Two Elderly Voices

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; And there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age… (Luke 2:25, 36)

Guided by the Holy Spirit, along with his natural medical discipline in details, Luke gives some unique insight into events surrounding the Lord’s birth. In one of these stories he focuses on two interesting people, one a godly old gentleman, the other an aged and saintly widow.

​Who were they and why did he choose these two? What claim to fame could they have had? Why were they important to the Author of Scripture?

Though not too much information is given, there is enough to discern some answers, and then also to see a door of opportunity for us to go through.

Undoubtedly, the two old believers were quite overlooked by the troops of Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers that regularly walked by them at the temple. Interpreting the Law and parsing it down into a multitude of rules and regulations, the religious authorities had little real knowledge of Jehovah.

Entirely unknown to them, this pair of saints, of the common people, had the very ear of God and were privy to some of the most significant news of history.

Of Simeon we know that he loved the Holy Spirit, that with quiet and tireless patience, he waited for Isaiah’s prophesied Counselor of Israel. Once his eyes saw the Child, he was totally ready to die. That Baby, the Christ, who turned simple shepherds and elite magi into worshippers, was all that Simeon wanted to see.

Anna, on the other hand, had presumably led an entirely different life, experiencing the horrible tragedy of early widowhood. But she, like Simeon, possessed an unusual depth of faith.

This faith led her to make an astonishing decision. Instead of griping and moaning about her lot in life, or desperately praying for another husband, she shocked everyone be giving herself to God. And just how did she do that? She attached herself to the temple, and became the cheerful, spiritual encourager of anyone who went in.

And this she did, it appears, for at least 60 years!

These two were brought together by divine appointment to help a young married couple who were walking, as it were, in a dream. Joseph and Mary needed confirmation and support, and God knew exactly how to bring it to them, and who to use.

For the sacred chore He had prepared these two jewels, two seemingly random voices. They would do the job perfectly.

Maybe we should follow Luke’s example, and look around for the unnoticed Simeons and Annas. These are the elderly voices of those far ahead of us in the race, some maybe very close to their earthly finish line. They are men and women with a powerful story to tell, of God’s faithfulness in time and tragedy.

I’m sure you can think of a few names–I can–of silent heroes nearby, who have kept the faith. In many cases their lights are growing dimmer as health issues take a toll. But they will soon hear “Welcome, good and faithful servant” from Him who is the very definition of faithfulness.

To as many of these who may read this article, I say,

“Thank you for being faithful to the end!”

​Dear Father, give me the wisdom to search out these elderly, godly voices, and listen to them. Amen.

Good Eyes and Ears

“Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 12:2)

There was actually nothing wrong with their eyes or ears. Like us, the Israelites were created to spiritually see and hear God. Their problem lay in the deepest part of their being–their hearts.

It is amazing how much we can see and hear from God when we really want to. A simple Bible message from a novice preacher can flood our souls with joy. However, too often we come to the Lord and His Word with hidden reservations. Essentially, we are not totally honest. We know His blessing rests in obeying His Word and we want it. But we hope that we can acquire blessing, at least to some degree, without a complete and unreserved surrender. That very intention is rebellion and renders us blind and deaf to His gifts. We cannot see, hear, or value His goodness.

God made us with the unique ability to perceive Him. For one thing, and unlike animals, our minds can comprehend the concept of time, which opens before us the vast horizon of past and future. From this wider balcony of time, we can in a limited way catch a glimpse of eternity. If we could not calculate in terms of minutes and years, the eternality of God would not make even a lick of sense to us.

Our eyes let us see what He has made and reach conclusions. Our ears hear the Word and allow us to understand even more than what our eyes reveal. But if these two witnesses shout their evidence at a heart that is proud and disobedient they are wasting their breath. A rebellious soul will look at nature and force evolution into it. The same rebel will listen to the Gospel and cry, “Foolishness!” While modern man thinks he is an intelligent observer and listener, he is actually blind and deaf.

