By Jonathan D. Hunt

Read Luke Ch 2 v 36-38 (NKJV)

36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Anna, like Simeon, was given great privileges. The Lord had finally appeared in His temple as foretold by the prophets – but only Simeon and Anna had noticed.

We note first of all, Anna’s location. She ‘departed not’. Her greatest desire was to be ‘near’ to the Lord in whatever way she could. Not physically of course – but associating with the Lord’s house.

Note also Anna’s loneliness. She was widowed for many, many years, and elderly. You can read the passage two ways, making her either 84 or about 104 – but this is largely irrelevant. The basic fact is that she had lived alone for nearly all her life. She had loved and lost her Love in her early days.

But it did not stop her serving the Lord. In fact, she turned it to account. Because she was single, she could devote her time to the Lord, and not to the care of others.

By God’s grace, we can always turn our circumstances to profit.

What did Anna pray for? Many things we can be sure, but it must be that she prayed most earnestly for Messiah to come.

Note that The Lord was with her. She is described as a prophetess, which may be literal, or may simply refer to an unusual understanding of scripture and ability to teach. Either way, she had been blessed of God with gifts, and she used them there, faithfully. We see she was there ‘night and day’ – she may even have had some place to stay given her.

Note further that Anna served God. It is easy to pass over these words, but they are a tremendous statement. I wonder, what would you want other believers to say of you? What are you known for?

Don’t be mistaken – what you do for the Lord is very much a part of who you are. I remember several years ago in London, being hailed in the street by a lady I had never met before: ‘Hey! Mr Sunday School man!’ she shouted. It turned out that she wanted her children to go to Sunday School. As I reflected upon that unusual salute, I was honoured by it. Of course, we may be called by less-flattering names – but we should be glad of these too!

How would someone else describe you? Would you rather be known by what you do, than what you say?

How did Anna serve God?

With prayers and fastings – night and day. Her prayer we have already mentioned – but we must never underestimate its power – and never dare to think that prayer is wasted – this day Anna knew the most amazing answers to her years of prayer!

Fastings – with this comes the principle of self-denial, which is a much-ignored subject today. Many churches struggle financially whilst members have very comfortable lives.

Do you practice self-denial? Fasting is just one way – there are many others of course. Care over diet is self-denial (as I know only too well!) Faithful giving to the Lord’s work is self-denial. Faithful attendance at services and support of other evangelistic activities – is all part of self-denial.

It often seems hard – but if you don’t practice it – like Anna – night and day – then every temptation to pamper yourself will sway you. Every trial or deprivation that comes your way will seem so hard to bear. How does the believer who has never denied himself cope when he loses his job, for example?

In summary, Anna was a widow of worth, a faithful woman, a servant woman, a praying woman, a consistent woman, an unselfish woman.

We may take all these things and be inspired and challenged – but they are the more amazing in context.

What was going on in God’s house, the temple? The place Anna loved, the set-apart place for the worship of the God she adored?

This was the heart of Jerusalem, the holy city of God. The seat of David, Solomon, and the godly kings of old. Everything about the chosen nation of Israel revolved around and about this special place. This place where Anna spent all her time.

Who else was there alongside her? The unbelieving leaders, priests, Pharisees, Levites – corrupt, cynical and greedy. Their teachings were far removed from scripture, and they were possibly the greatest exponents of legalism that the world had ever seen. Every day she witnessed purely outward religion, ostentatious public giving, and self-righteous prayers.

What decline there was, and what disregard for scripture and for the holiness of God!

And yet – there was no other temple. This was it. Anna could not find another temple where God was honoured because this was IT – this was THE temple, HIS temple.

Israel was, as a nation, a church – a mixed multitude of those who loved God, and the many who did not. The temple was the chief expression of the state of national religion – and what a mess it was in.

What an awful state the church is in generally. Even professing evangelical churches are being sidetracked by secondary issues, or overtaken by error!

The temple staff talked of another Messiah. Most churches today will tell you about a different Jesus. The temple staff grew rich off the offerings of the many who were duped into giving – and that happens today too with much ‘prosperity-gospel’ teaching.

But here is Anna, with all this background, and four hundred years of silence from God towards his chosen people, and she holds firm. Her reward was staggering – simply immense. To see, to hold, to be in the presence of, Messiah! To be there as prophecy was fulfilled, and to know of a certainty that a sovereign God was about his business!

What might God do with us and through us if we honour Him? Do you believe that He can fill the pews of the churches once more? More vitally – that He can save sinners as He has done abundantly in past days?

Look at verse 38. What was Anna doing ‘coming in that instant?’ The Lord was with her – He guided her footsteps every inch of the way. There were no coincidences, there was no ‘luck’ involved.

We look for God to do great things in desperate days – and we know that we can have a part in those things – at whatever stage we are in our lives.

Note that Anna gives thanks for the blessing she has received. It is always worth repeating that we should thank the Lord for His blessings, and be emboldened to ask for more!

What did Anna do with her blessing? ‘She spake of Him’

Do you speak of the Saviour you know? When, and how often? We all know to our shame that it is never often enough. Opportunities pass us by, and we can be all-too-easily ‘ashamed’ of the Lord.

Whom did Anna speak to? ‘To all them that looked for redemption’

Anna and Simeon were not alone. Many others had not bought the prevailing ‘spin’ of the authorities about Messiah. They were seeking, searching, and asking questions.Remember this – as long as this world endures, there are still souls that will be saved. God holds this present time and space open until all his elect are gathered in.

Are there still those who look for redemption around us? We believe so! Many who are stirred by feelings of emptiness, purposelessness, looking for answers, filled with deep longings they cannot satisfy or explain.

What will you say to them? What can you tell them? Tell them what Anna did. Tell them what Simeon did. That you have seen the Salvation of the Lord. That you have met with One who loved you, and gave Himself for you. Share Him, share His love, His beauty, His perfection – and like Anna, live for Him. Share Him through your every word and deed.

Pray like Anna did – and you will have opportunities wherever you are. To say that you have seen redemption – in the babe at Bethlehem, in the man on Calvary, in the glorious risen Saviour on resurrection morning. You, believer, can tell them more than Anna could – tell them ‘It is finished’. Tell them that salvation is accomplished once and for all!

How is your life at the moment? Are you struggling with your age, an illness, money, job, or family problems? Do you suffer from loneliness, feeling oppressed and beset?

I’m sure Anna struggled too. I’m sure she wept at the evil around her – in the very temple of Jehovah! We may weep too – for our land and for the state of so many churches. If Satan has not trapped them with outright error he has trapped them with tradition and inactivity, and made them mute in the gospel cause.

So weep. But pray. Pray day and night. Live for Christ alone. And He will use you, and bless you, as surely as a Father loves his children, as surely as He used Anna. He will be with you as surely as He was with her.

This is not just all words on a dry old page – this is reality. Look at Anna, and Simeon – look at what God did for them, and through them … and rejoice.

We are the children of the same Heavenly Father, and heirs to the very same promises.