Summary: Why did Anna succeed under adverse circumstances and become a prominent figure in the Christmas story?
A study of Anna, the prophetess, as recorded in Luke 2:36-38, is a wonderful way to start the New Year. Although she is part of the Christmas story, the truths she lived out are an inspiration and model for us to follow as we consider the New Year and all the opportunities it holds. I believe you, as I, will be encouraged by this study of her life. Listen now with open hearts to the three verses of Scripture that record for us her life:
“And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Anna was a prophetess, which means she received direct revelation from God (usually about future events) and passed it along to others. This gift tells us that Anna was one who spoke forth truth. Her life represented the Truth. Her name means “grace” and reminds us of Hannah in the Old Testament whose name also means grace or gracious. Anna was the daughter of Phanuel whose name means the “face of God”. What a beautiful picture the title and name associated with her give us of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was full of grace and truth. John 1:14 tells us, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Christ is also the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Paul writes, “…in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
Anna was also of the tribe or family of Asher. Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and his named means “happy” or “blessed.” Anna knew the blessings of God and true happiness even though her outward circumstances may have indicated otherwise. Because her life represented the truth and grace of God in Christ, her joy was made full. The apostle John would later record the words of Christ as he spoke of what Anna surely experienced during her days. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11) I wonder as you read this if you have the joy Anna experienced and Jesus promised to those who trust in Him?
The Bible says Anna “was advanced in years”. There are two accepted interpretations concerning Anna’s age. One is that she was over 100 years of age. Jewish woman in Anna’s day could marry as early as the age twelve. If this were true for Anna, she would have been nineteen when her husband died and a widow for eight-four years. This would make her 103 years old! The other interpretation is that Anna was eight-four. Although Anna was advanced in years, I don’t believe she was old. You might say she discovered the fountain of youth that is available to each of us by grace through faith in Christ. The Bible says, “How blessed is the man (or woman) who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3) Where is your delight today as we embark on a New Year? Is your delight in the Lord? Delight in Him and He will give you the joys of your heart in 2005.
Anna’s years were fruitful for the Lord and proved the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning the Lord’s servants: “He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:29-31) Therefore Anna was in the “we crowd” to which every Christian should belong and the Apostle Paul would later write about: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)