Studying Anna for a sermon led me to some unexpected insights about her devotional life. It inspired me to put a multi-episode series together.
“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36–38 NIV11)
What do we learn about Anna’s relationship with God?
Her relationship with God was not affected by her age.
Anna is described as ‘very old’. It is not fashionable to comment on a woman’s age. Indeed, it is considered downright rude. “There are three things you don’t ask a woman: her age, her weight, and how many shoes she owns.” – How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
However, Luke’s comment is intended as a compliment. Her dedication to the worship of God has not been dimmed by the passing years — and there are a lot of those years. How many?
It is possible she lived 84 years as a widow. If Anna married at 14, was widowed at 21, she then encounters Joseph, Mary and Jesus 84 years later when she is 105. That would make her the same age as the apocryphal figure Judith when she died (Judith 16:28).*
Nonetheless, whatever her precise age, she kept a disciplined schedule of corporate and personal worship. She did not use age as an excuse to reduce her devotion.
- Different stages of life present challenges, but also opportunities. She was past menstruation so that meant she could be more devoted than earlier in her life. She became more flexible as she got older which led to her spending more time in worship than before.
- Her vulnerability was an opportunity to live by faith. Old age makes the strongest of us weak. She remained devoted despite that vulnerability. In this she symbolises the marginalised and vulnerable — a theme in Luke.
I will conclude today by reading this account of another faithful older person, Caleb.
“So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:10–12 NIV11)
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, or practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: email@example.com.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, and leave a review.
“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)
God bless, Malcolm