comforter, the Greek word used is paraklete, one who comes along side. How much more is that carried over into paraklesis, which is used of Jesus, not our comforter but our Comfort. Listen to Paul’s exhortation or comforting words to us that we are to take to heart: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings we suffer.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6) We are comforted and can comfort others because the consolation of Israel, Jesus, is our comfort and has sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter to us.
We can look for consolation or comfort anywhere we want, but there is nowhere else that it will or can be found except in Jesus. Not even the Holy Spirit could be our Comforter if Jesus was not the Comfort. If Jesus had not come to earth as one of us, bore our sins, paid the penalty upon the cross, died, and risen again victorious, what consolation could the Holy Spirit offer. How could the Spirit cheer our hearts if we could not be reconciled unto God, if we had no intercessor who understood us, if no one had gone before us bearing worse than we could ever bear? But Jesus purchased our consolation forever with His blood.
Rev. Charles Spurgeon thought about this question as well, this consolation of Israel. He reminds us that the Holy Spirit, who convinces us about sin and teaches and corrects us, busies Himself most with comforting and confirming and renewing and lifting us up. This is the age when we are encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit until that day when we are in the presence of Jesus, the Comfort Himself. Spurgeon uses the figure, “the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Christ is the medicine. He heals the wound, but it is by the applying of the holy ointment of Christ’s name and grace. He takes not of his own things, but of the things of Christ. We are not consoled to-day by new revelations, but by the old revelation explained, enforced, and lit up with new splendour by the presence and power of the Holy Ghost the Comforter.” The Spirit is the Comforter, Jesus is the Comfort.
From eternity past, Jesus has been our salvation. (Ephesians 1:4) Before we were ever born, before we were ever bound by sin, He had already planned for our redemption, for our comfort. Think about it. God anticipated our fall and yet He loves us. God anticipated our fall and “provided in his eternal decree of predestinating love an effectual remedy for all our diseases, a certain deliverance from all our sorrows…” (Ibid)
And as Spurgeon was thinking about these things, he got me to thinking with him about the way that Jesus appeared to His people in the Old Testament times and showed himself to the believers just as though he was “bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, in all their trials and their troubles.” Think back. Abraham was a pilgrim. How did Jesus appear to him in Mamre? As a pilgrim. Jacob, at the brook, was a wrestler. How did Jesus appear to him? As a wrestler. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace? He appeared as a fourth young man in the fire with them. Why appear like us? He could always just have sent an angel, an ambassador, but sometimes He chose to come Himself. Why? Because He always was Emmanuel, God with us. Before time began and until forever, He has always been and will always be God with us. He can’t be other than that because it’s who He is. What a wonderful consolation! What a wonderful comfort!
When you wake up early in the morning or can’t sleep in the middle of the night because of the troubles on your mind and soul, He is our consolation, our comfort. Spurgeon continues to remind us “If Christ appeared to his servants in the olden time, and manifested himself to them as bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, in all their trials and their troubles, he will do no less to thee to-day; he will be with thee in passing through the fire; he will be thy rock, thy shield, and thy high tower; he will be thy song, thy banner, and thy crown of rejoicing. Fear not, he who visited the saints of old will surely not be long absent from his children to-day; his delights are still with his people, and still will he walk with us through this weary wilderness.”
Weary, troubled, tired, persecuted heart, be consoled, there is more comfort yet! Jesus positions us with Himself in the heavenlies! He makes us His ambassadors and gives us authority in Him to do God’s will! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4-10) Am I empty, searching for a purpose? Read this over and over again and drill this into my mind. Do I feel directionless or so filled with pain that I don’t know how to bear it? Meditate on this. God prepared me beforehand for this that I would have everything I need in Jesus to walk through this. Do I get that? What He prepared Jesus to walk through, He has given me everything to walk through life and death as well. Oh, may I truly be consoled in that, not in word only, but in truth, in reality!
I want to live, not die! I want to be well, not sick! I want to be free, not slave! But the truth is, unless I’m willing to die, I can’t find life. Unless I admit my sickness, I cannot be cured. Unless I submit, I cannot ever reign. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) The consolation is right here, two sides of the same coin. To find your life in Jesus is to let your life go and grasp His. To lose your life for His sake is to gain His. The consolation, the comfort is that it is a win-win situation.
In the heavenlies, though I was lower than the angels in my human form (Hebrews 2:7-9), in Jesus, in my renewed form, as His ambassador, I will judge angels one day! (1 Corinthians 6:3) So while I go through suffering, trembling, doubt, fear, pain here, look beyond and remember the truth. Be sure of this, “that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Are you surprised by the hard walk of life? Why? Your Jesus walked through it. Should I walk through less? And just as God had prepared Him to walk through it, so He has prepared me beforehand.
Before ever I knew I would become His, God already knew. Before I was in my mother’s womb, God was already at work on my behalf! Before day one of time as we know it, Your plan for me had begun. None of this is a surprise. The pain, the suffering, the heartache, is all part of the birth pangs. Do I think I am the only one who groans with this pain, with this weight? Who abhors the unrighteousness in the world and in my own heart? Be consoled. Jesus groaned. And He had more right than me to groan. You know, that word implies “to snort, as of horses.” I’ve seen a horse upset. I’ve seen their nose flare and the breath come out full of force and heat, while they stomp their hooves and need to be held back from action. But Jesus holds Himself back from action until the appointed time. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers said of Jesus in John 11:33 that “He was indignant in the spirit, and caused Himself to shudder.” Do I feel that way? He gives me the same power to hold myself back, even if it causes my body to shudder as well. Have I found consolation in that?
