Today we ponder prayerfully an aspect of this weeks story that is not immediately obvious to us, which is prophecy fulfillment. Unless one has an eidetic memory and has read all of the Psalms, it is easy to miss the fact that Luke tells the story of Simeon in order to proclaim that ancient prophecies are being fulfilled. In Psalm 68:31, the writer describes the coming of God’s Reign on earth in terms of the people of Cush (Ethiopians) bringing gifts. In other words, part of God’s mission is not just to restore Israel but to gather people from all over the world to worship. It is a prophecy in which all the world is rescued from sin and injustice and made one, unified and peaceful people. Luke seems to suggest that in the baptism of Simeon, we see the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy.
You may recall that I am not a proponent of understanding prophecy as the ability to predict the future. What was radical and important about the prophets such as Isaiah, Micah, and Joel was their wisdom in applying God’s will to current events of the day and courage to speak uncomfortable truth to powerful elites. I stand by that interpretation of prophecy. But in this weeks story, Luke’s prophecy more closely conforms to the prediction of the future.
The problem with understanding prophecy as future prediction is that in practice this does not inspire the believer to acts of justice or compassion. Instead, we become fixated upon who is right and who is wrong and begin judging one another as we argue about correctness. It also can lead to the creation of cult of personality in which one teacher proclaims to have the correct interpretation. None of this happens in Luke’s usage of prophecy as future prediction and fulfillment. Instead, Luke uses the fulfillment of prophecy to open the hearts and minds of the believer so as to see that God is working to bring about the Kingdom. It serves as a proclamation. What God has promised to do, dwell among us, liberate us, gather us together in unity, is indeed happening. And it also invites us into that mission. What God has said God would do, we are invited to participate in.
In this way, Luke uses prophecy to remind us that following Christ is the acceptance of a mission. We do not have faith for our own benefit, but faith is given to us so that God reign of justice and peace will be brought to the earth.