Saturday, May 7, 2022

By Grace She Saw the Face of God and Lived - Luke 2:36-38 - May 8, 2022

 Luke 2:36-38 By Grace She Saw the Face of God and Lived

Good morning! Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter 2, verses 36-40, page 858 in the pew Bibles.

It was wonderful having the crew from BICS here last week, next Saturday we will be traveling down for Daniel’s graduation from the program. But today we are going to go back to the Gospel of Luke and the day that Mary and Joseph presented baby Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem.

You may remember from our last time in Luke that a man named Simeon sang a song of worship to God for allowing him to see the Lord’s Christ, and today we are going to look at one who came alongside and sang the harmony to his song.

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. 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. 

Let’s pray.

Well, what do we know about Anna? This is pretty much it, this is the only time she is mentioned in Scripture, there are no other references to her at all. She’s pretty obscure but there is still much we can learn from her.

In our world today there is so much vying for our attention, TV and movies are shaping how we live, our phones are listening to us to target us with the right kind of marketing so we’ll see the types of products that fit our conversations and interests. 

We are constantly bombarded with influences outside of the Word of God. And think what you will about that, whether it is good or bad, but we do have to be careful to measure who and what kind of people we allow to influence us.

The people that have the most influence on our lives are the ones of whom we think the most. And if it’s people that we think the most of that have most influence on our lives we have to ask ourselves, what is it about them that garners our respect?

In the world’s system, those that garner the most respect are those with money, and power, and talent. 

Maybe respect isn’t the right word but “attention” certainly is. There is a constant battle for our attention in this day and age, and who we give our attention to affects the way we see the world and how we act while in the world.

I’d like to contend today that the world’s system of who and what should have our attention is the exact opposite of that of the Kingdom of God in Christ. Today’s text is an example of that.

Luke didn’t write an account of some billionaire, socialite, politician, movie star, athlete. He wrote about a little old lady who got to meet Jesus.

Anna is not an example of wealth, and power, and privilege, she is an example of faithfulness, godliness, and chastity. John Calvin said, “These are the qualities that justly give to men [and women] weight and estimation.”

There is much we can learn from the character of Anna, and much we can adopt of her example.

St. Ambrose wrote, “Christ received a witness at his birth, not only from prophets and shepherds, but also from aged and holy men and women. Every age, and both sexes, and the marvels of events, confirm our faith. A virgin brings forth, the barren becomes a mother, the dumb speaks, Elizabeth prophesies, the wise men adore, the babe leaps in the womb, the widow praises God … Simeon prophesied; she who was wedded prophesied; she who was a virgin prophesied; and now a widow prophesies, that all states of life and sexes might be there.” 

Luke wrote that Anna was a prophetess, she was an inspired teacher. The strict definition of a prophetess is a woman who proclaims inspired utterances on behalf of God. Also, her name means, “grace.” It is not at all coincidental that the Lord chose to speak the Gospel of grace through a woman whose name means, “grace.”

It’s interesting to note that though we know Anna was a widow, her husband’s name wasn’t mentioned but her father’s name was, his name was Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. While this is the only time this particular Phanuel is mentioned in Scripture, his name is not without meaning either. He was named after Jacob’s Phanuel, in Hebrew pronounced Peniel where Jacob wrestled with the angel in Genesis 32:30 which says, So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Peniel, Phanuel, means, “the face of God.”

Phanuel’s daughter Anna, by God’s grace, also saw the face of God in the child Jesus that day in the Temple in Jerusalem.

While those are interesting facts, it is Anna’s example and her character that we can all learn the most from. She had the qualities that justly give her weight and estimation.

Anna was long a true widow. She wasn’t a widow for eighty-four years as some translations have it, she was eighty-four years old and became a widow after being married only seven years, she was somewhere between 19-23 years old when her husband died.

The Apostle Paul gave us the definition of a true widow and how to care for them in 1 Timothy 5:3-16.

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

Getting married again after being widowed was not forbidden clearly, nor was it a sign of weakness of character, but for Anna to remain a widow for so long does speak to the strength of her character.

She put a priority on worship of the Lord over her own desires and affections. She decided to worship the Lord continually in the Temple night and day. Her pattern of self denial is also evidenced in that she added fasting to her prayer.

A quick note on fasting. Fasting is denying yourself food for periods of time for no other purpose than to help oneself focus solely on prayer. Fasting is often mentioned in conjunction with prayer in the New Testament. It is not designed to be a public display but a private and personal act only to aid prayer. It is also not a requirement but rather it is a personal act of devotion and worship. 

Verse 37 says that she didn’t depart from the Temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. This is a bit of hyperbole, we would say, “she’s there all the time,” or, “she never leaves the Temple,” even if we just meant that she’s just there a lot. 

Either way, she put a priority on communing with God in the Temple, pouring out her heart to Him, praying for the redemption of Jerusalem that the coming of Messiah would bring.

Anna also communed with the saints, verse 38 says, “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.”

Her praises joined Simeon’s and she spoke to all those around her that were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. 

These were the Old Testament saints, just as we are New Testament saints, we are looking back in faith to the first coming of Messiah, but they were looking forward in faith. 

They weren’t hoping for a political or temporal Messiah as the Pharisees were and many Jews today still are, they were hoping for a spiritual Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by faith.

And Anna’s faith was rewarded, her faith became sight that day when she got to see Jesus Messiah with her own eyes.

Anna is a saint worth imitating, her consistency, her holiness, her prayerfulness, and her self-denial. 

She was rewarded because she was faithful with so little, we now have the whole canon of Scripture, the testimonies of the saints, the witness of His church, and the indwelling Holy Spirit, may we be as faithful as Anna was as we hope for Messiah’s Second Coming!

Anna’s name meant, “grace.”

The Good news of grace is that Messiah has come, His Name is Jesus, and He has taken away the sins of the world, if we turn from our wicked ways and trust in Him. For it is by grace through faith in Jesus Messiah that we are saved.

May we all, like Anna, by grace through faith, see the face of God in Jesus and live.