Last night after a particularly hard day, I warily went to bed around 11 to go to sleep. I was exhausted and ready to crash, but for some reason had a very unsettled heart and mind. The Lord pushed for me to go read my Bible, and if any of you know me well, being up until midnight is not my usual cup of tea. I do not often stay up past eleven, and if I do it is for something specific. Anyway, God told me to stay up and read, so I did.
I have a study Bible with various themes to study in the back of the Bible, so I chose to study the women of the New Testament. Most of them I have heard before; Mary, Mary Magdalene, Elizabeth, etc. but the first name on the list was Anna. I was left wondering who the heck Anna was, and then looked toward Luke 2:36 through 38. I read through the small area about her and then decided to read through the chapter to get a better idea of how and why she is introduced in the story.
When Simeon is mentioned in Luke 2:25 he is described as righteous and devout… a good Jewish prophet who expected the return of the Messiah and felt his life had been fulfilled by seeing Jesus and proclaiming “He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of your people Israel!” (32). Simeon is the one that is seen in all the movies proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. I had never noticed how Simeon’s proclamation as a Jewish man, is followed by a proclamation by Anna, the Galilean woman.
After further research, I find that by this time there was an incredible amount of tension between the Gentiles and the Jews. They did not like one another, let alone worship together at the temple. But Luke, in writing this book of the Bible, had to have seen an opportunity to demonstrate who Jesus came to save. Through both Simeon and Anna, God is telling us… He did not just come for the Jewish man; He came for the Gentile woman as well. This demonstration of Christ’s love for all of humanity is certainly powerful as Jesus was just an infant at the time.
Although this is part of the story, I also noticed that significance was placed on Anna’s widowhood. She had been married for seven years as a young woman, but never married again. They are unsure if the text means that she lived until eighty four years old, or if she had lived for another eighty four years after the death of her husband, but either way that’s a long time to live alone and unmarried as a woman in this cultural context. There was no possible way for her to own land, make money, or be considered a significant part of society. As a woman of that age, she was completely dependent on the men in her life for her survival. And yet, she chose not to remarry.
Instead, Anna (meaning grace and also the same as the name Hannah)
(Ward) decided to
practically live in the temple, praying and worshiping all hours of the day
and night. She did not leave when everyone else left, she continued to pray and
worship. Once she saw Jesus, she continued to tell everyone about his presence,
that He was indeed the Messiah.
Through this story, I believe Luke is showing us just how faithful Anna was. She depended on God for everything, giving all of her time and energy to fasting and prayer. Simeon was righteous and devout, but Anna the Gentile was faithful. She never strayed from her worship, but steadfastly lived a life of worship as a prophetess.
As I doubted what God was doing in my life last night, and in my family’s life, God gave me a not so subtle reminder to be faithful, regardless of the circumstances that we may find ourselves in. Through fasting and prayer, and steadfast dedication to Jesus Christ and the will of God in our lives, we will be doing exactly what God has called us to do. There is no promise of health, wealth and prosperity, but there is the promise of the coming Messiah. And just as God sent His Son the first time and chose to take our sin upon Him, God will send His Son again. We must remain faithful, steadfast in prayer and fasting, and continue to worship Him regardless of the hardships we may find ourselves in throughout our lives. If Anna can do it during her lifetime, I know that God can give me the strength to do the same.
Ward, Doug. Anna the Prophetess and the Hope of Israel. 28 Dec 2006. 16 March 2013.