Monday, August 31, 2015

GREAT WOMEN OF FAITH - ANNA, FIRST BIG CITY EVANGELIST

36 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,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, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38).

Nothing is wasted in God's economy. Nothing in His Creation and nothing in His Word. Every word, of every phrase of every verse of every chapter of book is there for a reason and the passage above is no exception. The prophetess Anna is more than just an extra in some church Christmas program. She is given to us as an example of so many attributes we need to emulate as Christians.

God created us, each with a different and unique set of DNA, fingerprints and personality. However, there is nothing new under the sun, while under the Son - He maketh everything new! The person of Anna, writen, under Divine Authority, about by Dr. Luke, the Greek Gospel writer is a living testimony to the amazing Mind of God. Let us unpack this, thematically as well expository, as we look at this powerful woman of God
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Anna was of great age (verse 36b): In this case, it is okay to ask a woman her age!!  The only reason this is important is the evidence the Holy Spirit gives to show that Anna had been serving God for a long, long time. We see in the next phrase, she was an 84 years old widow, having been married for 7 years. Many of us have been Christians and followers of Jesus Christ for many decades, some for a few years, some just recently. But six plus decades is a long time, in anybody's language for dedicated, selfless service to the Lord. One significant noticeable thing is this - Anna lost her husband in her early 20's. Yet, unlike most, instead of being bitter and turning AWAY FROM God, she turned TO Him. We are to learn from this. We can learn that no matter how much it hurts, God is for us and is always in control. There is nothing wrong in asking our Father in Heaven "why me, Lord". But be prepared for the answer, because that answer is always geared towards strengthening our Faith and our relationship with Him, if we listen and let Him direct our future....after the appropriate period of mourning.


Anna did not depart from the Temple (verse 37a): She obviously had her own little room in the huge temple complex, which was appointed by God, where there had to be many old used scrolls of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. She did not spend those many years just walking around aimlessly, being only an encourager to countless women and children. According to tradition, she would not have been allowed to teach men, but praying for and ministering to others was her calling. The lesson for us here is this - we are not to depart from the modern Temple of the Lord, because the Holy Spirit Who abides in us, has fueled us up with the correct mindset to seek, pursue and acquire the Knowledge of the Holy One and we are to live under than unction all the days of our lives. This includes and precludes us following after the mystic and pagan ways of the eastern "religions" and the strange New Age doctrines of the west.


Anna served God with fastings and prayers (verse 37b): This is an interesting phrase as there is more to it than we read in the English translations, on which modern western christianity based their "theology". The word "serve" is from the original bible Greek word "latris" which literally means "hired servant". In a sense, we are all “hired servants” of the King, being Christians and bought by a price – on the Cross, by His Precious Blood. We are servants who are never fired, but are continually being fired up by the Power of the Holy Spirit – the very Spirit of God Who indwells every rejuvenated soul.  We serve Him best by being His disciples. We already know what the qualifications of a disciple is, i.e “take up your Cross and follow” Christ.


This “taking up of the Cross” is the one thing modern Christians have the biggest problem with and continues to be our downfall.  Taking up one’s Cross means total selfless commitment to the point of being a “doulos” like the Apostle Paul. Modern English translates that word “servant” to be politically correct when it literally means slave. A slave follows His Master as we should follow Christ. The commitment not only involves dying to self but following Christ in every way – in studying His Word, like Anna studied the scrolls – the same scrolls we hold in our hands when we hold a Bible. The commitment also involves daily prayer and as much as possible – fasting.  Fasting is not a concept which was done away with but a way to connect with the Lord on a deeper level, when we put aside the distractions and delicasies of daily living for a higher purpose of Christ, on occasion. This is the way we grow as disciples and emulate the great example of Anna the Prophetess.

Anna responded to God's Perfect Timing (verse 38a): Now this verse
about the great woman of faith – Anna –is so intriguing and full of meaning. First of all, we see perfect timing. It appears from Dr. Luke’s Gospel that God Himself directed first Simeon and then Anna, to His Son (in baby form) in the same encounter. But how would she know which one would be the Christ child in all the hundreds of people in the temple courtyard that day? God’s perfect timing is the only answer.  This woman had spent six decades, living in the temple under the auspices and Grace of God and had studied under the best teachers of the time, including Nicodemus and Gamaliel.  She knew the Word. She fasted and prayed and ministered as much as she ate and slept, walked and talked. In that instant, it all came together. For us, that moment was when we first knew Him as Lord and Savior – and the most exciting journey of our lives began! This is the journey with Jesus which will take us home to be with Him!

Anna became the First Big City Evangelist (verse 38b): So it no wonder, she gave thanks! Her entire life was fulfilled in the meeting and holding of the Sovereign King of the Universe –the Baby Jesus! Her words of gratitude for this honor are not recorded like Simeon, but her actions spoke more. Her gratitude for what the Lord did for her, led her to become the First Evangelist of the Christian Faith in Jerusalem. We already saw that the poor Shepherds of Bethlehem were the first pastors and evangelists but they were kept OUTSIDE the big city by the Pharisees, who did not want them in the Holy City for many reasons! They looked down on those shepherds as dirty, smelly and even thieves when these shepherds were the ones who kept all the sheep required for the Temple sacrifices! 

God revealed the Birth of the Savior to these poor Shepherds at the beginning on the jagged cold hills south of the eternal city. He then revealed the eight day old God-man to this amazing woman, Anna, who spared no time sharing the Good News of the Savior's arrival to all in the City of Jerusalem, who would listen. With whom she shared the news of the fulfillment of the Messianic Prophesy is important. Scripture said "Anna spoke of Him to all who looked for Redemption". Just like today, people felt oppressed, under stressed and distressed and full of hopelessness. Still, this great woman of Faith, who literally met the Savior as a baby boy, knew of the Hope that had arrived and told all who would listen. This laid the foundation for what took 30 years to come to fruition - the Ministry of Jesus Christ. Today, we have that same hope. So many are unable to cope and are even looking in the wrong place for their concept of Redemption, Peace, Joy, Understanding, Love, Hope and Grace. They need to look to the beautiful Face of Christ, Whom the Father allowed this unique woman to first see; surrender their lives to Him and then feel the same joy Anna saw, when she came face to Face with the Messiah two thousand years ago.

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