Have I ever found it hard to discern the truth in God’s Word? Has my soul remained cool while others shined with zeal for God? Did I blame it on the speaker for not making his sermons more attractive? The problem probably had nothing to do with my eyes or ears, but with the dullness of my heart. When the heart is glazed over with stubbornness, truth will rarely be able to shine in through the two windows of sight and hearing.

Dear Father, rid my heart of every rebellious strain so that my eyes and ears can show me what I am uniquely qualified to see.

Mountain Claiming

“Give me this mountain.” (Joshua 14:12)

Forty-five years before, Caleb had seen a mountain. He and eleven other men had spent forty days in a secret hike through what was then enemy territory. On the trek they had spied on the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites. But what most caught Caleb’s eyes was a mountain where the gigantic sons of Anak lived in fortified cities.

The leader of the reconnaissance party had been Caleb’s friend Joshua. Together they had felt the assurance of the Lord surge in their hearts as they quietly looked upon the doomed enemies. Their souls were alive with the optimism and certainty of a victory guaranteed by their almighty God.

I think Caleb mentioned his particular interest to his partner. Maybe the two of them clasped hands on the idea, prayed together, and praised the Lord for His goodness.

But to their dismay the attitude of their ten friends began to sour. Day after day the tone of conversation became more despondent. What had started out as an exciting adventure was turning into a terrifying nightmare. The overwhelming number of their opponents had chipped away the surface faith of the other men and exposed their unbelief.

All this had happened nearly a half a century before. Now, five years into the Promised Land conquest, Caleb once again set his eyes on the mountain he and Joshua had sighted. The promise God had made to the faithful young spy was alive and healthy in the now old fighter’s mind. Although he had had to wait for an entire generation of Israelites to die off, the Lord had preserved his strength and brought him to this moment. The time was ripe for the fulfillment of his dream.

So Caleb stepped forward to claim his mountain prize. It should not surprise us that Joshua had not forgotten it, nor had God.

It is never fun to watch youthful dreams fade into mist, but the Bible is full of examples of just that. Abraham waited decades for the promised son. Joseph spent years wondering how on earth the bowing sheaves and stars could possibly become a reality. For forty years the shepherd Moses silently grieved over a mission that appeared lost forever.

Using our own mistakes or those of others, God will often weave into our life’s work lengthy seasons of waiting. Do not give in to disheartening thoughts of weakness, age, or liabilities. Stay ready and expectant. And definitely don’t rush matters your own way. Abraham and Moses tried that and both regretted it deeply. When the time is right for us to claim the mountain God has promised us, the wisdom and strength will be there.

Dear Father, it is in me to always want answers right away. I feel like ignorance is necessarily bad, and that if I can’t understand everything around me, I am missing something I deserve. Teach me to relax and trust when dreams seem to fade into the distance. Knowing You is my highest priority and Your will, in Your good time, is all I want. Amen.


“Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;” (1 Chronicles 16:12)

Guess who in the Bible is first said to remember something. God! He remembered Noah who was floating on the flood. Obviously, the verb needs a slightly modified definition when applied to Him, since we can hardly say that He ever forgot anything. But this subject is a fascinating one. Have you ever stopped to ponder the reality of memory?

What a blessing it can be! God is so good to have given us this ability. He could simply have left it out of our makeup, that we not have the capability to rehearse and relish the wonderful experiences of the past. I woke up a little while ago, in the middle of the night, thanks to jet lag. I found myself reliving the many kisses I recently placed on the sweet face of Chloe, our beautiful, brand new grand daughter! She is thousands of miles away now and I can’t go visit her in the morning nor gently rub her soft, fresh cheek . . . But I can savor the experience in my mind, smile, and thank the Lord for the gift of memory.

