Anna, the Prophetess
(Photo by Guilherme Romano on Unsplash)
She never left the temple but worshiped
night and day, fasting and praying
1 Corinthians 13:3
In Luke 2, we meet a woman named Anna. Only three verses are written about her, but her life was anything but usual. She was a prophetess, she was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, and she was elderly. She was only married seven years when her husband passed away. She never re-married, and never had children that we know of. Instead, she stayed in the temple day and night worshiping God, fasting and praying.
ANNA WAS A PROPHETESS and one of only a few women in the Bible who was given this title. Others are Miriam, the sister of Moses (Ex 15:20); Deborah, the judge (Judg 4:4); Huldah, the wife of Shallum (2 Chron 34:22); Isaiah's wife (Is 8:3); and Philip's four unmarried daughters (Acts 21:9). Though to be clear, Philip's daughters prophesied which may differ from being a prophetess.
ANNA WAS VERY OLD and a widow until she was eighty-four. Either she was eighty-four years old when she met Jesus, or she lived eighty-four years as a widow. Either way, she qualifies as old.
ANNA NEVER LEFT THE TEMPLE and possibly lived there or was there most the time. She probably left the temple sometimes. When a person is very dedicated to something, their job, for example, we might say they are at work all the time, or they live at the job. We don't mean it literally but are making a point. Anna was dedicated to the Lord, and we see this by the amount of time she spent in the temple.
ANNA WORSHIPED NIGHT AND DAY, FASTING AND PRAYING, giving us a further look into her complete dedication to the Lord. Again, Anna probably wasn't literally worshiping, fasting, and praying 24/7 but it is how she spent most of her time.
ANNA WAS AT THE TEMPLE the day Mary and Joseph came with Jesus. The Law required Mary to bring an offering to complete her purification after having a baby (Lev 12:6-8), and for Jesus, the firstborn, to be presented to God (Ex 13:2). Since Anna was at the temple, her usual place, she was able to see Jesus, the Messiah.
ANNA CAME UP TO THEM at that very moment and gave thanks to God. She knew she was holding the Savior and this caused her to break out in thanksgiving and praise to God. She also would have been present when Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and gave the prophecy to Mary, saying, "This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. and a sword will pierce your very soul (Lk 2:34-35)." I imagine Anna was agreeing in her spirit the truth of Simeon's words.
ANNA SPOKE TO EVERYONE WHO WAS WAITING EXPECTANTLY for God to rescue Jerusalem. Contrast who Anna told about Jesus with who the shepherds told. The shepherds let everyone know, but Anna only told those she knew were looking forward to God's plan of redemption. The shepherds had a spectacular thing happen when they were visited by an angel and witnessed a host of angelic beings praising God. Anna simply knew in her spirit that the Savior was in her midst. Both were equally excited and wanted others to know.
Robin Gallahar Branch calls Anna a worship workaholic! In her article, Anna in the Bible, Robin says, "She may well have become the model for the righteous church widows Paul describes in 1 Timothy 5:5. Arguably the best representatives of the Old Covenant—Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and worship workaholic Anna—although all elderly, all ably serve as transitions to the New Covenant."
Not many could live the life Anna lived. Not because we don't love God, or want to worship Him; and not because we don't understand the significance of prayer and fasting, or have the desire to be used prophetically but because we have other commitments. We have other people to think about. In short, we don't have the time. I would also add that God hasn't given us the grace to live the way Anna did. The thought of being dedicated wholly to the Lord and living the type of life Anna lived is appealing to me, but without the grace from God to do it, I never could. Neither could you. But that doesn't mean we can't give Him some of our time. We can worship Him in the life we live, even if we only have a little time. We can pray while we drive and give up a meal or two to be with the Lord. We can all hear from God and speak anything He tells us into the lives of others for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. We can all learn from Anna. And who knows, someday, we might be in her situation, and God will give us the grace to live a life of total abandon to Him, spending our time worshiping night and day, in praying and fasting. Then we, too, will be worship workaholics!