Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday, May 9th ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 19-20; Psalm 93; Acts 4.
Today's scripture focus is Luke 2:36-38.

36 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, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 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.

Well.  Reading this small portion of Luke on its own leaves one with a lot of questions that one might not ask oneself if one were reading the entire chapter.  It's three little verses.  Taking the chapter all together, one might even overlook these few verses.  However, I think we've come to learn as we've been doing the scripture focus that EVERY VERSE counts.  There are tiny phrases in verses that we've read over and over again that we don't notice until we take the time to pick the verse apart (keeping them in context, of course).  Therefore, I'm going to say that the prophetess Anna was not included here simply as an incident of slight interest but not much importance.  I'm going to say that these three verses, brief and vague as they are, are important.

Who was this Anna?  Didn't she have any children in those seven years?  Was she at the temple night and day for, let's say 60-ish years (assuming she married in her early teens, as many women then did)?  Did she prophecy regularly, or just on occasion?  What kinds of things did she prophecy about?  I've never thought to ask any questions about her before.  From Testifying to Jesus: Anna by John MacArthur:

Now what is a prophetess? It's not somebody who predicts the future, not a fortune teller, it's not somebody who works on the psychic hot line. It's simply somebody who is...somebody who speaks. She spoke God's truth. She spoke God's Word. She may have been a teacher of the Old Testament to other women. She is not a source of divine revelation. There is no revelation that has ever come from her, none comes in this passage. 

Perhaps even a better option, it means at this moment in time she becomes a teacher. She becomes the prophetess in the sense that speaks of this child as the Messiah. And maybe it's this very moment, verse 38, when she came up and found Joseph, Mary, the baby and Simeon and was informed that she begins to speak of Him to all those looking for the redemption of Jerusalem and fulfills that title. We don't know. It could be that she in the past had been a teacher. It could be that it designates this great moment in her life.

Well, let's meet this little old lady, daughter of a man named Phanuel out of Asher. She was advanced in years. In fact, she lived with a husband seven years after her marriage. Now they got married young, right? We've already gone over that. Mary typically, the virgin Mary would have been betrothed to her husband at the age of 12 or 13 and let's assume that this lady got married when she was 13 which was pretty traditional. And she lived with her husband for seven years, till she was 20 and she was widowed. Then it says in verse 37, "As a widow to the age of 84." Now this is a little bit of a difficult translation here.
Some versions say she lived as a widow for 84 years, do you have that? Which would make her 104. That is possible that she was 104, it's also possible that she was 84. And what is especially remarkable about her is at the end of verse 36...verse 37, "She never left the temple." That's an emphatic statement.
Now, the only thing we can surmise from that, the reasonable thing to surmise from that is that she lived there. Around the temple grounds there were some apartments. They were normally dwelling places for priests, around the outer court. You know, when a priest came to do his two weeks of service at the temple, he needed a place to stay. They had quite a number of these, porticos around the temple. It just may well have been that because she was a widow so many years and because she was continually at the temple, they just decided that she was so devout that they would just provide a place for that widow in the temple and she never left. She wasn't there idly, she was serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
Here is a passionate woman. Here is a woman who all these years, I mean, it's pretty amazing. I mean, she's been doing this for 64 years? She's been doing this for 84 years? This is a fixture in the temple. Since the time of her widowhood she's been there? She's a part of this remnant. She's one who takes the Old Testament seriously.
What do you think she's praying about? She's praying for the Manacham, the consoler of Israel, the Messiah. She's praying for the fulfillment of Abrahamic promise, Davidic promise.  She believed all the promises that filled the Old Testament. She believed in the coming of Messiah. And she's there and she's praying and fasting for it to come to pass. 
And it says in verse 38, "At that very moment she came up." What very moment? The very moment that Simeon was uttering this prophecy. Herod's massive temple, this is a huge courtyard, thousands of people milling around and already Simeon who doesn't know Joseph and Mary, and Joseph and Mary don't know Simeon and God by His providence through the power of His Spirit brings them together and the whole story is told from Joseph and Mary to Simeon, the Holy Spirit confirms it and he launches in to this great testimony to the identity of the baby and at that very moment the Spirit of God providentially, powerfully moves this old lady who's there all the time into the presence of this little couple and the baby and Simeon. And again, Luke's typical understated way it just says "she came up and began giving thanks to God."
And then she becomes the prophetess. "She continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem." From then on this little woman who had spent all her years talking to God started talking to everybody else. God had answered prayer. The Messiah had come and she knew who they were, believe me, she knew. She knew the remnant, they knew each other. They knew who the justified and sanctified believers were. She continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Everybody anticipating salvation, everybody anticipating that the promises of the prophets would be fulfilled, that the promises to Abraham and Moses and David would be fulfilled, she knew Simeon, surely, one of the godly remnant, she knew...she may even have known Zacharias and Elizabeth, that's speculation but possible, and now she has seen the Messiah.
God's timing is so amazing, so thrilling and so incredible. Her testimony, crystal clear, no questions. Not a moment experience that she began to doubt, but she continued to speak of Him to all those looking for the redemption of Jerusalem, the remnant.

Now don't you just love this lady?  I'm so glad that I learned more about her.

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 2:39-52.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 Samuel 21-22; Psalm 94; Acts 5.


Roxie said...

I have always been amazed and inspired by the story of Anna. Here is a woman whose heart was devoted to God. Even in the midst of her difficult life (a very young widow in a society where a woman generally needed a man-husband, father, brother- to survive) shook off the mantle of mourning, of longing for a life dictated by societal norms and chose to spend the rest of her single life praising and serving her God, living with a heart filled with hope. The beauty of her hope is that it was not hope that her circumstances might change...but hope in the promises of God. Why can't I live more like that?? Perhaps it is something that God is reminding me of more and more. May we have the strength and wisdom to grow in His direction.

TammyIsBlessed said...

Love learning more about these people who truly hoped in the Lord!