This verse is part of David’s happy song of praise to God when the Ark was placed in the Tabernacle. It was a personal habit of his to go over and over the wonderful works of his Master, to stop and revel in the truth of divine mercy, and he encourages us to do the same. There is something quite spiritually healthy about it, and it is especially useful in those duller moments of life when we are tempted to despondency or self pity.

Can you remember the moment you put your faith in the Lord Jesus? Pause for a second, and think about it. How about the day you led a soul to Christ? Can you remember a specific moment of divine protection, when you should have been severely injured or died? Can you recall a special incident of financial need when the Lord touched another of His children to come along side of you to meet it? Can you think of a song, sung by a choir or congregation, that sent your soul soaring into the heavenlies? What about the memory of the first time you met your spouse, or gazed at a majestic mountain peak, or held a newborn?

Each of these are treasures God allows to stay in our memory bank. They can be powerful tools of encouragement when put to proper use. Throughout the Scriptures the Lord tells us to pull out these spiritual weapons during key moments of life. We find His people benefitting from this practice as they faced major battles, dark moments of disappointment, or times of confusion.

God has placed eternity in our hearts and part of what that includes is the capacity to remember His marvelous works and bask in the assurance of His grace.

Dear Father, thank You for such a special gift. Help me to recall often those kind gestures You so generously sow along my path. And Lord, thank You for remembering me, every day of my life, even when I have forgotten you. Amen.

The Hidden, Risen Lord

“And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” (Luke 24:15-16)

The two men were thoroughly confused. A week ago they had been part of a growing crowd whose hope was that Jesus of Nazareth was the long awaited Messiah. But that was before the Passover celebrations had begun. Since then everything had taken a horrible turn.

In shock they had listened to the incoming bits and pieces of news until their expectations of victory and kingdom were a heap of dust. The upper room supper, the visit to the Garden, the mob of blood-thirsty men, the nightime arrest and disappearance, the shameful charade between Pilate and the religious leaders, and finally that gory end on the cross. For several days they had stayed in Jerusalem, stunned and groping for answers.

Then on Sunday a ray of hope pierced their dark thoughts as several of the faithful women had reported strange occurrences at the garden tomb. But Peter and John had raced off to check it out, only to return with no sighting of the Lord.

This disappointing report seems to have been the last straw for two of the Lord’s followers. With faces that betrayed their sorrow and crushed dreams, Cleofas and a friend started walking down the road that led to Emmaus.

At some point along the seven mile trip a stranger joined them. They had no idea who He was. They couldn’t have, for this traveler happened to be the very One they were talking about and He had purposely veiled their eyes. But why? One reason was to teach them that their Lord could be very near but be totally invisible to them. This would be especially important in just a few weeks when He left for His Father’s side. For obvious reasons it is also extremely relevant for those of us living in the Church Age.

A couple of interesting events in Scripture come to mind as related to this whole matter of God purposely hiding His person or work. Elisha’s servant in 2 Kings 6 was distraught because he could not see the Lord’s protecting army, but a simple request from the prophet made reality clear to him. Then in John 20 the Lord deliberately visited His followers when Thomas was gone. After he refused to accept his friends’ witness, Thomas received a mild rebuke from Jesus for not believing what he did not see.

And so, with perfect consistency, Christ gently chided this pair as they walked away from Jerusalem: “O fools, and slow of heart.” The rest of His conversation was taken up with explaining to them what the Word had to say about Himself. And that is always the correct place to go when we are uncertain of His presence. The risen, hidden Lord wants us to develop eyes to see Him in the written Truth. The moment He purposefully drops off the radar and we are tempted to fear . . . is when the Bible can come alive to our seeking, hungry hearts.

Dear Father, when I am tempted to doubt Your presence, help me run to Your Word. There, as I open myself to what You say, Your Son will reveal Himself and calm any restlessness of soul. Amen.

The First Obedience

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. . . .
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” (Gen 1:3 & Mat 9:9)

The first to obey God’s voice in the Bible was light . . . or was it nothing?! The actual facts are that God spoke to nothing and told light to exist. Nothing responded, so to speak, and there was light.

