ABOUT forty days after the birth of Christ,
Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, and to offer sacrifice.
This was according to the Jewish law, and as man's substitute Christ must conform to the
law in every particular. He had already been subjected to the rite of circumcision, as a
pledge of His obedience to the law.
As an offering for the
mother, the law required a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon
or a turtledove for a sin offering. But the law provided that if the parents were too poor
to bring a lamb, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering, the
other for a sin offering, might be accepted.
The offerings presented to
the Lord were to be without blemish. These offerings represented Christ, and from this it
is evident that Jesus Himself was free from physical deformity. He was the "lamb
without blemish and without spot." 1 Peter 1:19. His physical structure was not
marred by any defect; His body was strong and healthy. And throughout His lifetime He
lived in conformity to nature's laws. Physically
as well as spiritually, He was an example
of what God designed all humanity to be through obedience to His laws.
The dedication of the
first-born had its origin in the earliest times. God had promised to give the First-born
of heaven to save the sinner. This gift was to be acknowledged in every household by the
consecration of the first-born son. He was to be devoted to the priesthood, as a
representative of Christ among men.
In the deliverance of Israel
from Egypt, the dedication of the first-born was again commanded. While the children of
Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians, the Lord directed Moses to go to Pharaoh, king of
Egypt, and say, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even My first-born: and I say
unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold,
I will slay thy son, even thy first-born." Ex. 4:22, 23.
Moses delivered his message;
but the proud king's answer was, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to
let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go." Ex. 5:2. The Lord
worked for His people by signs and wonders, sending terrible judgments upon Pharaoh. At
length the destroying angel was bidden to slay the first-born of man and beast among the
Egyptians. That the Israelites might be spared, they were directed to place upon their
doorposts the blood of a slain lamb. Every house was to be marked, that when the angel
came on his mission of death, he might pass over the homes of the Israelites.
After sending this judgment
upon Egypt, the Lord said to Moses, "Sanctify unto Me all the first-born, . . . both
of man and of beast: it is Mine;" "for on the day that I smote all the
first-born in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto Me all the first-born in Israel, both man
and beast: Mine shall they be: I am the Lord." Ex. 13:2; Num. 3:13. After the
tabernacle service was established, the Lord chose the tribe of Levi in the place of the
first-born of all Israel to minister in the sanctuary. But the first-born were still to be
regarded as the Lord's, and were to be bought back by a ransom.
Thus the law for the
presentation of the first-born was made particularly significant. While it was a memorial
of the Lord's wonderful deliverance of the children of Israel, it prefigured a greater
deliverance, to be wrought out by the only-begotten Son of God. As the blood sprinkled on
the doorposts had saved the first-born of Israel, so the blood of Christ has power to save
What meaning then was
attached to Christ's presentation! But the priest did not see through the veil; he did not
read the mystery beyond. 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 priests 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
The priest went through the
ceremony of his official work. He took the child in his arms, and held it up before the
altar. After handing it back to its mother, he inscribed the name "Jesus" on the
roll of the first-born. 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. But One greater than Moses lay in the priest's arms; and when he enrolled the
child's name, he was enrolling the name of One who was the foundation of the whole Jewish
economy. That name was to be its death warrant; for the system of sacrifices and offerings
was waxing old; the type had almost reached its antitype, the shadow its substance.
The Shekinah had departed
from the sanctuary, but in the Child of Bethlehem was veiled the glory before which angels
bow. This unconscious babe was the promised seed, to whom the first altar at the gate of
Eden pointed. This was Shiloh, the peace giver. It was He who declared Himself to Moses as
the I am. It was He who in the pillar of cloud and of fire had been the guide of Israel.
This was He whom seers had long foretold. He was the Desire of all nations, the Root and
the Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star. The name of that helpless little
babe, inscribed in the roll of Israel, declaring Him our brother, was the hope of fallen
humanity. The child for whom the redemption money had been paid was He who was to pay the
ransom for the sins of the whole world. He was the true "high priest over the house
of God," the head of "an unchangeable priesthood," the intercessor
"the right hand of the Majesty on high." Heb. 10:21; 7:24; 1:3.
Spiritual things are
spiritually discerned. In the temple the Son of God was dedicated to the work He had come
to do. The priest looked upon Him as he would upon any other child. But though he neither
saw nor felt anything unusual, God's act in giving His Son to the world was acknowledged.
This occasion did not pass without some recognition of Christ. "There was a man in
Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the
Consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by
the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ."
As Simeon enters the temple,
he sees a family presenting their first-born son before the priest. Their appearance
bespeaks poverty; but Simeon understands the warnings of the Spirit, and he is deeply
impressed that the infant being presented to the Lord is the Consolation of Israel, the
One he has longed to see. To the astonished priest, Simeon appears like a man enraptured.
