Anna, meaning: favour or grace
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2:36-38 (NIV)
Anna has one of the shortest histories in the Bible, however we would be wrong to overlook this devout lady. She is described as a ‘prophetess’ which means ‘a woman who speaks for God or a deity, or by divine inspiration’. There are only a few other women named in this role in the New Testament, for example Phillip’s daughters (Acts 21:9).
Anna has been recognised as one of the first female Christian missionaries. She had only been married for seven years before being widowed, remaining so for eighty-four years. She was therefore of great age when she first saw the infant Saviour she longed for.
Throughout His word, God keeps widows and the fatherless close to His heart (Psalm 147:3). Upon her bereavement, rather than being immersed in grief and bitterness, she chose to spend the rest of her life in service, remaining in the temple with fasting and prayers. Imagine her joy when God revealed to her the desire of her heart – a Saviour – the Messiah. Perhaps it was Simeon’s exclamation and joy which first attracted her to His family group (Luke 2: 28-32).
Whatever it was, looking upon this very special infant fulfilled her hopes and dreams. Her heart was full of thanksgiving for this King of kings.
We don’t know how much longer Anna lived; long enough, it seems, to declare the gospel to ‘…all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.’ Oh to emulate Anna’s faithfulness!
Wonderful Father, thank you for the example of Anna, help us to remember her faith and steadfastness and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, reflect it to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Study by Irene Wilson
About the writer:
Irene Wilson is a Deaconess in the Watford congregation of Grace Communion International, and also serves on the Pastoral Council.
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