Simeon and Obedience

Simeon is mentioned several times in the Bible. There is Simeon, the second son of Jacob, Simeon, the old man in the Temple at the time of the Lord’s birth, and Simeon a midway ancestor of Christ, and Simon Peter, the leading disciple of Jesus. There is also Samuel or Shemuel, and Simon the Pharisee and Simon of Cyrene who carried the Lord’s cross, and Simon the Leper and Simon the brother of Jesus, and finally, Simon, the father of Judas Iscariot.

All of these have a name which has the idea of ‘hearing’ and then ‘obedience’. The Old Testament command, “Hear, O Israel. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength’ is called The Shema because of the first word, “Hear!”

Obedience means to do what you have come to know is true or right and you have decided you will make this your practice in your life. It is said to come from two Latin words ob+audire (think ‘audio’) meaning ‘intently hearing’, Yet in the Bible there are several people called ‘Obed’ whose name means ‘someone who is serving’ and it is a pleasant thought that there may be a connection there too. To obey is not just to hear the truth but to do it and to serve the Lord in your life.

Jacob’s second son Simeon was the child of Leah, and she named him because she said, ‘The Lord has heard that I am hated and has given me also this son too’. (for Jacob loved Rachel, not Leah) There are two Biblical events connected with Simeon. When Joseph was in Egypt, he asked his brothers to bring his young brother Benjamin when they next came. To guarantee this, Joseph took Simeon from among them and bound him before their eyes as hostage. Later, when Benjamin came and Joseph was deeply moved to see him, “he brought Simeon out unto them.”

shema1When Dinah, the twelve sons’ sister, was raped by Shechem, a Hivite, the revenge was severe. Simeon, along with Levi, took their swords and killed every male in Shechem’s tribe.

All these connections to do with Simeon – son of one who is hated – bound and kept as hostage – the revengeful killing for the great wrong done – are keys and clues to do with obedience. Notice that they are all fairly negative. This may be surprising, to link ‘obedience’ with hatred and imprisoning and slaughter.

Truly, to obey and do the things of the Lord should be our greatest love, and if it is this, it is a great blessing to us. We love obeying the Lord and his commandments, and there is nothing sweeter to us. Yet obedience is a requirement in the challenging situations of life, or during our temptations when we could be led astray but our obedience holds us in check and we recall the Lord and step back from choosing the easier path.

Truly, we may sometimes hate having to make ourselves obey what we know is right. Obedience makes its demand on us to remember and decide, no matter how we may be feeling. Obedience may need to be taken hostage by us to guarantee that we keep it right, there in our heart and mind. And obedience to the Lord will ask us at times to put to death some of those subtle urges that would defile what we love.

Simeon is thought to have been extremely strong even as a young man, and we too need that greater than usual strength to draw on when we choose to obey rather than go with whatever looks good.

Yet there levels and degrees of obedience which are distinct from each other and they can be illustrated like this:

Obedience from one’s Heart        =>          from love and affection for the Lord

Obedience from one’s Soul          =>           from faith and knowledge of truth

Obedience from one’s Life           =>           from self-compulsion and obligation

From Swedenborg

“Acknowledging and worshipping the Lord consists in living by his commandments, which is, to live the life of faith and charity. The life of faith lies in doing his commandments in a spirit of obedience, and the life of charity lies in doing them out of love.” (Arcana Caelestia 9193)

Here are several helpful Biblical verses about our obedience to the Lord.

“Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people, for all the earth is mine.” (Exodus 19.5)

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought, to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10.5)

“And this is love, that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” (2 John. 1.6)

“As obedient children, do not walk in the evil desires that you had when you lived in ignorance.” (1 Peter 1.14)

“And they marvelled, saying, “Who is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” “ (Matthew 8.27)

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