When have you had to wait for God to act in your life?
In the Bible, prophets are both truth-tellers and fortune-tellers. They speak the truth about the world and predict the consequences of the problems they see. Prophets include not only men such as Isaiah but women as well: The Book of Judges says that Deborah was both “a prophet” and “a leader of Israel” (Judges 4:4).
In the 20th century, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., acted like a biblical prophet when he spoke the truth about racism and aroused the conscience of our nation. He was determined to make America what it ought to be, and he looked to the future with hope, trusting God to act.
Anna was a prophet in first-century Jerusalem who “never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37). Simeon “eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (verses 25-26). Both saw the truth about the world and trusted God to work for a better future.
One day, Simeon was led by the Spirit into the temple area, and he saw the baby Jesus and his parents. Taking Jesus in his arms, Simeon praised God, saying, “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation” (verses 29-30). Anna also saw Jesus as a fulfillment of prophecy and “began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (verse 38).
Both Simeon and Anna waited a long time for God to act in their lives, but their faith and patience was rewarded. They were able to see Jesus with their own eyes, and know that God’s salvation had arrived. But conflict can arise when God’s work is done, since the powers of the world tend to resist the values of God’s kingdom. “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition,” said Simeon to Mary (verse 34).
Prophets face opposition in America as well. “I’ve seen the Promised Land,” said Dr. King. “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” The day after he spoke these prophetic words, King was assassinated. He dared to speak the truth about racial injustice, and lost his life as a result. But since he showed us his vision, we have all moved closer to the Promised Land.
God of the prophets, help me to see you at work, and to follow where you lead. Amen.