and as your days, so shall your strength be. (Deuteronomy 33:25b ESV)
Whether you agree with theologians who believe Anna was 105 or 84, Anna is old when Luke introduces her. Nevertheless, his description of Anna defies her age. By that, I don’t mean we would tell Anna she looks good for her age. Rather, I imagine any physical evidence of Anna’s age disappeared when people experienced her soul’s beauty in the first few minutes with her. Perhaps the reason Luke tells readers that Anna’s tribe is Asher is because they might find it hard to believe a woman of her age was so active. In Deuteronomy 33:25 Moses declares God will equip the tribe of Asher with energy and stamina to fulfill their calling: your strength will equal your days. When weary days pile up, I’m wishing I belonged to the tribe of Asher and that strength.
Though Luke leaves out a lot of personal details, we can conclude Anna dreamed the same dreams as other Jewish girls. She expected to marry and raise a family in a close-knit ethnic community. Instead, seven years after marriage, that dream shattered. Her husband died, leaving her a young widow. What does Anna do when life falls apart? We don’t know if Anna had any children so we also do not know if she made the Temple her home immediately after his death or after she raised her children. What we do know is that Anna turned to the Lord for comfort and direction. Luke jumps from telling us that she is a widow, to she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Whether she moved into the temple right after the death of her husband or not, her auto response to tragedy must have included regular worship, prayer and trusting the Lord with her days so much so that in this season of old age, Anna is recognized throughout the community as a trusted prophetess.
Remember that little old lady treasured by the young people in the church because of her gracious love for them? I imagine Anna as that beloved old lady who seems to know just what to say and do and how to say it in a way that the listener can receive. Anna is the radiant living out of Romans 12:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
As a single woman, Anna clearly believed her reasonable service was 24/7 worship. Luke’s words describe a workaholic. Nighttime did not always mean sleep for this woman –she worshipped at night, as well as during the day. Instead of life wearing her down, her lifestyle energized her. She loved what she was doing. Apparently this lifestyle was her routine – her “default mode” for decades. She set her own hours and God revealed things to her as a prophetess that others did not see. She listened to Him and acted accordingly. Anna was a prayer warrior, fulfilling more than one task of a prophetess (Genesis 20:7). As a prophetess, Anna would know the Scriptures. Perhaps she regularly fasted because she saw the power of fasting in the life of Esther (Esther 4:15-16) and when Daniel and his friends refused to eat the unclean food under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:12). I picture a spry, elderly woman, possibly very slim because of regular fasting. Her response to the death of her husband inspires me to choose trust, in my Father, when life turns upside down.
Anna chose life when life turned upside down. Instead of seeing her singleness and widowhood as a curse, she recognized God’s call to worship in the hard places. She discovered joy in offering her life as a “reasonable service” in response to God’s presence and grace. Giving over her body as a living sacrifice renewed her spirit. Anna experienced daily resurrection through the surrender of her living body to worship and prayer. How about you? How about me? How will Anna’s response to shattered dreams help turn our hearts toward Jesus?
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