By: Jenni Walker
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)
“You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
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I love visiting museums. My husband and I honeymooned on Cape Cod after our wedding nearly 10 years ago, and although we deeply enjoyed local seafood restaurants, beaches, and even a Red Sox game in Boston one evening (Go Sox!), we also lingered at several museums and historical landmarks together. As we drove up the Cape one day with no anticipated destination other than to see what we could see and just be together as newlyweds, we stumbled upon the Pilgrim Museum and monument. We looked out at the first landing place of the Mayflower ship, took a picture in the middle of an enormous whale jawbone, and engaged with the information in the museum hoping to learn something new and grow in our appreciation of this aspect of our country’s early story. And we loved every minute of it.
We live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and there is a Jewish history museum that we frequently drove past in our early years of marriage. I would often comment to Bryan, “I wonder what kind of exhibits they have?” or “We really should stop there one of these days.” One Sunday afternoon after church, he turned our little white hatchback off our beaten path home, and in a few moments I realized where we were headed. An afternoon leisurely learning together at a museum? Yes, please!
As we entered the glass double doors, we entered a room both grand and somber. Stained glass, sculpture, and paintings of early biblical characters of the Old Testament such as Abraham and Moses were displayed throughout the windowed room. We paid our admission, and were faced with two options: Would we ascend the steps to the upper level filled with Jewish historical artifacts, religious items, and artwork, or enter the closed but unlocked doors on the main level that led to the Holocaust exhibit?
We began with the Holocaust exhibit that afternoon and spent so much time there that we decided to wait to fully take in the upper level until another day. I hastened up the steps for just a few moments and was greeted by a hushed, more dimly lit room that was visibly filled with scrolls, apparel, prayer cloths, household items, synagogue photos, and much more. My curiosity was piqued, and I knew I would be back again.
Today, that upper level is where I spend the most time whenever I visit there. Our son is an early preschooler full of constant curiosity, and although I cannot linger as long as I would like to, he and I stop there on occasion to walk the aisles of that “upper room” flanked by Jewish culture and history.
Most of us know that Jesus Himself was born a Jew. But we sometimes forget the many aspects of what that meant. Sabbath rituals, rabbis, scrolls, the temple, sacrifices, Passover, traditional apparel of the time…all of these would have been a regular part of life for the Jewish culture of the time in which He entered the world. Oppression of the Jewish people was also a part of their history and a current reality of this historical time period, and longing for deliverance, for the Messiah, was palpable. Many people were looking for a true kingdom to be established upon the arrival of the Jewish Messiah. At this time, it was not yet fully realized by many that God in human flesh, born as an infant, would come for the purpose of one day dying for salvation from sin – Jew and Gentile alike – “once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, to bring [us] to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
But there were a few people that God had given divine insight about the promised Messiah. There is the point in the Christmas story where infant Jesus has already been born. As was customary for Jewish families, His parents “brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22). The verses that follow describe two individuals who have lived their lives looking for the coming Messiah, “the Lord’s Christ,” and devoting themselves entirely to serving God (Luke 2:25-38). Their names are Simeon and Anna.
Simeon is described as a man who “was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Christ (v. 26). When Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus into the temple to present Him to the Lord, Simeon was there in the temple. He took baby Jesus in his arms and praised God saying, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of [or ‘in the sight of’] all peoples…” (Luke 2:29-31)
Anna was an elderly woman “who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Luke explains that when Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus were in the temple, she too came “in that instant [and] gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (v. 37b-38).
When I read these passages from Luke 2, I am almost overwhelmed by the looking, the longing, and the wholeheartedness of both Simeon and Anna. It was not purely out of duty or temple traditions of the time but out of a deep love for the Lord that they oriented their entire selves around serving Him and looking for HIM, the Lord’s Christ (v. 26).
LOOKING UNTO JESUS
We as Christians today, who have been saved from our sins by grace through faith in Jesus, have, in a sense “found Jesus.” Do we, like Simeon and Anna, need to still be “looking for Him?” Actually, the themes of looking, and of seeking, are emphasized again and again in the Bible. Let’s take a look at several of those Scriptures together:
Heb. 12:1-2…Throw off everything that hinders…looking unto Jesus!
James 1…Seeking God’s wisdom and growing in maturity.
Phil. 1:27, 2:14-16…Standing fast; striving; shining like stars in the universe as we hold fast to the Word of life – these words are consuming words, ones of intentional living, pursuing, and living out a holy calling.
Psalm 119:2…“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!”
Psalm 119:10-11…“With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
Psalm 119:16…“I will meditate on Your precepts and look into Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statues; I will not forget Your word.”
The story of Jesus’ birth is filled with people who were seekers, looking for Jesus and the fulfillment of the promises of God – the shepherds, wise men, Simeon, Anna, even Mary and Joseph. As these Scriptures demonstrate, we, too, are called to be a seekers, “looking unto Jesus” in all that we do through the work of Christ in us. We can do this by being obedient to the Word of God, to spend time in relationship with Him, and to do everything as unto Him!
Some practical ways to look to Him in our everyday lives are to serve others as unto the Lord (Matthew 25:34-40), to work heartily as “for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23), and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” each day with His help and grace (Romans 13:14). As we look unto Jesus, even amidst the many demands, distractions, and the ups and downs of life, He will graciously and lovingly guide, mold, and direct us according to His plans and purposes from the inside out – and to His glory!
LONGING BECAUSE OF LOVE
As we have seen together, the Bible emphasizes over and over again how we are to be looking unto Jesus and seeking Him in all that we do. But there is one more kind of “looking” that we as Christians are to grow in. Let’s revisit Simeon and Anna in the temple once more. In one sense, we as Christians do not need to be looking as they did for His arrival because His death and resurrection have already been accomplished! But there is also a second arrival that the Bible speaks of:
2 Timothy 4:6-8…Keeping the faith…loving Jesus and longing for His appearing!
2 Peter 3:10-14…”What manner of persons” ought we to be in “holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth…therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things…”; being diligent as we look forward to these things.
In our time here on this earth, we are to grow in longing “for His appearing.” As 2 Peter 3 reminds us, “what manner of persons” we are to be in “holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God”! Let us not forget that this world is temporary – one day, we will actually be with our Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 describes the second coming of Christ saying, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” One day, we will physically be with our Lord! The closer we draw to Him in our time here on earth, the more we will grow in our longing to actually be with Him. This world is temporary, but our home with the Lord is eternal.
In closing, our response to the salvation we have through the work of Jesus Christ ought to be one of a seeking heart, a looking heart, a fully-surrendered heart. Like the examples of Simeon and Anna, does your life demonstrate that you long for Him not just because of duty but because of love? Let’s take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them upon Jesus and growing in our longing for Him. Take some time this week (even today!) to consider what it means to be “looking” unto Jesus Christ each day as the Author and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2), experiencing His great love, and assured that “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
TIME TO REFLECT
1. Take some time to reflect honestly with the Lord about today’s devotion topic. What is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?
2. Revisit today’s Scripture passages. What do these verses teach us? How do they change things? (i.e. The way that we live? What we live for? Our experience of God?)
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This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.