The Nature of Service and the Marks of Service (continued)
a. Prepared Through Pressure
You need only to read the story of the years between the two Testaments to know at what low level things were when the Lord Jesus came in. There was plenty going on of the religious system, but the real, spiritual, essential value was very small, the state of things very deplorable; and Simeon had lived long years through that state of things and might well have lost heart. There was plenty, I say, to put him out altogether. You know the political conditions of his day, which created a well-nigh impossible situation in which to expect the fulfillment of any testimony in glory. The enemy was in the land and the people of God were in poor condition; and much more. The inward spiritual history of this man could have been full of testing and trying, and of must pressure to put him right out. Strange ways with a vessel for fullness! You would think that to be chosen for such a purpose would mean that the history would in some way correspond with fullness, would be marvelous and wonderful, without any difficulty about it at all.
But it is just the contrary. That vessel, chosen and reserved by God to bring in a greater fullness of Christ, is a vessel strangely beset and assailed by all sorts of extraordinary things. It has a complicated course, in which it would never be at all difficult to give up and fade right out and say, "The situation is hopeless!" The way of this service that has to do with the fullness of Christ is a way of great difficulty and perplexity and anguish, of pressure and stress and seeming complication, and ofttimes of apparent impossibility.
b. Tested By God's Hidden Working
I want to say here that Simeon was but the individual voice and actor in a corporate end-time ministry. We are told here that Anna, who is a kind of counterpart of Simeon, spoke to all those who looked for the redemption for Jerusalem. There was evidently a company of them in Jerusalem. It may have been, and doubtless was, comparatively small, but there it was. There was a company there, waiting, praying, standing for the fullness of the Lord, and Simeon was but the voice and expression of that corporate vessel. I say that, because we do not want to think too much about the individuals in this matter - considering ourselves as individual Simeons. The Lord raises up a corporate testimony to represent and bring in his greater fullness, and what is true of the individual is true of the company. It goes through strange, unusual ways of testing, of perplexity, of adversity, of strain, and ofttimes its position to be an impossible one. Just think yourself into Simeon's position. All these long years he had been standing, praying, waiting, longing, for the coming of the Lord's Christ. Although the Lord Himself had spoken to him and told them that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ, you know very well that under certain conditions of pressure you are tempted to question even what the Lord has said to you, and it would not have been difficult now for Simeon, as an old man, to have said, 'I wonder if I am deceived. Am I holding on to an illusion? Nothing seems to be happening, there seems to be no development, I am getting older and older, and even the promises of God do not seem to be fulfilled; what God has said seems to be no nearer realization.' Under stress you can feel and think like that. I have no doubt Simeon suffered the same assaults on his mind as other people of God have done in their relationship to something precious of the Lord.
Do realize, then, that it is perhaps as a part of a vessel, and not as being individually of great significance, that we may be sharing the strange history of that vessel and the peculiar pressure upon it, because it is chosen of God to bring in a greater fullness of His Son in a time when spiritual need is going to be very great and very intense.
The ways of God in Simeon's days were hidden ways. There was no sign of anything, nothing at all that spoke of a mighty work of God. That is the most testing thing - to be able to live through and live on when it seems that God is doing nothing about the thing you have been hoping for and talking about. The signs are all hidden, the ways of God are beyond our finding out. That is a very testing thing, but it is in such testings that the Lord prepares His vessel for that particular service.
(continued with # 16 - (c. Reduced Unto Refinement And Effectiveness)