In my last post in this series Faith at Christmas, I introduced you to Simeon, the old man that was promised by God that he wouldn’t die before he saw the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph came to the temple to dedicate Jesus to God Simeon knew right away that this baby was the Messiah (Faith of Simeon). There was someone else there that day. There was a lady there, a prophetess by the name of Anna. Like Simeon she was well up in age. We don't know much about her but like Simeon she recognized the Messiah and her faith, much like that of the shepherds (Faith of the Shepherds), compelled her to tell others.
The people of Israel, especially those who worshiped Yahweh, were anxiously awaiting their Messiah to deliver them from the oppression of Rome. When He arrived very few recognized Him. They were looking for a military and political leader who would become a conquering king much like David. They probably expected Him to arrive with much pomp and circumstance. But as we now know He was born almost in secret a stable, to a poor peasant family.
The only Israelites who knew or understood that Jesus was the Messiah, when He was born, were Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna. The Magi knew that He was the Messiah but they weren’t Israelites, they were Gentiles (Faith of the Magi). All of these people were basically nobodies. They knew that Mary’s baby, Jesus, was the Messiah because they were told by angels or, as in the case of Simeon and Anna, through some other special revelation. The common thread through them all was that they all had faith. The kind of faith that resulted in action.
I’ve written about the faith of Mary, Joseph, the Magi, the shepherds, and even evil Herod the Great. In the last post in this series for 2015 let’s look at the faith of this old lady, Anna.
Who Was Anna?
Luke 2:36-37 (HCSB)36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,37 and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.
Everything that we know about Anna is here in these two verses, but there’s enough here to show that she was an extraordinary woman.
The name Anna means “favor” or “grace.” She is one of only a few women, in the bible identified with the title prophetess. The others are;
Miriam, the sister of Moses
Exodus 15:20 (HCSB)20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with ⌊their⌋ tambourines and danced.
Deborah, the judge
Judges 4:4 (HCSB)4 Deborah, a woman who was a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.
Huldah, the wife of Shallum
2 Chronicles 34:22 (HCSB)22 So Hilkiah and those the king had designated went to the prophetess Huldah, the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem in the Second District. They spoke with her about this.
Isaiah 8:3 (HCSB)3 I was then intimate with the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. The LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz,
We know that Anna was at least 84 years or, depending on how you translate the verse, could have been much older. For example it is also possible to translate the text to mean Anna had lived eighty-four years after her husband died. That would mean Anna was at least 104 years old—if she had married at the age of thirteen. Her exact age doesn't’ really matter. The point made by Luke is that she was an old lady and that most of her life she was a widow. We know that she spent most of her time serving God in the temple complex. Women could not serve in the temple itself but could assist on the temple grounds. Either way, she had spent most of her life without a husband and after his death she had spent most of her time ministering before the Lord in the temple.
Anna was the kind of widow Paul talked about when he wrote to Timothy about how the church should care for widows who had no children or other relatives to care for them.
1 Timothy 5:9-10 (HCSB)9 No widow should be placed on the official support list unless she is at least 60 years old, has been the wife of one husband,10 and is well known for good works—that is, if she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work.
Let’s set the stage for Anna Meeting the Messiah
Luke 2:21-24 (HCSB)21 When the eight days were completed for His circumcision, He was named Jesus—the name given by the angel before He was conceived.22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord)24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons).
As I wrote in my last post there was nothing unusual about Mary and Joseph’s dedication of Jesus because the law required that Jewish parents bring their new babies to the temple, to offer a sacrifice and dedicate their child to God.
Now, let’s use our “sanctified imagination”
Luke 2:25-35 (HCSB)25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him.26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah.27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law,28 Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:29 Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised.30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation.31 You have prepared ⌊it⌋ in the presence of all peoples--32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.33 His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him.34 Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed--35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Simeon had just picked up the infant Jesus and pronounced a prophetic blessing on Him. Luke says at that very moment, meaning instantly, Anna who may have been standing nearby heard him. Maybe she knew Simeon because they were both constantly around the temple so she knew him to be, as Luke described him, righteous and devout” and that he to was looking for the Messiah. I imagine that he told people that God had promised that he would see Him. On hearing Simeon’s prophecy Anna would have surely taken notice.