The child has been returned to Mary, and he takes it in his arms and presents it to God,
while a joy that he has never before felt enters his soul. As he lifts the infant Saviour
toward heaven, he says, "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
The spirit of prophecy was
upon this man of God, and while Joseph and Mary stood by, wondering at his words, he
blessed them, and said unto Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising
again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall
pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
Anna also, a prophetess, came
in and confirmed Simeon's testimony concerning Christ. As Simeon spoke, her face lighted
up with the glory of God, and she poured out her heartfelt thanks that she had been
permitted to behold Christ the Lord.
These humble worshipers had
not studied the prophecies in vain. But those who held positions as rulers and priests in
Israel, though they too had before them the precious utterances of prophecy, were not
walking in the way of the Lord, and their eyes were not open to behold the Light of life.
So it is still. Events upon
which the attention of all heaven is centered are undiscerned, their very occurrence is
unnoticed, by religious leaders, and worshipers in the house of God. Men acknowledge
Christ in history, while they turn away from the living Christ. Christ in His word calling
to self-sacrifice, in the poor and suffering who plead for relief, in the righteous cause
that involves poverty and toil and reproach, is no more readily received today than He was
eighteen hundred years ago.
Mary pondered the broad and
far-reaching prophecy of Simeon. As she looked upon the child in her arms, and recalled
the words spoken by the shepherds of Bethlehem, she was full of grateful joy and bright
hope. Simeon's words called to her mind the prophetic utterances of Isaiah: "There
shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. . .
. And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His
reins." "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that
dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. . . . For unto
us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder:
and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace." Isa. 11:1-5; 9:2-6.
Yet Mary did not understand
Christ's mission. Simeon had prophesied of Him as a light to lighten the Gentiles, as well
as a glory to Israel. Thus the angels had announced the Saviour's birth as tidings of joy
to all peoples. God was seeking to correct the narrow, Jewish conception of the Messiah's
work. He desired men to behold Him, not merely as the deliverer of Israel, but as the
Redeemer of the world. But many years must pass before even the mother of Jesus would
understand His mission.
Mary looked forward to the
Messiah's reign on David's throne, but she saw not the baptism of suffering by which it
must be won. Through Simeon it is revealed that the Messiah is to have no unobstructed
passage through the world. In the words to Mary, "A sword shall pierce through thy
own soul also," God in His tender mercy gives to the mother of Jesus an intimation of
the anguish that already for His sake she had begun to bear.
had said, "this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for
a sign which shall be spoken against."
They must fall who would rise again. We must
fall upon the Rock and be broken before we can be uplifted in Christ. Self must be
dethroned, pride must be humbled, if we would know the glory of the spiritual kingdom. The
Jews would not accept the honor that is reached through humiliation. Therefore they would
not receive their Redeemer. He was a sign that was spoken against.
"That the thoughts of
many hearts may be revealed." In the light of the Saviour's life, the hearts of all,
even from the Creator to the prince of darkness, are revealed. Satan has represented God
as selfish and oppressive, as claiming all, and giving nothing, as requiring the service
of His creatures for His own glory, and making no sacrifice for their good. But the gift
of Christ reveals the Father's heart. It testifies that the thoughts of God toward us are
"thoughts of peace, and not of evil." Jer. 29:11. It declares that while God's
hatred of sin is as strong as death, His love for the sinner is stronger than death.
Having undertaken our redemption, He will spare nothing, however dear, which is necessary
to the completion of His work. No truth essential to our salvation is withheld, no miracle
of mercy is neglected, no divine agency is left unemployed. Favor is heaped upon favor,
gift upon gift. The whole treasury of heaven is open to those He seeks to save. Having
collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He
gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, All these are for man. Use these gifts
to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven. His greatest
happiness will be found in loving Me.
At the cross of Calvary, love
and selfishness stood face to face. Here was their crowning manifestation. Christ had
lived only to comfort and bless, and in putting Him to death, Satan manifested the
malignity of his hatred against God. He made it evident that the real purpose of his
rebellion was to dethrone God, and to destroy Him through whom the love of God was shown.
By the life and the death of
Christ, the thoughts of men also are brought to view. From the manger to the cross, the
life of Jesus was a call to self-surrender, and to fellowship in suffering. It unveiled
the purposes of men. Jesus came with the truth of heaven, and all who were listening to
the voice of the Holy Spirit were drawn to Him. The worshipers of self belonged to Satan's
kingdom. In their attitude toward Christ, all would show on which side they stood. And
thus everyone passes judgment on himself.
In the day of final judgment,
every lost soul will understand the nature of his own rejection of truth. The cross will
be presented, and its real bearing will be seen by every mind that has been blinded by
transgression. Before the vision of Calvary with its mysterious Victim, sinners will stand
condemned. Every lying excuse will be swept away. Human apostasy will appear in its
heinous character. Men will see what their choice has been. Every question of truth and
error in the long-standing controversy will then have been made plain. In the judgment of
the universe, God will stand clear of blame for the existence or continuance of evil. It
will be demonstrated that the divine decrees are not accessory to sin. There was no defect
in God's government, no cause for disaffection. When the thoughts of all hearts shall be
revealed, both the loyal and the rebellious will unite in declaring, "Just and true
are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?
. . . for Thy judgments are made manifest." Rev. 15:3, 4.