And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel."
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (ESV)
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Caught and Not Caught
The Presentation of our Lord
2 February 2015
It seemed like a good idea when a policeman pulling second shift decided that he'd stretch out in the back seat of his police cruiser and take a little nap during his break. He fell right asleep, and slept well. When he woke up he remembered a funny thing about the back seat of police cars. The doors don't open from the inside. Sometimes people are too clever by half. They are caught by their own good plans, which don't work out so well. I had planned to use PowerPoint to make a presentation on the church's lectionary in Bible class on Sunday. However, I was thwarted by the technology that suffered a delaying glitch. So I had to ad lib the first part of the presentation without the visuals. It would have been better if I had not depended on the technology, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We can be thwarted by our own craftiness.
Our heavenly Father thwarts the worldly wise by catching them in their own craftiness (1Co 3:19). The story of Haman in the Old Testament book of Esther certainly falls into this category. Haman plotted an ancient Kristallnacht for the Jews of Persia to destroy them. However, his wicked plan was turned back upon him when Esther, having found favor in his eyes, begged King Ahasuerus for her life and the life of her people. The very slaughter Haman had planned for the Jews was visited upon his own head. "For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them. But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows" (Est 9:24-25). His wicked plan not only failed but was the source of his own miserable demise. If God's wise foolishness will not suffice, then your own foolish wisdom will have to do; and with predictable results. If God's strong weakness is not good enough for you, then your own weak strength will be just enough.
Yet, we find ourselves easily enamored of the world's wisdom. Look how powerful it is! Worldly wisdom has now produced a super computer that can defeat the Jeopardy champions. Soon they will say that Alex Trebek could be replaced by a computer! Worldly wisdom has created such beautiful people with plastic surgery and airbrushing that we doubt their reality, but still we are enamored of such persons, listening to their empty-headed advice and buying the worthless products for which they are shills. This kind of brilliance is not wisdom. This kind of beauty is quite shallow. Yet, in our spiritual laxity we are attracted by it and trapped by it. We can't recognize its poverty and weakness by ourselves. God, in His true wisdom must warn us of its empty power and discourage our following it. Only the divine Word can disclose the true meaning of the world's wisdom because it is the divine speech. Only the Lord's Word has the power to call a thing what it is; to call worldly wisdom foolishness. Only He rightly knows the foolishness of the seeming wise; and calls it futile. This Word must catch us if we are to avoid being caught by our own craftiness. Only the Lord Jesus Himself can catch us so that we are not caught.
"Paul urged people to withdraw themselves from worldly wisdom. He adds the reason, saying, 'For the wisdom of this world is folly with God' (1Co 3:19). For it not only contributes nothing, but it even hinders. We must then withdraw ourselves from it, because it is doing harm. Paul carries off the spoils of victory with a high hand, having proven that, so far from benefiting us at all, worldly wisdom is diametrically opposed to the faith.
"He is not content with his own arguments, but he has also added testimony: 'For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness"' (Job 5:13). By 'craftiness,' he means their own arms get the better of them. For seeing they made use of their wisdom so that they would do away with all need for God, through this need, and no other thing, He refuted them by showing that they were especially in need of God. How and by what method? Because by human wisdom having become fools, by this worldly wisdom, as was appropriate, they were caught. For those who supposed that they did not need God were reduced to so great a difficulty that they appeared inferior to fishermen and uneducated persons; and from that time forth were unable to do without such people. Therefore he said, 'In their own craftiness' God caught them. For the saying 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,' (1Co 1:19) was spoken to show it introduced nothing useful; but this, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness' was spoken with a view of showing the power of God.
"Next, he declares also the mode by which God caught them, adding another testimony: 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile' (1Co 3:20; cf. Ps 94:11). Now when the Wisdom which is boundless pronounces this edict concerning them, and declares them to be such, what other proof of their extreme foolishness do you need? For human judgment, it is true, in many cases fails; but the decision of God is absolutely beyond our comprehension and is incorruptible."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 10.3
Collect for the Presentation of our Lord
Almighty and ever-living God, your only-begotten Son was presented this day in the temple. May we be presented to you with clean and pure hearts by the same Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For all shut in people, including Reuben Braun, Helen Weaver, Pearl White, Anita Markwardt, Rita Baker, Robert Frerking, and Perry Winslow, that they might know the God who says my yoke is easy and my burden is light
For Paul Lodholz, that he would be strengthened in body and soul as he undergoes cancer therapy at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston
For all musicians, that they might cultivate their gifts for the joy of those who hear them, and the glory of God, who granted them such great gifts
For Archbishop Urmas Viilma of Estonia, who was consecrated today, that the Lord would strengthen him to be the voice of Christ, through faithful to the Word of God
Art: REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn Presentation of Jesus in the Temple 1631
© Scott R. Murray, 2015