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Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters
SIMEON was one of the Seventy. Simeon sat in the Jerusalem Chamber of that day. And it fell to the lot of the Old Testament company on which Simeon sat to render the prophet Isaiah out of the Hebrew tongue and into the Greek tongue. All went well for the first six chapters of the evangelical prophet. But when they came to the seventh chapter, and to this verse in that chapter, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," Simeon at that impossible prophecy threw down his pen and would write no more. 'How shall this be?' demanded Simeon. And with all they could do, the offended scholar would not subscribe his name to the parthenos passage that so satisfied and so delighted all the rest. Till in anger he threw down his pen and went home to his own house. But at midnight an angel appeared to Simeon, and said to him: 'Simeon, I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God. And, behold, thou shalt remain in this thy captivity till thou shalt see with thine own eyes the Lord's Christ, made of a woman, and till the virgin's son shall put his little hand into thine aged bosom, and shall there loose thy silver cord.' And it was so. And the same Simeon was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. And he was still waiting in the temple when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law. Then he took him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."
I can only guess at Simeon's real meaning and whole intention when he said in the temple that day that his waiting eyes had now seen God's salvation. For salvation in that day, as in this day, had as many meanings as there were men's minds. Salvation had the very heavenliest of meanings to one man, and the very earthliest of meanings to another man. To one man in the temple that day the salvation of God meant salvation from Cæsar; while to another man it meant his salvation from himself. To one man it was the tax-gatherer, and to another his own evil heart. And, with all that we are so instructively told about Simeon, still it is not possible to satisfy ourselves as to what, exactly, that aged saint and scripture scholar had in his mind when he said that his eyes had now seen God's salvation. But it is not Simeon and his salvation who is our errand up into this temple tonight. It is ourselves. What, then, is our salvation-yours and mine? When we speak, or hear, or read, or sing about salvation, what exactly do we mean?-if, indeed, we have any meaning at all, or intend to have any. 'My son'-one of Simeon's sacred colleagues used to say to his scholars-'My son, the first thing that you will be examined upon at the day of judgment will be this: What was the salvation that you pursued after? What salvation did you study, and teach, and preach, and yourself seek after when you were still in time and upon the earth?' How happy will it be with old Simeon on that terrible day when he hears this read out over him before men and angels: "The same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was upon him." "Mine eyes," said Simeon, "have seen Thy salvation." And Joseph and His mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him.
And, being full of the Holy Ghost, Simeon went on to say: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." So He was in Israel, and so He is still. There are schools and systems of interpretation of Scripture; there are schools and systems of philosophy; and of this and that, in which this prophecy uttered by Simeon that day, is still being fulfilled. They rise, and they stand, and they fall, just as they receive or reject Immanuel. But our question with this Scripture before us is not about schools and systems of theology and philosophy, but about our own souls. Has Mary's Son, then; has God's Son, been a stumbling stone to me? Or, has He been the one foundation laid in Zion for me? Has He, to my everlasting salvation, and to His everlasting praise, lifted me up from all my falls and made me to stand upon His righteousness as upon a rock? Simeon himself had at one time stumbled and been broken on this child, and on His too great name. But the steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord, and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand, Now, unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy: to the only wise God, our Saviour.
"And for a sign that shall be spoken against." We wonder to hear that. We are shocked to hear that. We say in amazement at that: What did He ever say or do that He should be spoken against by any man? He did the very opposite. He went about doing and speaking only good. But that made no difference to those men in that day who spake so spitefully against Him. Some spake against Him out of sheer ignorance of Him. They had never even seen Him. But they spake against Him in their distant villages as if He had come and done them and theirs some great injury. And many who saw Him every day spake against Him everyday, just because they did not understand Him, and would not take the pains and pay the price to understand Him and to love Him. Some, again, were poisoned against Him by what other people, and people of power, said against Him; some through envy, and some just because they had once begun to speak against Him, and could never give over what they had once begun to do. And they went on so speaking till they were swept on to cry, Crucify Him! not knowing what they were saying, or why. Take good care how you begin to speak against any man, good or bad. The chances are that, once you begin it, you will never be able to give it over. When you have once begun the devil's work of evil-speaking, he will hold his hook in your jaws, and will drag you on, and will give you a stake and an interest in lies and slander, till it will enrage and exasperate you to hear a single word of good spoken about your innocent victim. "Judge not," said our Lord, feeling bitterly how He was misjudged Himself. And Albert Bengel annotates that in this characteristic way: sine scientia, amore, necessitate. "I spoke not ill of any creature," said Teresa, "how little soever it might be. I scrupulously avoided all approaches to detraction. I had this rule ever present with me, that I was not to wish, nor assent to, nor say such things of any person whatsoever that I would not have them say of me. Still, for all that, I have a sufficiently strict account to give to God for the bad example I am to all about me in some other respects. For one thing, the very devil himself sometimes fills me with such a harsh and cruel temper-such a wicked spirit of anger and hostility at some people-that I could eat them up and annihilate them." That was the exact case with the detractors of Jesus Christ. They had no peace in their hearts, or in their tongues at Him, till they had eaten Him up and annihilated Him. This is such a horrible pit of a world that not even the Son of God Himself could come down into it, and do the work of God in it, without being hunted to death by evil tongues. And with that awful warning, and after nineteen centuries of His grace and truth, no man of any individuality, and talent, and initiative for good, can, to this day, do his proper work without straightway becoming a sign to be spoken against. To this day some of the most Christlike of men among us have been the most written against and spoken against, till such speech and such writing may almost be taken as the seal of God set upon His best servants and upon their best work. "And for a sign that shall be spoken against," said Simeon, as he returned the Holy Child to His mother.
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Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Simeon'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wbc/s/simeon.html. 1901.