In modern America, we think of blessings usually in terms of material wealth, such as money, houses, cars, land, art, jewelry, and stocks and bonds. The young and wealthy, whether of Hollywood, sports fame, business, religion, or in government positions, are viewed as doubly blessed, having both material goods, and youth, which is greatly prized above being middle-aged or elderly.
But not so in the word of God, not so in the case of Simeon and Anna. They were two elderly people in the days of the infant Jesus. They are not as well-known as Moses, King David, Solomon, Queen Esther, Ruth, the 12 disciples, or the apostle Paul. Although no book of the Bible is named after them, yet they were highly favored of God before the ministry of Jesus even began, and before He was raised in Nazareth by His parents.
It was at the dedication of the baby Jesus, when He was about 40 days old, that these two elderly believers in God were blessed. The days of Mary’s purification were ended (See Luke 2:22; Leviticus 12:2–4). So Joseph and Mary “brought Him [Jesus] to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord: (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:22–24).
As we look closer at the sacrifice they brought, we shall discover one reason why the priest in the temple did not discern anything special about Joseph, Mary, or the child Jesus. They brought the offering that was accepted from those too poor to bring a lamb. “And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles [turtledoves], or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean” (Leviticus 12:8).
It is our merciful God that makes provision for the poor to be accepted in presenting a less expensive offering than that of a lamb. Throughout Scripture, we see this mercy and care for the poor displayed time and time again: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus, 19:9, 10).
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus, 23:22).
“When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hath forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19, 20.)
Joseph and Mary were poor, and did not merit any special consideration from the priest. Like so many today, even professed Christians, the priest took notice of people who came to present their children only if they were wealthy or of special rank.
“The presentation of infants was a common scene. Day after day the priest received the redemption money as the babes were presented to the Lord. Day after day he went through the routine of his work, giving little heed to the parents or children, unless he saw some indication of the wealth or high rank of the parents. Joseph and Mary were poor; and when they came with their child, the priest saw only a man and woman dressed as Galileans, and in the humblest garments. There was nothing in their appearance to attract attention, and they presented only the offering made by the poorer classes … .
“Little did he think, as the babe lay in his arms, that it was the Majesty of heaven, the King of glory. The priest did not think that this babe was the One of whom Moses had written, ‘A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you’ (Acts 3:22). He did not think that this babe was He whose glory Moses had asked to see.” The Desire of Ages, 52.
In light of the above paragraph, consider the truth of Peter’s words in Acts 10:34. He stated to Cornelius, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” In its context in Acts, this passage refers to the gospel being preached to the Gentiles also. But based on the passage from The Desire of Ages, it is clearly applicable in all situations of giving out blessings. God does not play favorites arbitrarily as we often do. He does not look on the outward appearance to determine the worthiness of any of His earthly children. He blesses according to the openness of the mind to receive. He looks beyond the outer appearance to the heart.
With these truths understood, we know now why the lowly shepherds in the field were given the blessing that the dignified priest in the temple so sadly missed. Their minds were contemplating the prophecies of the Messiah’s coming. Notice in this next quote from The Desire of Ages, p. 47, who were overlooked by the angels announcing Christ’s birth.
“Above the hills of Bethlehem are gathered an innumerable throng of angels. They wait the signal to declare the glad news to the world. Had the leaders in Israel been true to their trust, they might have shared the joy of heralding the birth of Jesus. But now they are passed by.”
Truth is readily given to those whose hearts are willing to believe. “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground” (Isaiah 44:3). The language of the soul should be, “Oh, to be so in tune with Heaven, that no divine ray of light will pass me by!”
In the temple at the dedication of Jesus, again the ones thirsty for truth were granted the blessed understanding they desired, while the leaders in Israel were passed by. To Simeon, the Holy Spirit had revealed that he should not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law, Then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:27–32).
Simeon was not the only one blessed to realize who Jesus was at the dedication. A faithful widow, 84 years of age, a prophetess, also recognized Him. Her name was Anna, and “she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (verse 38).
May you and I, dear reader, be among the poor in spirit who will receive the blessing of Simeon and Anna when Jesus returns! May we joyfully praise Him then, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us” (Isaiah 25:9).
Patricia J. T. Smith is a second generation Seventh-day Adventist who enjoys sharing the word of God. She likes spending time with family and friends, taking nature walks, rock collecting and reading. She has two adult children and lives in Louisiana with her husband.