Sure, that sounds sort of odd, but by focusing on the creation this way, we are reminded of a very important Biblical truth. God is the One who both speaks and empowers. He is the ultimate reason for every good thing that is ever created or happens. When the Lord spoke to the deaf and dumb void, reality sprung into being.

The process continued after light was created, when the firmament and water appeared, and then dry land showed itself. Next the Lord spoke and all herbs and trees snapped into sight. Then again came the creating Word, and the sun, moon, and stars turned on.

Next in line to respond in obedience to the Maker’s voice were the birds and sea animals, followed by every other living creature on earth. Finally, the culminating moment arrived, though in a curious twist of the pattern, Jehovah did not speak to nothing this time. He picked up some already made dust, personally formed it into a man, and made woman from him.

The entire sequence of creation came about in a chain of perfect obedience to the Words of God.

And how could it be otherwise?

All of this was beautiful and glorious and right. The Creator and His creation communicated in perfect harmony. His speech produced instant fruit.

Part of the mystery and marvel of it all was in the amazing Word that came from God. The sound was directed towards the powerless blank space, which by itself could do nothing. But with the Word came the very power needed for obedience. Ultimately it was all from God!

This perfect formula hasn’t changed over the centuries. The process of faith happens when impotent man hears the Word, and embraces it, knowing that with it comes the power to obey.

He who has ears to hear will pay attention to the Word of God. He will not pretend to have any special ability in himself but will expect to receive it from the very Word he hears. After all, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The Word that was in the beginning, that was with God, and was God, continues to speak through the Scriptures. He calls out to man with words that cannot be misunderstood . . . only disobeyed.

“Follow me.”

How tragic that as far back as Eden man has used his God-given power of choice, to go against the example of light and firmament and tree and sun. The very quality that is our unique crown is turned into a deadly noose.

Today, the same challenge stands. I am not forced to respond correctly, like nature around me. Rather, it is my privilege to obey willingly, with thankfulness, with praise, with awe.

Dear Father, I look to You and want to obey. Help me remember that even as I read Your Word and hear Your voice, You are offering the power to say, “Yes, Lord.” and act. Amen.

War of Words

“They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaketh proud things:” (Psalm 12:2-3)

This twelfth psalm presents a real war of words. The opening statement is a cry for help from the author, describing a desperate situation. As he looked at the culture around him it appeared that true believers were rapidly becoming extinct. Godly people were harder and harder to find, and the company of faithful men was simply disappearing.

David chose to describe the conflict in the colorful arena of speech.

The early verses set the stage and define the two sides. The first protagonists were “every neighbor,” and their weapons, the flexible members inside and outside their mouths. Lips and tongue, each so vital to physical health and intelligent communication, were their supposed instruments of victory. With them they yelled, “Who is lord over us?”

In blatant provocation towards God, they proceeded in jesting, in boasting, and in flattering one another. As often happens, those who had the position and opportunity to do so, ultimately turned their tongues on the poor and needy. Society became one chaotic competition of proud human beings, venting their frustrations at one another and towards heaven.

Does this sound uncomfortably familiar? It is at that point in the song where the Lord breaks in with the words, “Now will I arise.” Then comes a beautiful definition of the other side. God’s words are pure, like the purest silver man can produce.

At first it may sound like odd language to bring into a battle scene, but the logic is as solid as it is eternal. This universe was brought into being and is maintained by the pristine Word of its Creator. There is nothing dirty about it nor does it ever lose control. The Word of God has always been and always will be characterized by beauty and almighty power.

We should not be surprised then, to see that when the incarnation happened the war reached a climactic level. As the Lord moved among enemies, bystanders, and followers, the battle raged with ferocious intensity. And yet, under a depth of pressures we cannot fathom, His speech was always the perfect mix of authority and grace.

