“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.” Luke 2:36-38
Anna woke long before dawn. It was her lifelong custom. Laying on her pallet in the cool darkness her tiny room, waiting for her aching joints to loosen enough to rise, she recited the morning prayers she learned from her father. She remembered scampering out of bed as a young child and hiding behind the curtain as her father put on his prayer shawl and began chanting the prayers of the day. She loved to hear him singing praise to God. Her father was Phanuel, meaning “face of God,” and he often told her the story of Jacob’s encounter with Yahweh at Peniel when he had wrestled with God and prevailed. It was not the only passage from the Torah she learned from her father. She craved the Word. Her husband, too, was a scholar who shared his knowledge with her, but he had been gone now for so long. They had only been married seven years before he died. The ache of grief, like a broken bone that never healed properly, washed over her once again.
How is it possible, she thought, that she was 84 years old and had been a widow for more years than the average lifespan of women in her day. The Scriptures had been her solace during her soul-wrenching grief, the temple her place of refuge. Now, with her tiny room in the temple courts, she never had to leave. It was her home. She was able to serve both day and night, to participate in synagogue services and study sessions. Her craving for the Word had only increased. She knew the words of the prophets and shared them continually with other women, and she waited with eager expectation for the fulfillment of the coming of Messiah. She wanted to be ready for Him when He came, and she was devoted to fasting and prayer. Today would be a day of fasting for her, and she was eager to be in the Temple Courts, so she laid her grief aside and got up to meet the Lord!
Anna was there that day when Joseph and Mary carried Jesus into the temple to present Him to the Lord as the first-born. She heard Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit, as he blessed God, with this tiny baby in his arms:
“For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
How her heart must have leapt within her! Could it be? Could this be the Messiah? She knew the words of Isaiah, and her spirit must have testified to the Truth before her, because suddenly, she could not keep silent. Her voice burst forth in praise! I wonder if her old bones were strengthened at the sight of her Savior and if she was able to dance in delight. I do believe that the loss and grief that had been this widow’s constant companion for most of her life was instantly replaced with unfathomable joy and overwhelming peace! And for the rest of her years, she told everyone she encountered about Jesus. She could not be silent!
Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, weaned on the story of Jacob at Peniel, had seen the face of God in this baby Jesus – Messiah, Savior, Son of the Most High.
Father, there is so much for me to learn from Anna. I want to be passionate for Your Word. I want to know it and live it and share it. I want to be defined by devotion to You, faithful in prayer and fasting, and eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of Your promises. Anna was prepared for Your coming! I want to be prepared when You come again! Please let the joy of my salvation to be manifest. I don’t ever want to be silent about Jesus! Thank You for sending Him to be my Savior.