Luke 2:36-38 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; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years,[a] who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord,[b] and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (emphasis mine) KJV
What a precious woman this is! Once more we see that Scripture is able to take less than one hundred words and paint a picture of exquisite beauty and depth. This is why we “hang on every word” of Scripture because not one word is extraneous. Each vital to the painting and the lesson and to the Lord’s story. We know this little lady well! Her name is one of my favorites for it means “grace or favor.” We know her spiritual gift is prophecy and we observe how God recognizes her for this gift for she wields her sword well. We are introduced to her family: she is the daughter of Phanuel which means “face of God,” of the tribe of Asher–the happy tribe. Asher was blessed by his father Jacob with these words: “Bread from Asher shall be rich, And he shall yield royal dainties.” (Genesis 49:20) Moses blesses the tribe of Asher in this way: “Asher is most blessed of sons; Let him be favored by his brothers, And let him dip his foot in oil.” In the Midrash, an ancient group of rabbinic writings, it points out this is referencing the quality of Asher’s tribe and the connection they had to the tribe of Levi. It seems the women of the tribe of Asher were beautiful, highly sought after for marriage by the Levites because of their characteristic “nobility and modesty.” It further explains the Torah when speaking of the beauty of women is referencing not their physical beauty but their “inwardness.” (from Asher’s Beautiful Daughters by Rochel Holzkenner on chabad.org) Asher’s daughter’s made great “pastor’s wives” and they raised great “PK’s.”
Anna is of great age. Theologians estimate she is between 84 and 107 years old. She became a widow after only seven years of marriage. She might have been only 21 years old when widowhood wrapped its heavy cloak around her. Was she married to a priest? We are not told this but we are told she devoted herself to the Temple, to prayer, to fasting, and to looking for Messiah. She was a godly woman; very much a picture of the tribe of Asher. Is there a more lovely sight than a white haired woman in prayer? Gnarled hands folded in prayer? Stiffened knees bent in humility? She is well known at the temple. She has been coming a very long time.
On this particular day, forty days after Jesus birth, Anna enters the Temple and SEES the “face of God” and REJOICES (she is ohhh so happy!). Asher was the eighth son of Jacob: The number eight is for “new beginnings.” Anna witnesses God beginning something new. Her joy rises from deep within her beautiful soul and she praises the Lord God of Heaven. Anna on this day fulfilled Jacob’s blessing over his son, Asher. Her “bread,” her words were very rich for she was proclaiming the coming of the long awaited ONE. Anna herself was one of the “dainties” from his tribe.
As I read this account, I was reminded of a lady in my congregation, who to me, is another “Anna.” She too is a widow and she comes to the sanctuary daily to kneel, lift her hands in prayer and her crown is as white as snow! She is a kind and gentle soul. She is watching for the Lord to do a “new thing” and return. She is as genuine and humble and expecting as Anna. I believe she will be one of the first to see the Lord upon His return because she is watchful. Her name means “light!” Her life sure does shine. She too is one who speaks under divine inspiration-a prophetess, using the Word of God as a sword. (Hebrews 4:12)
Anna did not just thank God for His Son once. The manna (bread) was shared over and over to all who would listen as she proclaimed His birth. Anna, in all likelihood, died within a few years. Her final days were her “happiest,” for she had seen the salvation of the Jews with her own eyes, touched Him with her own hands, heard His coos and cries, and worshipped the newborn KING. Going to the Temple daily in anticipation was rewarded. May we go to worship with expectation. Indeed, “wise men still seek Him!” (see November 28, 2016 Vacation: Time out with a Purpose) May we watch expectantly for His long expected return.
Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus by Red Mountain Music
Praying to be Wise