What does all this mean for us? As tiny warriors in this same battle, our weapons are of the same nature. The words that shoot out through our lips should be like silver arrows as well. They should reflect the character of our Captain.

Most likely, you and I will converse with someone today. What we say and how we say it will come together to create a message. Every conversation will be part of this age old war between truth and error, a war that first started for us about the time Eve talked with the Snake.

So when we speak, what side of this conflict will we appear to be on?

Dear Father, thank you for making clear the nature of your Word. Thank you for the perfect consistency of your Son when He spoke among men. Help me keep a close watch on my speech today, so I can honor you like I want to, with pure and gracious words.

True Diagnosis

“And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.” (Luke 8:52-53)

As Jesus walked into the house, the mourning party exploded in ridicule. What He had told them concerning the little girl inside sounded preposterous, and they responded in a chorus of irreverent laughter.

However, what an amusing array of expressions they must have displayed a few minutes later as the Lord and His trio of disciples said goodbye to the happy family.

Once again, the Lord’s assessment had been true, though it had made no sense.

Throughout His ministry, the Lord was continually shaking up people’s thoughts about reality.

For centuries the Jews had been without a prophetic word from Heaven, and their faith had all but died. Oh, they had adopted a lifestyle of sacred traditions and rituals inherited from Moses and others, but in every practical aspect of life, the majority lived on a completely horizontal level.

It is not that they openly denied the truths of the Old Testament. They still heard them read at the synagogues and claimed them as their treasure. However, much of that knowledge they stored on the dusty, old shelves of theory.

So deeply was this error entrenched that when the Lord came and actually lived according to those principles, they questioned His sanity. When He gave the true diagnosis, which inevitably was at odds with the interpretations of the day, the atmosphere would turn nasty. A few of the bolder and more humorous ones would start to laugh, soon to be joined by their admirers. Before long the whole bunch would be making fun of Him.

Tragically, few of them ever seemed to realize or admit that they were actually laughing at the facts according to God!

We can learn from their mistakes.

As we read the Bible, the voice of Deity makes statements that are squarely against popular attitudes and philosophies. Faced with these opposing ideas, we have to choose.

Either we listen to the tune of the culture, and move to their side, or we lean our hearts toward the words of the Lord. If we are of those who have ears to hear, His authoritative voice will drown out the cheap cackle of the scorners and our souls will swell in harmony with the majestic symphony of Truth.

Though rarely a large crowd at any given time, the ensemble of true worshippers has a long history, and down through the ages, thousands have joined its ranks.

Earlier in this Gospel, when Luke recorded his investigation into the arrival of Messiah, he revealed evidence that not everyone had been swayed by the mood of unbelief. Even in that dark hour of ignorance, there were still a few who believed the prophets of the Lord, no matter how hopeless the situation looked. Simeon and Anna were two of these, an elderly duet that knew God was always right.

And so each of us faces the choice of every individual of every age: Who will I believe?

Dear Father, You are always right. Even when what You say doesn’t seem to make sense on this sin-cursed earth, Your diagnosis is correct. Help me listen and believe.

Shine Forever!

“And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

When he first heard these words Daniel was an old man, well over 70. He had served his Lord faithfully for nearly sixty years, which in itself was a rare testimony.

Add to this the humiliating details of his circumstances and some of the reasons he is a hero of the faith surface quickly. Yanked out of his home and country as a teenager, made a eunuch and forced to serve pagan kings, he still gave his life to God’s service. Somehow he embraced this graciously as the will of Jehovah for him.

Perhaps as a reward for his special faith, the elderly prophet received some of the most important end time prophecies in all of the Bible. The last one, spanning more than two chapters, ends with this interesting promise: God’s wise children will shine as the stars forever.

By itself that would be a very odd statement. How in the world are faithful believers going to shine as stars? Fortunately, the Holy Spirit gives a number of complementary passages that can shed a little light on the meaning. One of these is in the grand resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. As the apostle is explaining the glories of resurrected bodies, he makes a interesting observation, that at first glance hardly seems to fit the context.

