Day 21. The Blessing of Anna (Luke 2:36-38)


Audio (7:20)

Saturday, Third Week of Advent

Benjamin West, detail of 'Simeon with the Infant Jesus' (c. 1796), oil on canvas, 122 x 90 cm., Flint Institute of the Arts, Flint, MI.
Benjamin West, detail of 'Simeon with the Infant Jesus' (c. 1796), oil on canvas, 122 x 90 cm., Flint Institute of the Arts, Flint, MI.

Read in your Bible: Luke 2:36-38

The day the Holy Family spends in the temple isn't just for performing rituals. God takes the occasion to bless the Holy Family by not just one holy man, Simeon, but by a holy woman also -- Anna.

The Prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-37)

They encounter an 84-year-old woman, a pious fixture in the Temple.

"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying." (Luke 2:36-37)

Can you picture her? She's elderly, probably stooped and walking with a cane or stick to steady her. As a widow, she isn't wealthy. Her clothes are somewhat shabby. Her dimming eyes can no longer sew and patch the tears. But her face, her face is radiant. With nothing to do but to worship, she spends her time in the temple. She practically lives in the Women's Court of the Temple. Day and night you can find her there, singing with the singers, mumbling the prayers she has prayed since her childhood, talking to her Lord, and listening. Her specialty is listening to what the Lord is saying, for she is a prophetess, a female prophet -- one who hears the Lord's word and speaks it out to others.

The Redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38)

On this day she hears her Lord direct her to a particular young family standing all by themselves in the huge temple courtyard.

"Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption158 of Jerusalem." (Luke 2:38)

We don't hear the words of her prophecy, but it seems, like Simeon's, to consist of

  1. Inspired thanksgiving, and
  2. Witnessing about the child to other believing people who are present.159

Notice that she doesn't speak about Jesus to everyone, but particularly to those in the Temple whom she knows also look forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Like Simeon, who looks forward to the "consolation" or comfort of Jerusalem, Anna anticipates the time when Jerusalem will once again be redeemed, free from Roman oppression and once again ruled solely by the Yahweh and his Messiah.

The Character of Useful Servants

Simeon and Anna teach us much about character that is pleasing to God.

1. Faithfulness. Simeon and Anna play no great role on the stage of Bible history but have significant "bit parts." And they are sensitive to God's voice and available when God calls upon them. You yourself, are not unimportant in the whole scope of things. God has an important role for you too.

2. Listening. Simeon and Anna are alert to the Spirit's voice. They go where he directs and speak what he wants to speak. It is unlikely that you will hear God's voice unless you are willing to quiet yourself before him, reject the values of the world, and live before God in righteousness and devotion, full of praise, worship, and prayer. But as you do this, his whispers become more intelligible, his face more clear to your gaze.

3. Seeing. Simeon and Anna have an attitude of "looking forward" to what God is about to do. Sometimes we get mired in the past, scarred by an event that captures us and doesn't seem to let us go. Sometimes we're consumed by the joys and struggles of our everyday lives so completely that we are unable to look forward, to anticipate what God will do. And because we are blinded by the world, we hardly see the erosion that sin is causing around us and sometimes in us.

Elijah tells of Yahweh calling to a man at the temple clothed in linen who has a writing kit at his side. He is commanded,

"Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." (Ezekiel 9:3-4)

28 Advent Scriptures, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Also available in book formats: PDF, Kindle, and paperback.

How few see and care and weep over what Simeon and Anna see -- the oppression of our cities by corruption, the compromise of our congregations by the pettiness of personal strife, and political pursuits that dull our ears to the only Voice that is important.

Christmas, of course, is a time that we can either become consumed by the traditions of the season or slow down and meditate on the Lord whose coming we celebrate. May you, like Anna, be a holy person who is better at listening to the Lord than any other pursuit.

Prayer

Father, help us slow down and listen to you. Help us, like Anna, to value the time we spend in your presence. To value the time we spend in prayer. And to listen to your leading. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Discussion Question

Q21. (Luke 2:36-38) Why is it hard for us to value the time we spend in meditation and prayer. Which of the times of our day do you think the Lord values most? How does listening to the Lord propel Anna's ministry?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2095-q21-anna/

Endnotes

References and Abbreviations

[158] The word "redemption" (Greek lytrōsis) seems a curious one in this context. The Greek word is often used in a commercial sense as "redemption of something for a price." But here the meaning focuses on the result, "experience of being liberated from an oppressive situation," also used in Zechariah's prophecy in 1:68 (BDAG 22).

[159] Both of the verbs here employ the Greek imperfect tense, indicating continued action in the past -- that is, she kept on thanking God and telling people. The word translated "gave thanks" is anthomologeomai, which indicates to publicly express praise or thanks (BDAG 80; Thayer, p. 45).

Copyright © 2021, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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