In case you forgot here’s what the word prophet means and how someone is given that title. The English word prophet in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “nabiy” which means “spokesman” or “speaker”. The Greek word for prophet is “prophētēs”, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.” Prophets are also called “seers,” because of their spiritual insight or their ability to “see” the future, as directed by God.
This is the fourth post and first to prophetess (female prophet) in the series.
Luke 2:36-38 (NKJV)36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
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.
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.
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.
A prophet or in Anna’s case a prophetess does she delivers the Word of God about redemption. She was driven to bear witness to what she has seen. Anna was one of the first to understand and proclaim the good news (gospel).