When I hear Jesus’ prayer for me to the Father, “I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am,” am I consoled? I ought to be. Am I so consoled that I am ready to fight the good fight no matter the cost, until the very end? Does it console me that Jesus is fighting for me? Does it console me that Jesus fought for me so that I could draw near to Him and actually meet Him as we fight the battle against His foes and mine together? Does it console me that the victory is already His though the battles have not finished?
What consoles me in the midst of pain and suffering? What consoled Job? Could his cattle or his camels? Could his wealth? Could his children? Could his servants? Could his health? Could his wife? No. All of them are a temporary shadow. What could console Job in his abundance or in his suffering? “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” Oh, that You would be my consolation like that! Oh, that my heart would faint within me at the thought of beholding You face to face! Again, Spurgeon shares, “Brothers and sisters, when all things else depart, an unchanging Christ shall be your unchanging joy.”
The consolation in the power of Jesus! Who can pull me up from the depths of my pain and sorrow, when I can’t even pull myself up? Who else, but Jesus! The Psalmist is not alone! “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:2,3)
How long does this consolation last? It is everlasting! He reigns “forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) How close is this consolation? He was there in the past with us before we knew Him. He is here every now of every day. He is here in the presence of every moment of the future. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Remember, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Am I consoled by what that means for me? Do I understand, really understand what it means when Paul consoles me with these words, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Do I understand that He is not just here rooting for me like a Father in the bleachers at some sporting event? “For” or “huper” in Greek, is the idea of being “over, above, beyond, causal, exceedingly above, on behalf,” that kind of thing. If God is over me, if He is working on my behalf, who can withstand that? Who can win against me if that is the truth? Oh, how that should console me.
The truth of the matter is that Jesus came to be my consolation. Do I need to be consoled by Him or am I fine with other consolations in my life? Because if I am fine with consoling myself, Jesus can’t be my consolation, because He can’t lie. Neither will He share His consolation with other consolations. If You are not my consolation alone, Jesus, than I will have none of Your promises and comforts that You provide. They will always evade me. I may grasp my own consolations, but I will find that they are no consolation at all in the end, and leave me comfortless and comforter-less.
But what if I once looked to You as my consolation and then slid back into my old consolations and comforts? Am I lost to Your true consolation? “‘Turn, O backsliding children,’ saith the Lord, ‘for I am married unto you…’ ” (Jeremiah 3:14) Remember, Jesus does not believe in divorce! He has never put you away. Think of Hosea and Gomer. Gomer did not deserve the love of Hosea, and yet she received it. And do you think that was Hosea’s idea?! No, that was God’s idea. That was what You wanted me to understand about Your love. Am I consoled to know that You love me like that, that You fight for me and don’t give up on me, that I am Yours, really Yours? If I have fallen away, that should be all it takes to bring me to my knees, bawling and wrapping my arms around your knees in unexplainable gratitude and overwhelming love.
Does it console me to know that I have every right to come to Jesus? Why? Because he commands me to come. “Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Did I read that right? I don’t have to be good enough? My right to come doesn’t lay within me? I simply have the right to come because You call me to come to You? Spurgeon likened it to receiving an invitation to appear before the queen at once. You must go. It doesn’t matter how you are dressed. To not go, would be to receive punishment, to break the law. So you go, just as you are.
The right of a sinner to come to Christ does not lie in the sinner, nor in any feelings which the sinner may have had; it lies in the fact that Christ commands him to come. And when you come to the gate of the castle, the officer says, “You are not dressed appropriately. You can’t come in.” But you show him the command. He must let you pass. At the next door, the usher sees you and says, “You are not dressed for court.” You show him the command. He must let you pass. What would happen if, after passing, you started to think, “I shall not continue further because I am not dressed right, I don’t fit in, I won’t know how to act.” Oh, to miss out on the consolation because of fear. Jesus is better than the queen! He has said, “Come unto me.” He knows what You think. He knows who You are and what You are like better than You do. You do not come to Him because of Your merits. You are coming to Him based on His merits! Repent of thinking of Your own merits! Be consoled and rejoice in His! His merits make You more than acceptable. His merits cover You and fill You with Himself!
I suppose there are some of us who don’t feel “heavy laden.” Why come then? Because all are commanded to come. “And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23) And if I choose not to be consoled by Jesus? What then? “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
I want to be consoled more and more every day by all that Jesus is, by who He is, and what He has done for and in me, and what He is doing through me by God’s grace. My prayer is to know Your consolation more deeply every day and that others would come to experience Your consolation. I pray for others along with Reverend Spurgeon, “I would infinitely rather that the sweet love and grace of God would entice you now to trust Jesus Christ just as you are. He will not deceive you, sinner; he will not fail you. Trusting him, you shall build on a sure foundation, and find him who is the consolation of Israel and the joy of all his saints.”