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 2:38).
Everything Scripture has to say about Anna is contained in just three verses. She is never mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, yet these three verses are enough to establish her as one of the most amazing women of the Bible.
Luke writes that Anna was of a great age and that she was a widow of about eighty four years –which could mean that she lived to be at least a hundred years old, or she was an 84 year old widow. — Either way she was of great age! Most Jewish girls married at the age of 13-14, and Anna’s marriage had lasted only 7 years before her husband died, leaving her a widow in her early 20’s, and living as a widow for over 60 years.
Anna was the daughter of Phanuel, whose very name means the face of God. She was a member of the tribe of Asher, one of the ten “lost tribes” of Israel, which were scattered in the Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C. While the tribe as a whole never returned to Israel, Anna’s family had made the journey back to their homeland. Church tradition would tell us that, “The women of the tribe of Asher were known for their beauty, which qualified them for royal and high-priestly marriage.” Therefore the fact that she did not remarry is significant. As a young widow, the natural thing for Anna to have done would be to remarry. She must have had many such opportunities. As a member of the lost tribe of Asher, there must have been a strong incentive to marry and bear children, since this tribe may have been in danger of extinction.
But Anna’s hopes and dreams were not wrapped up in the expectation of marriage or a husband.
Anna’s hopes and dreams were full of the expectation of Jesus’ birth. She knew the Old Testament promises and she understood that salvation from sin and the future blessing of Israel depended upon the coming of Christ.
If we look at the structure of the temple as we study church history, we would discover that Anna would have been spending her time in the Women’s Court. Anna is called a prophetess because it was her habit to declare the truth of God’s Word to others. She may have been a teacher of the Old Testament to the women – or simply had a private ministry there in the court of women offering words of counsel and encouragement from the Hebrew Scriptures. She may have spearheaded some times of intercession and prayer. The younger women would have gleaned from her wisdom. She would have celebrated with families as they presented their children to the Lord.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary points out:
“Perhaps no more is meant than that she was one who had understanding in the scriptures above other women, and made it her business to instruct the younger women in the things of God.”
Anna lived a full and fruitful life and her “wonder” moment came in the midst of her service. Her longing and hope of Christ was suddenly fulfilled as she went about her normal routine in the temple. Imagine the honor of being present at Jesus’ baby dedication in the temple! Had Anna not been in the temple, she would have missed out on seeing this amazing promise of God fulfilled right before her very eyes.
Had she not been in the temple, she would have missed Christ.
The question for you and me is, “Are we missing Christ?”
Has our sufferings and loneliness caused us to lose hope? Have we isolated ourselves from the temple – from the people of God? Anna spent her remaining years telling everyone about the redemption that could be found in Christ. When we take our eyes off ourselves, and look to Christ’s return, we too will discover the joy and wonder that Anna lived in every day. The salvation of others will be our main concern, and an eternal focus will keep us moving forward.
Anna’s love for Christ and the expectation of His coming kept her filled with joy. She devoted her life to Christ’s people. Her later years, became her most fruitful years. Her hope was wrapped up in Someone that would never let her down, that would never disappoint her, who would never leave or forsake her; Christ was the perfect Husband, and for Anna He was her all in all.
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