Anna, the prophetess, is mentioned in the Bible three times and they’re all within the context of Jesus’ birth.
Luke 2:36-39; “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”
The tribe of Aser (or Asher) came from the line of Jacob, and was a son of Zilpah, the maidservant for Leah – Genesis 30:13. The Hebrew transliteration for Asher means ‘happy’.
The name of Anna’s father, Phanuel, when translated means, ‘face of God’. Whether his name was a play on words for his daughter’s future involvement as a prophetess, is left solely up to the reader, but it does make sense, and goes along with the Lord’s M.O.
As mentioned earlier in this series, some commentaries state Miss Anna was a mother, and others don’t even hint at such a thing. One thing is certain, she had been married for seven years when her husband died, and remained a widow for the rest of her life. Our text tells us she’d lived a long life by the time this event took place, and based on an average of Israelite customs, she was probably married around the age of 13-14, and had been widowed in her early twenties.
Think about it.
Sixty plus years of going to temple every single day of your life just to worship, fast, and pray.
The text tells us she either lived at, or very near the temple, allowing her to attend to worship duties every single day of her life.
I may always be underweight, but my thinking is rather simplistic, and mainly selfish, when it comes to the topic of food so my immediate thoughts go to the obvious. Where did she get money for food? Where did she go for food? Was she independently wealthy and have it delivered to the temple??
Women in those days didn’t just go out and apply for jobs like they do in the 21st century. Their family was their entire world and most of the time, their only source of income. It was a matter of survival for a widow to rely upon her children to sustain her for the rest of her life. Her 401K plan consisted of those she had given birth to in her lifetime.
Whatever her means of income had been up to that point took a back seat to the grand event of laying eyes on the salvation of Israel. The hope, the dreams of freedom, the grandeur of what would be, came in the form of a newborn babe being carried into the temple by His parents who were following the customary ceremonial law of the firstborn needing to be redeemed Exodus 13:13, Numbers 18:15, 16.
Whether or not Anna was within earshot of Simeon’s prophecy over the child isn’t known. What is known, however, is that she immediately responded to events at hand.
“And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
Notice the projection of her reaction. First it’s to God Himself. Next it’s to telling everyone around her about the Messiah. Many times we tend to do this in the opposite way (speaking of myself). We’re all in a hurry to fulfill the great commission (Matt 28:18-20), but did we stop to talk to God about the men/women we’re thinking of talking to before we push the button to open our garage doors?
After spending sixty plus years praying to the Lord inside His house, her gut reaction was to talk to Him one more time before she shared the incredible news. Our text doesn’t tell us how long she spent praising Him, nor does it tell us what she said. All we know is that it says ‘in that instant’ she gave Him thanks.
Also noteworthy is the way the word ‘redemption’ is used in this passage. Many times it’s used in a commercial sense of something being bought for a price. This particular time, however, the Greek word ‘lutrosis’ is used, and the meaning is focused on the result of being liberated. Also see Luke 1:68. It’s already considered a done deal. Jesus’ arrival on the scene indicated their time had finally arrived.
Are we living in this mindset?
Would your reaction to something be like Anna’s? Would it be immediate? If so, would the projection fall on man’s ears or God’s?
Do we truly believe He’s already started the process of redemption in the hearts of men, or are we trying to orchestrate events tricking ourselves into believing He ‘needs’ our help?
Sixty plus years of praying.
How willing are you to invest sixty plus years of praying every single day?
It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, but it should mean a commitment of your time and day should be focused on nothing but Him.
The take away?
Even from the briefest of biblical passages, we can learn and apply in our lives more than what we think is there!
Of course, I’d be remorse without thinking about this type of temple worship compared to the temple worship of the Mormon people. Here’s yet another reason to pray!
Pray the Lord opens their hearts to the truth of what His word says and that He’d cause a curiosity in their minds to find out what Anna, and even Simeon, were doing in the temple on that day!