The world is looking for a saviour. The Canadian musician, Lights, expresses this in the lyrics of her song, ‘Saviour’:
‘The night is deafening,
When the silence is listening,
And I’m down on my knees,
And I know that something is missing…
Sooner than later, I’ll need a saviour,
I’ll need a saviour...
‘Lecrae’ (Moore), is a rapper, entrepreneur, record-producer and actor. He speaks for many of us when he says, ‘I’m not a Christian because I’m strong and have it all together. I’m a Christian because I’m weak and admit I need a saviour.’
The amazing truth of Christianity is that in Jesus you do have a saviour. How should you respond to this extraordinary good news?
1 Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and armour;
arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Say to me,
“I am your salvation. ”
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, Lord?
Call out to God your Saviour
At any time, you can call out to God for help.
Life is a battle. If we fly God’s flag, there are bound to be those who will be out to get us. David prays that God would contend with those who contend against him (v.1a).
He prays, ‘Fight against those who fight against me… arise and come to my aid… Say to me, “I am your salvation”’ (vv.1b–3). Or as The Message puts it, ‘Reassure me; let me hear you say, “I’ll save you.”’ (v.3, MSG).
When you are under attack it is easy to feel that it must be your fault. But twice David repeats that their desire to trap him is ‘without cause’ (v.7). Sometimes you may face opposition not because you are doing something wrong but because you are doing something right. David prays to God to rescue him: ‘then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation’ (v.9).
Your enemies may be stronger than you. David faced ‘hecklers’, ‘bullies’ and ‘thugs try\[ing\] to knife \[him\] in the back’ (vv.1,4, MSG). But God is the Saviour who rescues and ‘protects the unprotected’ (v.10b, MSG).
God’s ultimate rescue is the salvation that is in Jesus. I love the song written by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan that celebrates this salvation. Let’s use these words as prayer and worship:
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout... 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.
40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Look to Jesus as your Saviour
Jesus is the Saviour of the world. The angel had announced the birth of a ‘Saviour’ (2:11). In this passage we see how on the eighth day he was named ‘Jesus’ which means ‘the Lord saves’.
His parents take him to Jerusalem ‘to present him to the Lord’ and ‘to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord’ (vv.22–24). Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of all the offerings and sacrifices we read about in the Old Testament.
1. Look to Jesus to receive peace
Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and says to the Lord, ‘My eyes have seen your salvation’ (v.30). To see Jesus is to see salvation. Seeing Jesus gives Simeon ‘peace’ (v.29b).
2. Look to Jesus to see what God is like
Jesus is a light that reveals God. He is ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’ (v.32a). It is impossible to know God unless he reveals himself to us. Yet God has done just that in Jesus. Jesus shows us what God is like. Jesus said, ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the father’ (John 14:9). Jesus fully reveals God for everyone.
3. Look to Jesus for grace and truth
Jesus is a light who brings glory: ‘the glory of your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32b). The word ‘glory’ speaks of God’s excellence, beauty, greatness and perfection. God is glorious. Israel had glory because God had lived among them, first in the tabernacle in the desert (as written about in today’s Old Testament passage), and then in the temple in Jerusalem.
With Jesus, Israel came to see God’s glory in its truest and fullest sense. As John writes of Jesus, ‘We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14b). Jesus brings glory to Israel and to us, because Jesus is God coming to live among us.
Tragically though, many people reject the revelation and glory of God that we see in Jesus. Simeon prophesies about this, ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed’ (Luke 2:34–35).
Being so closely associated with Jesus brings great blessing but also suffering. Maybe you have a family member, close friend, or someone else you really care about who is either antagonistic to Jesus or simply not interested. When we see people reject Jesus we get a tiny glimpse of what Mary must have experienced: ‘And a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (v.35).
This great suffering of Mary lay in the future. In the meantime, she had the joy of seeing Jesus growing up and becoming ‘strong’. ‘He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him’ (v.40). ‘Wisdom’ and ‘grace’ are characteristics of the Saviour that we should seek to imitate in our own lives.
