All we know about Anna is told in one paragraph in Luke 2. Her entire life summarized in four sentences (three verses of scripture), and those few words are bearing on my life today.
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. Coming up to them at the very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38
That is literally Anna’s history in a scripture-nutshell. We might breeze through the short story of her life in a read-through of the Christmas story. Likely for more reasons than it just being three verses. We may pass by quickly because her life sounds a bit boring. Especially to those of us in affluent cultures.
First of all, she is “very old” and we tend to think (a worldly way of thinking, not a faith-filled way) that we lose value with age. Even though we know the scriptures tell us we go from glory to glory and are being inwardly renewed day-by-day, there is a general sense in our culture that as our bodies go downhill, so does our value.
Also, Anna is a widow. And we exult in romance.
And then there is the fact that she never left the temple and spent her life praying and fasting.
Does not sound like a life of adventure to us who aspire to create, express ourselves, make a difference, travel, and share our exciting photos on Instagram! Really? She NEVER left the temple? Just hung out kneeling before an altar? . . .
But as we dig into her story and learn of the context of life in the temple, we realize that Anna was uniquely chosen out of the rebellious tribe of Asher (part of the apostate Northern Tribe of Israel) perhaps through her family line being of a remnant of believing faithful ones, or through whom she married, to “be there” among the few humble, believing, seeking ones to see the fulfillment of the long-awaited prophecy.
The temple was a buzzing place with lots of people and activity. And in a world dominated and served by men, God had made a way for Anna, a humble widow, to be serving there despite the cultural and religious restrictions.
I see women today seeking to ‘fight’ for women’s rights in the church. Seemingly from a place of bitterness in the biblical call to ‘submit’ to those in authority over us (a protective and illustrative gift of God to women), they seek to change the Christian cultural atmosphere by ‘taking stands’ or ‘speaking out’ and belittling traditional beliefs. They see the power to get where they want to go as being ‘out there’ in the hands of men, rather than in the hands of God.
And that is nothing more than human-ism whose tag-line is “good without God”. (google it)
What I see in the lives of the women honored by God is their yielded hearts, and a quiet trust in Him being the mover of the mountains that men might (mindfully or not) set up blocking the path where God wants them to serve.
And though admittedly, I love to be honored by people, I’d ultimately rather be honored by God than men. How about you? We can all do what Anna did. Trust, pray, and wait on God’s timing.
Scripture says God prepares in advance the good works He creates for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 And we know that nothing stands in God’s way when He has a plan. Nothing, that is, except our unbelief and our reliance on men instead of God. Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:27
Anna is honored by God as one wise and blessed woman in scripture.
All throughout the Bible, God highly esteems women in a way I find to be sweetly subtle. As I have been leading studies on women in scripture through several books over the past three years, the astonishing love of God and His heart to honor women has invaded my soul and fires me up! I sense His passion!
God’s heart for women is tender and protective, and His impact on the world through His humble daughters sweetly resounds throughout history into our day. He honors the humble by making the humble powerful. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5 Does that fire you up too?
When we humbly trust God to open the doors He wants us to walk through, He honors our faith, and it becomes clear to the world that He is God and man is not.
This is a message that needs to be heard. You know, for world peace. Peace on earth and good will toward men will only come through the humble hearts of men and women who trust God and say “yes” with their lives.
Since Anna was given the title of ‘prophetess’, we briefly touched on the women in scripture who were given that title and see that they were named so, not as an office of prophet per-se, but as one who loves God and speaks His word from an overflowing heart.
In reading of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Nodiah, and Isaiah’s wife, it is clear that they were placed by God in their positions for ‘such a time as then’. No man had gotten in the way of God’s plan.
God keeps bringing me back to these verses over and over, and I’ve been encouraging women with them, because sisters, I think He would love that we ALL desire to be prophetesses! 1 Corinthians 14:1-3 says this:
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. . . . But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (v 1 and 3)
Why would He withhold a gift that brings forth His word which has the power to transform the very atmosphere in which we find ourselves in?
“Anna’s amazing faith stemmed from the fact that she believed all the promises that filled the Old Testament. She took the Word of God seriously. She knew in her heart that the Messiah was coming, and without any doubt whatsoever her first and foremost prayer was that it would happen soon.” ~John MacArthur
What do you believe about the Word of God? What do you know in your heart? What is your first and foremost prayer?
Let Anna’s life encourage you. You don’t need to stop your current job and go live in a church unless you have been called by God to do that. But you do need to trust that God has you where He wants you and to be faithful wherever you find yourself.
In case you are new here, I have been teaching through the book “Twelve Extraordinary Women” by John MacArthur and posting once a week per chapter. Anna is the 7th chapter “The Faithful Witness”. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook.
And I also want to leave you with this video by Sharon Jaynes, author of “What God Really Thinks About Women” which I referred to above as one I’ve learned much from. It is one of my favorite books and perhaps you will invest in it too.
Fill up on the Word of God and you will spill out blessings.
May our lips serve up a healthy helping of life to the world around us!