"And there was one, Anna" (Lk 2.36): thus Scripture introduces this godly soul. An insignificant figure, an aged widow woman, but one who was beloved of God.
She was about to have the most privileged experience of a lifetime; she was to see the "Ancient of days" (Dan 7.9) in the form of an "Infant of time" - "great is the mystery of godliness" (1 Tim 3.16). Anna joined Simeon to witness to the Christ. Visualise the scene poor unknown parents, a babe in arms, two aged saints; who would guess that ancient prophecy was being fulfilled and that the Son of God had come into the world? No pomp, no ceremony how like God! There follows a delightful profile of Anna to inspire us all to greater godliness.
Annas interesting background is now described. The compassionate physician Luke appreciates a widows special needs (he refers to four widows in his gospel), and pays great attention to detail. Anna means "gracious"; she must have manifested something of the "meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Cor 10.1). She is described as a "prophetess"; this does not involve a public place, but simply that she was taught of God and spoke for Him. Her fathers name was Phanuel (Peniel, Gen 32.30) meaning "the Face of God". He must have been one who sought the face of God for guidance and grace amidst the changing circumstances of life, an esteemed role model for Anna. She was evidently brought up in a godly atmosphere. Anna was of the "tribe of Asher" meaning "blessed", or "happy"; she valued her tribal identity, her spiritual heritage (do we?) and, in spite of the privations of widowhood, "the joy of the Lord" was her strength. These features reveal Annas undaunted faith and undying hope in the promises of God, and are worthy of our emulation.
The prophecies of Jacob and Moses concerning Asher seem relevant to Anna "His bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties" (Gen 49.20), this suggests plenty and prosperity and Anna was certainly fully satisfied and prospered in soul as Gaius did, in spite of physical weakness (3 Jn v.2). Then "as thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deut 33.25): another promise which Anna had proved through her 108 (?) years - still not incapacitated, but full of spiritual zeal. Her days are numbered by God who has a special place in his heart for widows. He is, verily, "a judge of the widows" (Ps 68.5).
Annas consecrated life is summed up in these verses under five headings.
A Devout Widow
"She departed not from the temple"; it spoke to her of the presence, holiness, and glory of God. Her reverent spirit therefore desired to be near to that which represented the dwelling place of God. Such was Davids holy desire to "dwell in the house of the Lord" (Ps 27.4) as Paul expected of Timothy (1 Tim 3.15). Have we similar desires?
A Devoted Worker
"She served God with fastings and prayers", that is, denying self and communing with God about the needs of others and her own concerns. This is acceptable work for God. Do we engage in it?
A Directed Woman
"Coming in that instant" when the infant Christ, the parents and Simeon were there. This was not mere coincidence, but perfect divine timing; she saw and heard it all (see also Prov 3.6; Ps 37.23).
A Delighted Worshipper
"She gave thanks." Praise flowed from her heart in the thrill of the moment. The Gospels record four occasions when the Lord gave thanks. Do we "In every thing give thanks" (1 Thess 5.18)?
A Diligent Witness
"She spake of him." Based on personal knowledge and experience she spoke out of the abundance of her heart. We should do likewise, for "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God" (Ps 92.13).
She spake of Him, O glorious occupation,
Could mortal tongue a worthier theme expound?
She spake to all that waited for redemption
Of the blest Person she herself had found.
She spake of HIM.