It was a dark night for the nation of Israel, or more appropriately, a long dark season of silence. Roughly four hundred years with no prophetic words from God was Israel’s spiritual reality during the Intertestamental Period (circa 400BC until the arrival of John the Baptist). In fact, the last time He spoke was through the prophet Malachi, whose last prophetic words included a curse:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6).
Israel’s suffering was not only that God had been prophetically silent for four centuries. They were also suffering under the Roman yoke. And you can imagine God-fearing Jewish people in the first century just prior to the arrival of John the Baptist, thinking, “How long O’ Lord, shall we walk in darkness with no word, no revelation, no hope, no Messiah?”
It was a dark night of the soul for a suffering people—in great need of comfort, of consolation!
The Old Testament ends with a warning of cursing. The New Testament begins with a promise of blessing!
Prophetic silence ended when John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, declaring in Matthew 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Matthew continues in verse three affirming a new day, a day dawning with hope, as he quotes from Isaiah 40:3: For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ ”
A new day dawned. A day of hope. A day of salvation. A day of consolation. Messiah is born!
Following the birth of Christ, Mary and Joseph went to the temple in Jerusalem to follow the requirements of the law. There 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. The prophet Isaiah had 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).
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Praise God! Messiah would not only be the consolation of Israel. He would be the Savior of all who would put their trust in Him. For in Jesus, God’s promise to the nations, the gentiles, would be fulfilled:
Indeed He says,
“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
Yes, the Consolation of Israel would also be the Savior of the World!
The Lord had 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 forth 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 thrilled. The dark night of prophetic silence had ended and a new day of prophetic light had dawned!
Historically, the people of Israel had suffered greatly. They had lived under slavery in Egypt and endured decades of exile. In the first century they were 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 would bring spiritual freedom and forgiveness of sin, through His death and resurrection.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
With reconciliation comes the consolation of forgiveness, the relief and deliverance from suffering under the burden of slavery, condemnation, and judgment due to our sin.
Additionally, on a deeply personal and spiritual level, ’Consolation’ is the greek word paraklesis: the one who comforts, consoles and encourages. This is the same word John uses for ‘Counselor’, the Holy Spirit, the one who comes alongside in John 14:16 and John 15:26. For the Christian, the consolation dwells in us through the person of the Holy Spirit!
Just as the consolation of Israel brought hope, salvation and a future for many in the first century and beyond, He is still transforming lives in the 21st Century and even this day!
Praise God for the consolation of Israel. During this season where we as His people celebrate the incarnation, we also celebrate His sacrifice and victory through His death and resurrection! For He was born to die…and rise again! And all who trust in Him know that He is truly the consolation of Israel and the consolation of all who believe. Merry Christmas!
And it will be said in that day “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).