|Prophetess Anna by Margot|
A widow in Israel who had no family to turn to was dependent upon God for her care. Deuteronomy 14 gives us some insight into the responsibility of the community in to the care of widows. "
28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Timothy 5 says 3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.
Girls married young in those days. If she had been married at the age of 15 she would have lived with her husband seven years to the age of 22. It says that for eighty four years she lived as a widow who did not leave the temple but served in prayer and fasting. She may have been 106 years old when she beheld the infant Jesus. That she would remain at the temple for 84 years of her life does not speak of a woman who was just living on charity but of one who was a remarkable holy woman of her day.
She would have had no family to turn. No father, no kinsman redeemer. Women with out men in those days had no way to make a living. She could have remarried, she was young once, but she chooses to seek God rather than a man to provide for her. For 84 years she had looked to the Lord or all her concerns. He was her husband and He saw to her care. She devoted herself to prayer and fasting and serving in his temple.
Why it is important to the story of Jesus that he is received and blessed by both Simeon and Anna both very holy and advanced in years. Take a look at Deuteronomy 19:15 and you get the law concerning witnesses. 15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
The baby Jesus is presented at the temple by his parents and is greeted by a woman of prayer and considerable faithfulness to God. It calls her a prophetess one who speaks a divine message.
She speaks to all those who looked to the redemption of Jerusalem. It never tells us what she had to say. We do know she rejoiced and gave thanks upon having seen the child. She goes on speak of the fulfillment of his coming.
She is from the tribe of Asher which is one of the lost tribes of Israel. I think it is interesting the we are told her father's name and her tribe but not her husbands. Of the 12 tribes Asher was one of the two sons of the maid Zilpha. Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah the daughter of Laban and in the end has four wives. Rachel and Leah are daughters of Laban. Zilpha and Bilha are maids who become married to Jacob because daughters he has married have trouble conceiving children.
Asher and Gad are the sons of Zilpha who is the maid of un loved Leah. Asher is the eighth son of Jacob.
Then Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” So she called his name Asher.
Deuteronomy 33:24It is an unloved widow woman who's home is the temple, who is one of the first to recognize and bless the messiah babe. She has devoted her life to God and is rewarded by being one to act as a witness to the birth and the arrival of Messiah.
And of Asher he said:“Asher is most blessed of sons; Let him be favored by his brothers, And let him dip his foot in oil.
It seems the land given to Asher was very rich and fertile land with lots of olive groves and they were as a result a prosperous. At the time of our story of Anna at the temple they have become one of the lost tribes scattered among the nations. Yet Anna's tribe is mentioned in this passage. I think it speaks to the faithfulness of her family to the ways of God. She remembers her heritage even though she is a widow. I have been reading a book called the Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler, he writes, " There is a difference between a wretched and and orphan. An orphan is literally a child who's parents are dead. It is a pitiable state, to be sure, but the child still knows, by means of relations or guardians, who thier parents were and what Gifts they have inherited..... A wretched is like an orphan. They have no family, no relations, no one willing to own them or care for them. Their parents may be alive or dead. They are often born in secret, with no one aware of their coming... except for the unlucky souls find them abandoned at an Abby."
Anna is a widow, she has no family to turn to but she knows her family linage and heritage. She has some how found her way back to Israel although her tribe as a whole is considered lost.
She is not a lost soul. She knows her heritage. She has seen the almighty Jehovah God care for her like a husband for 84 years. She has seen Psalm 27:10 to be true.
When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me.
Sometimes the reward that God gives us are not wealth or fame. They may not be family, lands or people. His rewards my not be successes as measured by this world. Sometimes his reward is living in his constant care and knowing him intimately. Sometimes his reward is not one that others would proclaim or rejoice over. Some times it is in simply being able to see the thing that God is doing and rejoice knowing that God keeps his promises.
Anna has probably had a hard life. There have probably been times that she has fasted and gone with out food. In 85 years she has not died from starvation. In 85 years she has not turned away from God even thought she has faced hardship and stands among the most wretched of her day.
Was her life blessed by God? I think her life challenges us to re think what it means to be blessed by God.
What if God is calling you to a life of faithfulness, one that does not include successes as they are measured by the world. Would you follow him for 85 years if you had to live as a poor widow beggar woman? Would you devote your life to prayer and fasting or be consumed by bitterness.
It is also interesting to me that Anna is recognized by God as a prophetess. God has no problem with women proclaiming his truth. The despised and rejected are not rejected by God. She is a woman with a calling on her life. In her life of quiet faithfulness and prayer her life must have spoken volumes to those who saw her every time they went to worship at the temple.
Though her conditions was wretched she did not live as one despised or rejected she knew the care and provision of her God. She beheld the face of God. Asher by the way means "face of God" Look at the beauty of how a promise written in a name long long ago was fulfilled in a woman of that tribe who in the end did indeed behold the face of God.