May 3 – God knows what you need – even if you wonder if he does.

Luke 2: 21 – 38 NLT

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord – “either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Did you notice that Jesus’ name wasn’t given by his mother or father? His name came from an angel. G. Campbell Morgan has some interesting things to say in his commentary The God Who Cares. There are only 4 babies named by God in the Bible. In the Old Testament – Ishmael and Isaac (the beginning of the nation of Israel and the Arabic nations): in the New Testament – John and Jesus (the beginning of the church). Jesus is the Anglicizing of a well-known Hebrew name – Joshua. It was likely a popular name since Joshua was the man who led Israel from the dessert into the promised land. Now Jesus is the one who will lead all mankind into a relationship with God.

Joseph and Mary were careful to follow the Old Testament rules for Jesus’ birth. Eight days after his birth he was circumcised. Then 40 days after his birth he was brought to the Temple for purification. Leviticus 12: 6 – 8 tells us the rules that needed to be followed:

“When the time of purification is completed for either a son or a daughter, the woman must bring a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove for a purification offering. She must bring her offerings to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle.[a] The priest will then present them to the Lord to purify her.[b] Then she will be ceremonially clean again after her bleeding at childbirth. These are the instructions for a woman after the birth of a son or a daughter.

“If a woman cannot afford to bring a lamb, she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons. One will be for the burnt offering and the other for the purification offering. The priest will sacrifice them to purify her, and she will be ceremonially clean.”

Once again, we are reminded that Mary and Joseph were not wealthy at all. In our culture with its stress on success, we tend to think we have to do something, be someone for God to use us. God can use anyone- even the person we might think is most unlikely. God can use you!

The Prophecy of Simeon

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

The Prophecy of Anna

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshipping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

I try to put myself in Mary’s shoes. She knew that this baby was special. She became pregnant without having a sexual relationship. That alone would have been incredible. She also had a conversation with an angel and then Elizabeth who confirmed that she was carrying their hoped-for Messiah. Joseph had also talked with an angel and been reassured that Mary’s pregnancy was from God.

But as well, there had been the months of pregnancy when likely their neighbours had been gossiping. Then there was the exhausting trek to Bethlehem where Jesus was born in a pen for animals. If this had truly been God’s son, wouldn’t things have turned for the better after she discovered she was pregnant? Wouldn’t there be some obvious evidence that God’s blessing was upon them? Would a son of God really be born this way?

God isn’t going to let Mary wonder and doubt. Shortly after the baby’s birth, shepherds arrive to say they had received a message from angels that “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (v. 11 – 12) Shepherds? No one more important? Then at their visit to the Temple, Simeon prophesies over the baby. Anna also came along and praised God for this baby.

I doubt Mary truly understood what was said that day at the Temple. They were looking for a Messiah who would conquer Rome and establish Israel as an important nation. But Simeon prophesied that “He is a light to reveal God to the nations”. Then Simeon also told her that “a sword will pierce your very soul.” What would that mean?

At the end of this chapter, it says “and his mother stored all these things in her heart”. This past year would have been such a strange one for her. She was a poverty-stricken young girl, newly married. Yet these amazing things had happened to her. How would you ever comprehend what was truly happening?

Have you ever experienced times in your life when things didn’t seem to add up? Life was hard and you wondered if God really cared or was in control. And then, as things unfolded, you realized God was at work. Perhaps you learned how to depend on God with more patience than doubt. Perhaps you ended up making changes that you wouldn’t have, if left to your usual way of doing things. Perhaps you experienced an incredible peace during a very difficult time – when usually you would have been upset and worried.

God knows what we need. He knew that Mary needed a lot of support and confirmation. Life wasn’t easy for her, but she became aware of God’s presence.

God knows what you need – even if you are wondering if he does.

Our song for today is In Control by Hillsong Worship

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