When Mary and Joseph went to the temple in Jerusalem to follow the requirements of the law after the birth of Jesus, they met Simeon, a man who “was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him” (Luke 2:25).
The consolation of Israel refers to the promised Messiah. To console is to alleviate grief or to take away a sense of loss or trouble. The Messiah, the consolation of Israel, was to remove sorrow and comfort the nation. Simeon and generations before him waited for the coming of the One who would console God’s people. Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would take on the ministry of consolation: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for” (Isaiah 40:1–2).
God revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he beheld the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26), the comforter of Israel who would fulfill all the promises of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, the One who would bring both personal and national salvation. After all those years of waiting and praying for the consolation of Israel, God allowed Simeon to hold the Messiah in his arms. In this child, Simeon saw the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people down through the centuries, and he was overjoyed.
Throughout their history, the people of Israel had suffered greatly. They lived under slavery in Egypt and endured decades of exile. They were currently laboring under the rule of Rome and were a people in desperate need of consolation and comfort.
Many in Israel thought that the Messiah, the consolation of Israel, would bring them political and national freedom (John 6:15; Luke 19:11). But the consolation Jesus brought was better than any political freedom He could have provided: He gave them spiritual freedom and forgiveness of sin. David described the guilt of his own sin this way: “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. . . . I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart” (Psalm 38:4–8). The Son of David came to bear the burden away, to lift up those who were bowed down, to replace the anguish with joy. All who trust in Him know that He is truly the consolation of Israel—and the consolation of all who believe.