February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“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; 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. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”—Luke 2:36–38 (NKJV)
Imagine if your entire life was summed up in three sentences. What would it say? All we know of Anna is found in these three verses. We read of a life of devotion, tremendous hope, and unwavering faith. Let’s learn all we can about this remarkable woman.
Anna was a prophetess.
Anna’s name means “God is gracious.” She is the daughter of Phanuel, whose name means, “the face of God.” His name is a poetic foreshadow, since Anna was among the first to recognize the face of God. She’s also of the tribe of Asher, and Asher means happy (Genesis 30:13). The Midrash (Judaism’s commentary of the Torah) states the daughters of Asher were the most beautiful, destined to marry kings or priests. We become the bride of Christ, who is both our King and Priest (Revelation 19:16; Hebrews 4:14). Anna gets to meet her King and Priest after 80+ years of waiting. Hallelujah!
She 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.
This sums up Anna’s lifetime of devotion. Let’s unpack this a little. If Anna was married at 15 (which was common during this time) and her husband died seven years later, she would’ve become a widow at age 22. For the next 84 years, she did not depart from the temple. So, she would’ve been 106 years old when she met her Savior face to face.
Aging in the modern world has plenty of challenges. Imagine being 106 years old in the ancient world with the added burdens of widowhood—only God’s hand could sustain someone that long. Being a widow in those days is likely beyond our comprehension. Completely vulnerable and totally dependent on others, without the right to work, widows carried the pressure of provision with them at all times. Anna’s life was a hard life to endure. With death comes grief, but even in her sorrow she saw God as gracious. She never let her grief interfere with her commitment to love and serve God. She consistently fasted and prayed longer than many of us reading this have been alive.
What do you have to tell yourself to have that kind of dedication? Our inner dialogue matters. I imagine her internal dialogue day after day, year after year, as she took her elderly body up the steps of the temple was something like this: “Redemption is coming to Israel because I know Your goodness Lord. All of Your promises are yes and amen.”
Our perception about God and our circumstances has a profound impact on our spiritual endurance. When we focus on God’s power, might, majesty, and character instead of on our circumstances we can endure anything. Her belief in God as a promise keeper made her a pillar of unwavering faith.
She gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Anna in evangelistic style shares the good news of the Messiah’s arrival with all who would listen. She witnesses the long-awaited promise of salvation fulfilled. God bestows her with the greatest of honors. She beholds the living breathing Messiah right before her very eyes. What a blessing and gift!
When hope bubbles up and overflows in your heart, you can’t help but share it with the whole world. These three verses validate Anna’s namesake, showcasing that God is indeed gracious.
Pause: Does your inner thought life reflect on the goodness of God, even when life gets hard? Anna’s eager expectation of the coming King is inspiring. Do you live in daily eagerness? Do you long to see the King?
Practice: Find verses that capture God’s magnificent character, ones that really speak to your heart. Write out several promises God has given you in His Word. Memorize these verses until they become part of your inner dialogue.
Pray: Dear Lord, my heart longs to be as faithful as Anna’s. She spent daily, intimate time with You. Please forgive me when I fail to prioritize time with You. You are a promise maker and a promise keeper. Even in the midst of loss, grief, or sadness, help me to hold tight to Your promises no matter my circumstances. Amen.
Deb Marsalisi is an author, public speaker, mentor and Fire Inspector. She began her writing journey to make peace with her challenging past. It has provided her with an outlet for creative self-expression, and a healthy new perspective on life.
Through God’s amazing grace, she has learned to rejoice in life’s ups and downs, struggles and victories understanding they’ve been given so she can help and inspire others on their own journey of restoration. Her passion is to support others in emotional and spiritual habits that are truly life-changing. She spends her free time loving, encouraging and mentoring young women to grow in their relationship with Jesus. And she also enjoys cooking amazing meals for her friends and family.