Those Who Wait for the Consolation of Israel (Luke 2:8-38; Matthew 2:1-12)
The Messianic Expectation
Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius state that there was general expectancy over the East that the time for the Messiah to appear was at hand. (Halley) This messiah is believed to be the redeemer of the Jews or Israel. The title ‘messiah’ (John 1:41) is derived from the Greek Μεσσίαϛ (messee’-as) from the Hebrew Mashiach meaning the anointed or Christ. (Strong-Lite) The Jews were eagerly waiting for the coming of this Messiah.
The messianic expectation among the Jewish community of faith can be traced back to God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:1-17. In relation to God’s promise of one day “Blessing All Nations” through the family of David, it was made clear that “the way the family of David would bless the world would be through ONE GREAT KING who would one day be born in Family, who would himself personally LIVE FOREVER, and establish a KINGDOM of ENDLESS DURATION.” (Halley) Halley have written a long list of ‘promises that David’s Family should reign forever over God’s people’ climaxing in the birth of Jesus Christ as announced by the angel Gabriel to a virgin named Mary of Nazareth (Read Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan Publishing House):
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33 NIV).[Read.. The Announcement to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)]
Included in the list is the prophecy of Isaiah,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11: 1,10 NIV)
The description given in this prophecy fits that of the Messiah. Though some may view it as referring to a great foreign ruler or conqueror, however, the words used here imply that the ‘child’ or the ‘Branch’ would be more than human.
Here are some of those who waited for the Consolation of Israel
Aside from the families of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Mary who were all righteous and faithful, there were a bunch of equally faithful Jews and wise Gentiles who were waiters for the consolation of Israel.
The shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). These shepherds were not just the ones who first received the news of the birth of the Messiah, they were among those who are expecting his birth. They were also the first to spread the news, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:17-18, NIV) Thus, they can be recognized as the first evangelists.
Simeon (Luke 2:25-35). Luke’s description of Simeon says it all, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” (25-26) He presented the child Jesus in the temple and in his prayer he recognized the child was the Messiah. (29-32).
Anna (Luke 2:36-38). She was a prophetess and was very old. She spent her days worshipping and praying in the Temple. She stood by Simeon and witnessed the presentation of the child Jesus and for her part, she uttered a sort of annotation to Simeon’s prayer. That is, she echoed Simeon’s words to those “who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (v.38 NIV) “There was evidently a group of such spirits that gathered in the temple either men around her and Simeon or whom she met from time to time. There was thus a nucleus of old saints in Jerusalem prepared for the coming Messiah when he at last appears as the Messiah in Jerusalem.” (RWP)
The Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12). Matthew reports that these wise men were from the East, thus they were Gentiles. As mentioned above, there was a prevalent expectation over the East that the time for the coming of the Messiah is drawing near. “They were learned men of the Eastern nations, devoted to astronomy, to religion, and to medicine. They were held in high esteem by the Persian court, were admitted as counsellors, and followed the camps in war to give advice.” (Barnes) As astronomers, they knew that the Messiah was about to be born in Jerusalem through the appearance of a star. So they set out and traveled a long way that when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were sure that the Messiah whom they called “King of the Jews”, has been born. Their visit brought danger to the child Jesus because of Herod but was thwarted by Divine intervention.
The Messianic expectation indeed, spread far beyond the borders of Israel to as far as the East. Moreover, the presence of these people was enough to stir not just the Temple, but the entire city which in turn, was enough to call the attention of the people in Jerusalem that the Messiah they were expecting has arrived.
Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. Minnesota: USA: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.
MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2018. For Barnes and RWP)
Bible Gateway. www.biblegateway.com