Dear Timothy and Megan, Family and Friends,
One of the things we often say in these situations is that we won’t really know why this happened until we get to heaven. It’s true. We can’t know, short of a direct revelation from God, why he allowed Simeon to die before he was born. But we do know a lot more than we might think. In this case, we know the medical cause. His lymph system didn’t work properly. But why didn’t it work properly? We know that the bottom-line answer is, Adam and Eve sinned. The Bible makes it very clear that sin entered the world through their disobedience. When sin entered the world, it didn’t just affect them. It affected every single human who would ever be conceived. Thousands of years after Adam and Eve David says, in sin did my mother conceive me. It is because Adam and Eve sinned, and we sin, that there are such things as sickness, pain, weeds, a lymph system that doesn’t work, and the fact that everyone will one day face death.
These are the consequences of sin, not your sin specifically, but the fact that the world is subject to sin, that nothing, not even an unborn baby, is perfect.
At a time like this we feel completely helpless. There is nothing we could do, nothing anyone could do to change these circumstances. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing for us to realize that we are not in control of things. It’s a good thing for us to realize that we are not in charge of life and death. It’s a good thing for us to realize that we cannot save ourselves from any of the consequences of sin- not from physical death or from the eternal judgment that we and everyone deserves. It’s a good thing to feel completely helpless because then we might be more willing to turn to the Lord and to put our trust completely in him.
Paul realized this important truth when he prayed that God would heal his “thorn in the flesh,” and God’s answer was “No.” He confessed that when he was weak, he was strong. When he realized that he was helpless he turned to the almighty helper, and he would never be stronger than he was when he put himself completely in God’s almighty hands.
Paul also knew, as we do, that God is not just almighty, he is loving. He is love itself. He proved his love to Adam and Eve and all their descendants when he promised that, although there would be consequences because of sin, he would provide a Savior. God didn’t let them, or their descendants, suffer in hopelessness. And we have it even better than they did. We know that God kept that promise. He sent the Savior. He sent Jesus. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit; he grew inside of his mother just as we all did. He was born just as we were. And after living the perfect life we can’t lead he voluntarily went to the cross and took on himself the punishment we all deserve for our sins. Because of Jesus we are never without hope. In him we have forgiveness of every sin and the assurance that because he lives, we too will live. Simeon, and all the dead will be raised to life on the last day.
But God doesn’t stop there. He speaks a very comforting truth to Jeremiah that is true for every person who has ever been conceived. It was true for Simeon too. God says, Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. The Psalmist says of God, you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. …your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Simeon was no accident. No child is conceived by accident. God is the one who forms us in the womb. And, from the moment of conception, he knows us. Think about that. Before anyone else knows we exist, even before our mother knows we exist, God knows us. He knows what gifts and abilities we will have. He knows what we will look like. God knew Simeon from the moment of his conception.
God doesn’t just know us like we know a lot of people- we might know their names, we might recognize that we have met them at one time or another, but we don’t really know them. God knows us intimately and he has a purpose for us. God tells Jeremiah, before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.
From the moment of his conception, even before he was born, God had a purpose for Jeremiah. When the time was right, he would call him to be his prophet, his spokesman, to kings and priests.
What was God’s purpose for Simeon? That is one of those things we can’t know until we get to heaven and God reveals it to us. But God did have a purpose for his twenty weeks of life in the womb.
While he was alive, he got to hear the powerful word of God which Paul says is able to penetrate to the dividing of soul and spirit. Human science, a mother’s experience, and the Bible all tell us that the unborn can hear and react to words. When John the Baptist heard his mother greet the Virgin Mary, we are told that he leaped in his mother’s womb for joy because Mary was carrying the unborn Jesus his savior. Even though God did not allow Simeon’s to be baptized, he did give him to Christian parents who have home devotions, pray and sing Christian hymns as a family, and who brought him to church to hear God’s word with them. It is through the Gospel in word and sacrament that God works faith, and Simeon was blessed with the opportunity to hear God’s powerful, life-giving word.
We don’t know what God’s purpose was for Simeon, but we can see many ways that he works in the midst of your loss. Like every test he allows to come into our lives, he uses it to remind us of the reality of the affects of sin and our inability to save ourselves. He uses it to move us to cast all our anxiety on him trusting that he cares for us. He uses it to give our brothers and sisters in Christ opportunities to show love and support and to share encouragement from God’s word. He uses it to proclaim his truth. In fact, in a sense, Simeon is a prophet, for as we gather today, and in our interaction with others, we can point out that every unborn child is a special creation of God, known by him, precious to him, and a human being for whom Jesus lived and died. The unborn are not just blobs of tissue, but unique and special human beings whose lives need to be protected. Having a funeral and burial of a baby born at 20 weeks gestation gives a very strong witness to these truths of God’s word.
There are many things we don’t know and won’t know until we ourselves depart in peace and join Simeon in our Father’s kingdom. But these things we do know. God is the one who knit him together and gave him life. God knew him and loved him and sent Jesus to live and die for him so that he would be saved. God had a purpose for Simeon which he promises us is good beyond what we can imagine right now. We know that Jesus is the good shepherd. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. He is your good shepherd and will continue to gently lead you to the quiet waters and green pastures, the comforting and strengthening promises of his word.
You have felt the sting of death. We have all been reminded that the sting of death is sin. But death has been swallowed up in victory. Jesus died and rose again. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of him we look forward to seeing Simeon in his resurrected body, alive and well forever.