Luke 2:36-38 (HCSB)36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,37 and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.38 At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna would have known of the prophecies of the coming Messiah and that the promises of Israel’s deliverance and future blessing depended on His coming. She, like Simeon, and certainly countless others were longing to see Him.
Isaiah 7:14 (HCSB) Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:1-7 (HCSB)1 Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.3 You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. ⌊The people⌋ have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.4 For You have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as ⌊You did⌋ on the day of Midian.5 For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire.6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.
Then all of a sudden here He is!
Think about it. This old lady who had been hanging around the temple for more than 80 years was blessed to be one of only a handful of people, at that time, to know and understand the significance of Jesus’ birth.
Anna may just have been another old woman hanging around the temple but she was obviously special to God. She believed and loved God so much that she spent most of her life around the temple. She held on to God’s promise of a Messiah. Very few people had the opportunity to see, and know they had seen, the promised Messiah even before He started His ministry, even before he started talking and walking. Because of her faith Anna was one of those people.
You can be an Anna
Anna can be an example to you, especially if you’re a woman in ministry. People may not think you’re important, that all you can do is cook the meal for fellowship after service; be a member of the Pastor’s Aid Committee; serve in the Nursery, or be the church Secretary. That may be what people thought about Anna as she was ministering at the temple. She helps the priests and the other Levites, staying in the place that the religious establishment had assigned to her. Yet God used Anna because of her faithfulness to be one of the first and most enduring witnesses to Christ.
Luke 2:38 (HCSB) At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Bold mine)
Luke says that Anna was a prophetess and that’s what a prophetess does she delivers the Word of God about redemption. She, like the shepherds and the disciples, who will follow her, was driven to bear witness to what she has seen. Anna was one of the first to understand and proclaim the good news (gospel).
Like Anna, you don’t have to do anything spectacular, or be anybody special to be used by God. You just have to be available. That starts with a longing to know God and to love Him. To know and love Him you must know and love His Son, Jesus, The Messiah.
John 3:16 (HCSB)16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 14:6 (HCSB)6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 17:3 (HCSB)3 This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.
Anna’s faithfulness to the first Advent should encourage us to look for the Second Advent. Anna and all of Israel were expecting their Messiah. They were waiting for deliverance from Rome. Anna knew that his child was the promised One. We see the mess that this world is in today; those of us who love God and His Son Jesus are looking for and expecting the Second Advent.
The Second Advent will be much different from the First. This time the Messiah won’t come in secret in a stable in a little dreary town in Israel, with the only people aware of His arrival being His mother and father, a few wise guys, a handful of shepherds, and two old people. Here is the way He will be announced the next time.
Revelation 1:7 (HCSB) Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (HCSB)16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Are you ready for Christ’s Second Advent?
Will you be one of the dead in Christ or one of those still alive and caught up with them? If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will be. If not you won’t be caught up with Jesus and you will await judgement. Even if you die before He returns you too will be resurrected but you will like the others not caught up to be with the Lord, and await judgement. That judgement will be for sin and the penalty for sin is death.
Romans 6:23 (HCSB) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here is a description of that judgement and it’s penalty;
Matthew 25:41 (HCSB)41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!
Revelation 20:13-15 (HCSB)13 Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works.14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.15 And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
God doesn’t want this for you. In fact He’s waiting for you to make that decision that will result in eternal life.
2 Peter 3:9 (HCSB) The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
He sent His Son Jesus, the child Anna prophesied about, to take the punishment due you for your sin. All you have to do is admit that you are a sinner and acknowledge that you need a savior. Here’s how you do that;
Romans 10:9 (HCSB)9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Pray this prayer in all sincerity. Don’t just say it if you don’t really mean it, because if you do you will just be speaking words. But if you are tired of trying to change things in your own power, and are ready to turn your life over to the One who can change things pray;
“God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!”
If you prayed this simple prayer, even though Christmas has past this year, you have just received the greatest gift possible, your salvation. Now like Anna thank “thank God and to speak about Him” and say like Simeon “For my eyes have seen Your salvation”.
#6 in the Faith at Christmas series
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.