If Luke 2:22-39 speaks of anything, it speaks of faithfulness. In rapid sequence, one couple and two individuals are held up as models of faithfulness.
Squished into one story, we see Mary and Joseph fulfilling three Torah obligations:
- Purification, presumably from childbirth. (It is noteworthy that this act appears to include Joseph. Perhaps he had helped with the birth. Perhaps he and Mary felt the need for purification together, as they prepared to parent this special child.)
- Circumcision of a son, in accordance with the Abrahamic covenant.
- Dedication of a firstborn child.
The faithful acts of Joseph and Mary introduce us to a man named Simeon. All who knew him esteemed him as “righteous and devout”. He was among those awaiting the Messiah, and his life was known to have the Holy Spirit resting upon it, so much so that he had received revelation that the Messiah would arrive before Simeon breathed his last.
On the heels of encountering Simeon, Mary and Joseph meet Anna. She also is held up as a model of faithfulness – first to her husband of seven years, then to a widowhood characterized by nonstop fasting and prayer in the house of the Lord. Her movements and words also appear to be Spirit-led, and she was counted among those waiting for the Lord’s redemption.
Three scenes of faithful people come together to highlight a faithful God. Most blatantly, this message comes via Simeon’s declaration while he holds the holy infant (2:29-32). Faithful Simeon steps forth to praise faithful Yahweh. He keeps His word. He fulfills His promises. He does what He says He will do.
One imagines Simeon or Anna or Mary and Joseph as scoffing if we were to dwell too long upon their faithfulness. They would seem the sorts to redirect our gaze quickly toward God, the truly faithful one.
How much of the average Christian life is spent obsessing over the level of faithfulness we perceive within ourselves. We beam over what we think possess; we sweat what we fear we lack. We strain and we press, and we can be sure that there is something noble within such efforts.
But one wonders.
- Is it possible that greater power is unleashed in the lives of those obsessed with God’s faithfulness than in the lives of those obsessed with their own faithfulness?
- Could it be that worship yields more than work?
- Might it be settling into His quality moves us further forward than slaving to establish our own?
The lives of faithful people revolve around the life of a faithful God, and the faithfulness of God is the bedrock upon which a life can be built.