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TEXT: Luke 2:22-38
SUBJECT: Women of the New Testament: Anna
Women played key roles in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It was, of course, a woman who brought the Son of God into the world. It was a woman who first recognized His Lordship. And now it is a woman who will introduce Him to the Israel. "She spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem".
Anna was surely one of the Bible's most illustrious--and obscure--characters. All we know about her is found in three short verses. But what verses they are! And how they speak of her piety, and the grace of her Savior.
About Anna's early and middle life, we can say but little. All we know for sure is:
She was the daughter of Phanuel and of the tribe of Asher. Now, Asher was one of the tribes that broke with the House of David and swore allegiance to Jeroboam and his golden calves. In the intervening years, its moral and spiritual life degenerated into something abhorrent.
But this daughter of idolatry quit her home and people for the Temple at Jerusalem, for its divinely sanctioned worship, and for its God. She was a member of that Israel which God had "foreknown" and "not cast away".
As a young woman, Anna married. But after seven years of wedlock, her husband died, leaving her to the tender mercies of God. And the One who promised to "relieve the fatherless and the widow" proved faithful to His word. Did Anna have anything? As far as we know, she had no material goods. But she didn't need them! For "God was her portion"! And He did not leave "the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread". In some way or another--probably by the temple tax, or maybe charity--this woman's every need was met. She was not rich in worldly things, but so what? She had "treasure in heaven" aplenty.
Anna was also a prophetess. Like Miriam and Deborah, she had special insight into God's ways and utterance to make it known. For this gift she was thankful, and proved worthy of it. The devout of Jerusalem, it seems, accepted her calling without question.
And so here's young Anna: graced, gifted, and sustained by heavenly mercies.
But Anna is no longer young. At the birth of Christ, she is 84. But her last years, rather than spent in retirement or wasted in self-pity, are to be her most productive and blessed.
She remains faithful to the God. The verses before us depict a woman of unswerving devotion. So loyal is she to her Savior that she never remarries, permitting her to more fully "care for the things of the Lord".
She also remains devoted to the People of God. "She did not depart from the Temple". How refreshing is Anna's example, compared to so many Christians who "retire" from their churches to indulge their later years. But the aged prophetess, it seems, still needed the people of God. And still enjoyed their company!
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is,
for brethren to dwell together in unity".
She remains active in the service of God. This took two forms:
1. "Fasting". Fasting is an expression of sorrow and repentance. Although surely advanced in her sanctification, Anna was still painfully aware of her shortcomings. She had not lived up to the Divine standard; she had often transgressed the Covenant of her God. And for these personal sins she was bitterly grieved, so much so that she wouldn't eat for sorrow.
But it wasn't her sins alone which grieved her. The deplorable state of her people must have tormented her righteous soul. The men who sat in the seat of Moses were rank unbelievers. The Pharisees had nullified the law of God by their vain traditions. And most of the people was living like beasts: "what shall we eat, what shall we drink, what shall we wear?" For these evils, God had smitten the nation. They were in servitude to a foreign power, under tribute to Caesar, and the laughing stock of the world.
And for these miseries, Anna afflicted herself with regular fasting.
2. "Praying". Anna's sorrow was not of the world, the "sorrow that works death". It was mixed with faith and hope. For she not only fasted, but "prayed". She believed in God's power, His grace, and His promises. And, like Jeremiah, "When she recalled this to mind, she found hope".
Anna's was a "praying age". The Pharisees and other prominent Jews "made long prayers"--but only "for pretence" and "to be seen of men". The prayers of Anna, though, were altogether different. They were directed to God and offered up from "a broken and contrite heart".
She was still quick in the service of God's people. Anna's faith had not retired from the public arena to personal devotions. Even in old age, she made herself useful to the people of God. And how better to do this than to pronounce the Messiah's long-expected arrival? So "she...spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem".
Duly admire Anna's reward. Her's was a life of hard work and self-denial. She and Simeon, represented a dying nation. But God would not let them die till they "had seen the His Christ".
And so, one day, seven weeks after the birth of Jesus, two peasants travel to Jerusalem to present their Firstborn in the Temple, and to offer God a token of their gratitude in a pair of turtledoves.
To others, the parents look like any other struggling young couple. And their son is undistinguished. But the Holy Spirit reveals to Simeon that on the breast of that young mother hangs the Savior of the World!
He cradles the Babe, blesses God, and prophesies of the salvation He must bring.
Anna hears her old friend, joins him in giving thanks, and urges all to invest their every last hope in Him.
Many did. And so Anna's life was complete. She had met the Savior. She had introduced Him to others. And so she, like Simeon, might have said:
"Lord, you are letting your
servant depart in peace,
according to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
which You have prepared before the
face of all peoples,
a light to bring revelation to the
and the glory of Your people Israel."
And so, at some unknown date, Anna "departed in peace". And so shall everyone else who finds One she once cradled, who now sits at the Right Hand of God.
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