And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 ESV)
There are very few references to prophetesses in Scripture. But none really like Anna. This lady is constantly in the Temple, and she is there practicing spiritual disciplines as part of personal worship. We don’t have this pattern in a prophetess elsewhere. Taken out of context as we have, you may miss the pronoun referring to Jesus. Here she prophesies about Jesus, but not just everyone, but to those ‘waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem’. These are the elements of this divergent pattern I want to look at.
Deep Temple Worship
Anna’s consistency in the Temple is remarkable. Day and night doesn’t leave a lot of time for other activities. She had to eat, she had to sleep somewhere. Yet her focus, the direction of her life was worshipping with the people of God, 24/7. It’s hard to get people today to worship together for 2 hours in 7 days. And she’s not just there to sing and enjoy, be entertained, and so on. She’s praying, skipping meals, completely focused on God. She worships far more than we do, and far more deeply. We find it hard to focus on worship without thinking of a restaurant to go to afterwards.
My point here is that we can be different, deeper, more devoted to our Master, worship more, and more deeply. We have a daily opportunity to worship in our homes, but typically don’t. It’s not hard, we just don’t take the time. We can fast and pray regularly. Again, it’s not hard, we can do it in our homes, but we don’t. Not that fasting is the mark of depth; it is a mark of submission, but the mark of depth is prayer. When prayer, alone and together, becomes more important than the rest of our personal morning and daily routine, then we’re diving deeper.
Following The Prophet, Waiting on God
Anna was a known prophetess, which means people acknowledged she spoke for God. She’s in the Temple, and people going there would know her, she was there all the time. So it’s very possible she became a part of people’s worship experience, whether joing her, or seeking her counsel. In any event to whatever extent, Anna was aware of some waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Therefore some who worshipped in the Temple, also regularly, were waiting for something to dramatically change Jerusalem specifically. I suspect that this is a semi-oblique reference to cleaning up the religious practice there in Jerusalem. On the otherhand, it could be to a desire to be free from Roman rule.
What are we waiting for? Do we seek people who worship at this deeper level? Do we seek the counsel of prophets? Do we even believe in prophecy? Are we waiting expectantly for our Master to work dramtically in our city, community, and neighborhood? Are we willing to wait, worshipping through prayer and fasting, for Him to do His amazing work? What if it takes more than a week? How about more than a month? Surely no more than a year? Are we willing to participate in the active expectation of the work of God together? Let the prophets speak. Let us wait for the fulfillment with excitement.
The Effective Stamp of Approval
Why did Anna go to those eagerly waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem? Why tell them of the child, the infant in His mother’s arms? What did she tell them? Luke doesn’t say. It’s as if Anna were more imporant than the words she spoke. That she spoke to those waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem was enogh to supply the content of what she said. Yet he spends more ink on who Anna was than on what she said. In other words Anna’s affirmation of Jesus is the point. Could the same be said of us?
Here’s the challenge: be someone who’s affirmation of Jesus adds to His glory rather takes away from it. Consider what your reputation is with others. Is it one that honors Jesus? People may not like you or they might, you may have Facebook friends and foes both, but would they say you were like your Master? The question isn’t one of popularity, but association. Would people who know you associate you with Jesus? Would those who hate Him hate you? Would those who love Him love you, and affirm that you love Him too?
The example of Anna is difficult to apprehend for our use and lives. She represents an extreme pattern of devotion, and we are uncomfortable with extremes; at least the ones that aren’t about us in ways we like. I know I’m no Anna, and I’m in no danger of being accused of such deep devotion to Jesus. I know I’m less looking for the redemption of my city, community, and neighborhood than that my civic leaders do what I want. That needs to change, both in my mind and in my heart.
That’s my view through the knothole. What’s yours?