Monday, September 21, 2015
Anna - God's not done with me
We're studying a familiar lady this week; we've heard the story of Anna before. Let's see what we learn from her this week.
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; and
this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years. She did
not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and
prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave
thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked
for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
If you recall this portion of Luke's gospel details the account of Mary and Joseph bringing baby Jesus to the temple for the required purification ceremony and sacrifice.
This passage also tells us about Simeon, an elderly man who was devoted to his faith and to the temple, and who had prayed for many years to see the Messiah. The Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the consolation of Israel. When he held the infant in his arms, he exclaimed:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss
your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation . . .
As Joseph and Mary marveled, Simeon told them:
This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many
in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that
the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. . . (Luke 2:34-35a)
Anna heard his words, and joined the little group "in that instant," according to Luke's gospel. She thanked the Lord and then spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption. What a wonderful testimony!
There is much here to inspire us . . . let's dive in!
The first thing we learn about Anna is just that -- her name. Her name comes from the Hebrew word for "grace." And we see in these verses that the grace of God was definitely on her. First of all, she was a prophetess.
There are several women in the Bible who are called prophetess -- it was a privilege and a real distinction. Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah were Old Testament women with that title, and in the New Testament, Philip's daughters are named. The work of a prophetess was to speak the Word of God, and to share what she knew about Him, with anyone and everyone who would listen.
The next evidence of God's grace in her life was her heritage. She was of the tribe of Asher. Asher was one of the northern tribes of Israel that rebelled against God in earlier days, and they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians. But here she is in Israel, so although her ancestors had rebelled and been whisked off into slavery, God had somehow made it possible for her family to make it back. She was here at the right time to be a witness to the coming of the Messiah.
One more sign of God's grace upon her life: her age. We learn in these verses that she was married for seven years, and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She would have to be over one hundred years of age now . . . That's being a widow for a long, long time.
Imagine being married for seven years -- young, vibrant, beautiful (the women of the tribe of Asher were known for their beauty), perhaps terribly in love with the husband your father had chosen for you . . . and then tragedy. Suddenly a widow. Sorrow can make you hard, and bitter, and resentful. It can make you rebel against God. Or it can make you softer, and kinder. It can make you more sympathetic, and deeper in your faith. It seems that Anna chose to reveal the grace of God in her life. And that is one reason why God gave her a long life.
What did she do with her long life? She served God with it. We'll learn more about Anna in our next study, later this week.