Mine eyes have seen thy salvation
— ”Old Testament folks were not particularly Messianic in their faith. And even if they were, it was very confused.”
– ”Expectation for Christ revolved around a conquering Warrior who arrives on a white horse.”
– ”Believers BC wanted the Messiah to come and defeat the nations oppressing them.”
It’s common to hear many views like this about the state of Old Testament faith. And, no doubt, many Israelites fell into those caricatures. But they shouldn’t have done. And faithful Israelites didn’t. Like Simeon.
What did old Simeon do when he laid eyes on the Christ-child? He bore witness to true Hebrew belief:
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:29-35)As Simeon cradles the baby Jesus, he identifies Him as salvation. To see Jesus – even the “little Lord Jesus” – is to see the salvation of the world. And notice that Simeon is not at all nationalistic about this. He does not become excited at the thought of Christ growing up to crush the Romans. No, Jesus will be a “light to lighten the Gentiles.” He has not come to overthrow the foreign powers but to save them – to save the world.
If there’s going to be any over-throwing it will be of Israel itself. There will be a “fall and rising again of many in Israel.” There will be a death and resurrection. Through Jesus, the old will be brought to nothing and something new will be raised up.
Simeon sees all this in 8-day-old Jesus. And now he can die happy. In Jesus, all that he’s waited for has come to pass. So Simeon, as a representative Old Testament saint, “departs in peace.”
The law and the prophets have done their job. They have prepared a people for the coming of Messiah. We can imagine all the righteous of the Old Testament joining in with Simeon’s song. The Hebrew saints are accompanying him, jealous of his awesome privilege – to hold the long hoped-for Messiah!
But with the birth of Christ, the time of anticipation ends. Now there is the establishment of all that was promised. And Simeon leads the Old Testament chorus line off stage. The time of fulfilment has arrived and so they depart in peace.
As Jesus would say to those who witnessed His ministry:
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (Matthew 13:16-17)In a sense we have seen more and in a sense we have seen less than them. We have not held the Christ child in our arms, but we have read of His glorious death on Calvary. We have not witnessed His miracles personally, but we have been told of His mighty resurrection from the dead. All that was promised has now been accomplished, and so our attitude is encapsulated beautifully by the Apostle Peter:
Having not seen [Jesus], ye love [Him] … though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)