1 When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils.
10 When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar.
Worship the Saviour of the world
Many new parents have a deep sense that God has given them their baby, but it must have been even more so for Mary and Joseph that day in the temple as they gave back to God the miracle baby he had given them.
The birth of Jesus the Saviour was the most momentous event in history. Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and says, ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations’ (Luke 2:30–31). Perhaps it is not surprising that the prophecies and preparations for the coming of Jesus were so extraordinarily detailed and elaborate.
In this section of the book of Numbers we discover how the Tabernacle service was inaugurated (Numbers 7:1 – 10:10). We read of each of the tribes making a voluntary offering. Each gave an equal share. They were given to God (through his servant Moses). The whole people of God were involved in the inauguration of the tabernacle.
At first this passage might seem like needless technicalities for the modern reader. Yet, the presentation of extravagant gifts to God in the Tabernacle (Numbers 7) is so beautifully mirrored by the presentation of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22). This Old Testament passage is not merely a bit of ancient accountancy.
The occasion for these lavish gifts is the completion and dedication of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was the symbolic place of God’s presence with his people. The people give as a response to God’s grace and presence among them. Their gifts are an expression of worship and thanksgiving to the saviour.
At the same time, though, these gifts are also part of the preparations for the final dedication of the tabernacle. They are making it fit for the presence of God. The elaborate preparations, the extravagance of the gifts, and the detail with which the writer records them, all point to what an amazing blessing it was for the Israelites to have the presence of God in their midst.
All the offerings and sacrifices in the Law of Moses were but preparation and a foreshadowing of the birth and death of the Saviour. The tabernacle pointed forward to something even greater. No longer does God dwell in a tent in our midst, he has come to live among us as one of us. Jesus is consecrated according to the Law, but he would go on to fulfil the Law’s very purpose (vv.22–24a): ‘When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord…’ (v.39a).
Many years later, Jesus the Saviour abolished the need for all the offerings and sacrifices of the Old Testament through the sacrifice of his body ‘once for all’ (see Hebrews 10:1–10).
No wonder that when Simeon realised the baby in his arms was the Saviour of the world, he ‘praised God’ (Luke 2:28). Anna likewise ‘gave thanks to God’ (v.38). Jesus the Saviour is the focus of all our praise and thanksgiving.
I love the words of another song, this one written by Ben Cantelon, which are an appropriate response in prayer and worship to everything we have read today about Jesus the Saviour:
There is nothing a parent likes more than to hear their child being praised. They must have been so thrilled, and maybe a little amazed, by the extraordinary prophecies given by Simeon and Anna. But, there is also nothing more painful than to see your child suffer; ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (v.35b). They were going to go through so much, but when the big picture was revealed it would all have been worthwhile.
Verse of the Day
Pray today to be ‘… filled with wisdom, and the grace of God…’
Thought for the Day
‘I’m not a Christian because I’m strong and have it all together. I’m a Christian because I’m weak and admit I need a saviour.’
– Lecrae, rapper and actor
Action for the Day
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Ben Cantelon, ‘Saviour of the World’. From Everything in Colour, 2010 Thankyou Music/Adm. by Capitol CMG Publishing excl. UK & Europe, adm. By Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, [email protected].
Lecrae, @lecrae on Twitter, 23 August 2012, https://twitter.com/lecrae/status/238677876927504386 [last accessed February 2016] Lights, ‘Saviour’, from The Listening ℗ 2009 Sire Records for the U.S. and WEA International Inc. for the world outside the U.S. Marketed by Warner Bros. Records Inc., A Warner Music Group Company. Songwriters Salter, Thomas / Poxleitner, Valerie. Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC Reuben Morgan, Ben Fielding, ‘Mighty to Save’, Music and lyrics by Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding, © Hillsong Music Publishing Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790. Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.