One of the most interesting aspects of Simeon and his prayer, “Sovereign Lord, let now your servant depart in peace” is the title used for God. The single word translated as sovereign Lord is the word from which we derive our word despot.
In our modern world we are familiar with despotism gone wrong. Saddam is a great example. This ruthless man held sway over life and death for those whom he governed.
God could be thought of as a benevolent despot. Notice how his sovereignty is demonstrated in that short prayer. God had answered Simeon’s prayer that he be allowed to see the coming of the Messiah. God had authority over whether Simeon lived or died. God would grant that Simeon would die in peace. God possesses ultimate authority and power. In keeping with his character, he exercises that to the benefit of his subjects.
It is worth noting that the word translated as Sovereign Lord is only used one other time in the New Testament. Peter addresses God in his prayer in Acts 4. Peter acknowledges that God is the creator of all. By coupling Sovereign Lord with creation, Peter is asserting that God is the creator and controller of all.
The usual word translated as Lord is used in various ways. It is used of the Lord Jesus. It is also used of men with subjects. We might say the lord of the manor. Peter used it in his first letter of husbands to their wives in that “Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” This lordship implies moral limits. A leader or a husband does not possess ultimate authority, but only authority within moral limits.
But Sovereign Lord or despotic Lord implies no limitations. God has authority over all aspects of his creation. The Lord gives and the Lord takes. We are wise like Simeon when we acknowledge this despotic lordship of God over our lives.