Redemption in the Midst of Oppression
We live in a very hot political climate today. With an upcoming presidential election, all sorts of social issues up for debate, only eight Justices on the Supreme Court, and a nervous and divided electorate, tempers are flaring and we are looking anywhere for help: to Fox News, to MSNBC, to our friends, or to anyone who seems to have a better grip on the whole situation than us. We can sense the discontent in the air, and it feels like things are only going to get worse from here. People feel as though their voices are not being heard and that has been a source of great frustration.
That was very much the same political climate of Israel during the time of Christ. The political climate was probably even hotter then than it is today. The Jewish people had seen a long line of power hungry leaders come and go. Some worse than others, but all bad. The government was taking steps that increasingly insulted Jewish traditions and beliefs, entering the temple and removing the high priests at a whim. Even their religious leaders were swept up in the political corruptness of the day. They were without a voice, and, as a result, revolted in 66 A.D.
Those political issues ended up serving as a huge stumbling block for the first century Jews. They were so caught up in waiting for deliverance from Roman oppression that they missed the bigger issue. They missed the Savior they were waiting for.
“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” (Acts 3:18 ESV) We see the apostles sharing that same message over and over again, affirming that God foretold that His Messiah would suffer and die. They did this because everyone was expecting a conquering messiah, not a redeeming one, and when Christ entered triumphally into Jerusalem and did not overthrow the Romans, the people rejected and crucified Him in their blindness. They made up excuse after excuse for why this could not possibly be the One so that they could hold out hope for a ‘proper’ King of the Jews.
They were so caught up in the oppression that they forgot that there was a bigger problem. A bigger oppression. A bigger promise. God was sending someone to save them from their sins, not from those that reigned over them. Christ, Himself, said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36 ESV) Christ did not come to save us from the world but to give us the right to become children of God. There were much bigger things at hand than the Jews could understand.
So what about us? How are our preconceptions about how we think God should be working obscuring our view of His real work? We each have our own individual oppressions that we deal with every day, a bad work environment, a broken family, an ailing loved one, but what if God has not sent Christ into that area of our lives to conquer but to redeem. We can not allow ourselves to get so caught up in our ‘Roman oppressions’ that we miss what Christ has really come to cure. We must look past those things and let God reveal to us what He has come to do.
God provides us with two great examples of that kind of living and the blessings it brings about: Simeon and Anna. In deep contrast with the rest of Israel, these two understood what the Messiah’s purpose was. Simeon was described as “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him,” (Luke 2:25 ESV) and Anna, as “not depart[ing] from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:37 ESV) The first thing to note is that they were both very devout, being with God whenever they possibly could. In order to hear what God truly desires, over all of the noise of what other people say He should be doing, we need to make ourselves available. We need to come into His temple night and day with worship, prayer, and fasting so that when He desires to speak, we are around to hear it. As a result of this kind of living, God revealed to them both what He was about to do through the messiah, and blessed them in allowing them to see it. Simeon praises the Lord in while holding Christ,
“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.” (Luke 2:29-30)
Just a few verses later he says, “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,” (Luke 2:34-35) thereby predicting that Christ would save all people, both Jews and Gentiles, but also predicting His death and what it would bring about. During this time, Anna also sees Jesus and begins praising God and telling all that would hear that Israel’s Redemption was at hand.
So, let us pray that God would work in us in the same way He worked in Simeon and Anna. To make our hearts open to whatever work He is doing. That we would not serve our own needs, but His. That the political climate of our culture and our lives would not eclipse His beautiful work. There are far greater things than the Roman oppression, in fact, we should be grateful for it, for it serves as the backdrop for our glorious redemption
All glory be to Christ,
“In Him, we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of his graces.”
Ephesians 1:7 ESV
I pray that you all have a blessed Sunday! Go to church and fellowship with friends and family. I will be back Monday with another new topic. God Bless!