Celestial bodies, he says, are very different one from another. Their individual glory varies immensely, a fact that modern equipment has only helped to confirm. Apparently, no two planets, stars, or galaxies are the same! This, of course, testifies to the infinite wisdom and power of our Creator.

But it does more than that. It also illustrates something about our heavenly future. Just as the expanse above us displays a vast army with different purposes and levels of shining glory, so will the future, eternal universe, teeming with redeemed souls. The Bible clearly teaches that the Lord will determine our eternal ability to shine according to our faith and works in this, our brief stay on earth.

We will all shine! Believers, no matter to what degree they influenced others for righteousness, will glow as stars . . . eternally!

I do not know exactly how this will happen, but God does. He will define it perfectly and make it happen.

But it is also significant that not all will shine with the same radiance. Our proper and never ending reward will be linked to our faithfulness to God right here, right now.

Most of us are familiar with “The just shall live by faith”, and each of us has been given a measure of faith. But do we live by it? Or do we give in to doubts that distract us, waste away our time, and neutralize our spiritual usefulness?

How much of my daily life is really lived by faith in the God I cannot see? Daniel obviously did a pretty good job with his, and he is an inspiration to me.

Dear Father, You have given me so much. You have blessed me in every direction I look. Please help me shine for Your glory here, so I can also be a bright testimony to Your grace for all eternity. Amen.

City Seekers

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13:12-14)

Various cities in the Middle East fuss over which is the most ancient. Among the contenders are cities like Jerusalem, Byblos, Jericho, and Damascus. The debate often spars over definitions involving the claims of uninterrupted habitation, the presence of the oldest ruins, and so forth. Some argue with archeology while others dig up their evidence from the writings of age old historians.

The writer of Hebrews would not have taken sides in this squabble. He had his sights much higher than any earthly city. He had read the Biblical record of city builders like Nimrod, Pharoah, and Nebuchadnezzar. He was not ignorant of the glories of Niniveh, Pithom, and Babylon. However, he was not too impressed with their splendor and power.

All of that dazzle was now sealed and useless in the coffins of history. Yes, they had risen, and they had shined. But, their glory had forever fizzled out.

It was a different class of man and city that caught the author’s eye. These were Old Testament heroes who had shown a distinct aversion to sinking their roots into earthly soil. In one way or another, many of them forfeited temporary homes in favor of deeds to heavenly mansions.

Enoch simply walked away and disappeared.

Noah built a boat and said goodbye to every place he had ever known.

Abraham turned his back on Ur of the Chaldees and headed for the Promised Land, only to keep on living in tents when he arrived.

Moses had grown up in the luxurious palaces of the Nile, yet he voluntarily chose to leave that all behind and take off for the desert with a multitude of complainers. Why? He had discovered that the reward for bearing Christ’s reproach was worth infinitely more than all the treasures of Egypt.

Even Rahab the harlot came to set her priorities by this rule. With no hesitation that we know of, she exchanged her house on the wall for the fantastic, but unknown, inheritance with the children of God.

Yet all of these examples were mere shadows of the Perfect One who would descend into the manger at Bethlehem. This Man ministered for three intense years with less of a home than foxes or birds. At the end of His ministry, He walked right into the heart of Israel’s most important city to be cruelly beaten and shamed . . . but not to die.

He would not even die inside an earthly city.

The anonymous writer of the epistle wants to emphasize his point. Those who name the Name of Christ do not seek permanent residence on earth. They don’t expect to or want to continue here.

So, what do I look for? Are my eyes focused on the stuff of this world? Do I quietly yearn for the stability of the visible, tangible things of this earth? Do I get antsy if others have more, or better, or prettier?

Then maybe I am still seeking a city down here.

Dear Father, open my eyes to see your city. Tune my ears to hear its music and prepare my heart to worship its Builder.