Anna - Just an Old Woman?

Jim Voisey, Cardiff, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Precious Seed

‘She spake of him’, Luke 2. 38.

She was faithful despite decline
Everyone who visited the temple would have known Anna. ‘She was of a great age’, Luke 2. 36, and ‘a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day’, v. 37. We owe to Luke’s careful research for his Gospel, this glimpse of one of the saints of those days. She would have seen many changes in the course of her long life. There is no doubt but that she was grieved that over the years, the temple had been turned into ‘an house of merchandise’, and within its courts were ‘those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money’, John 2. 14. But she remained faithful, and continued to come.

She was like some older saints today, who were brought up in the fellowship of an assembly for many years and continue in faithfulness to the Lord to attend it despite changes taking place, so that it is no longer looks like the assembly they knew in earlier years. It would not now seem patterned on New Testament principles, and some parts of the apostles’ doctrine have been discarded.

It must have been so also to her compatriots such as Joseph and Mary who brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord according to the Law of the Lord yet they continued to come every year thereafter. So it was in the days of the Judges. Every year Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah went up ‘to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord . . . in Shiloh’, 1 Sam. 1. 3, although Eli the priest was old and ineffective, and the conduct of his two sons so openly scandalous that ‘men abhorred the offering of the Lord’, 1 Sam. 2. 17. These faithful saints would continue to do what was right, whatever.

She was a happy woman
Anna was of the tribe of Asher, one of the least mentioned of the tribes of Israel. When Asher was born to Leah’s maid Zilpah, Leah rejoiced, so she called him ‘Asher’, that is ‘happy’. She said, ‘Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed’, Gen. 30. 13. When Moses blessed the twelve tribes, he said, ‘Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil’, Deut. 33. 24, that is, be as someone born to affluence and riches, like our proverb about being ‘born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth’. Jacob said, ‘his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties’, Gen. 49. 20, so his produce will be fit for the tables of kings. One of the children with which the tribe of Asher was blessed was Anna. A happy woman and rich in the sight of the Lord. She had only been married a short time before she was bereaved of her husband. Perhaps they had no children, but she turned to the Lord in her sorrow, not to complain, but to find comfort and strength. ‘The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit’, Ps. 34. 18; see also Heb. 2. 18.

The mention of her being of the tribe of Asher is remarkable and important in another connection, for the ten tribes might have been assumed to have been lost forever, for this is what some of the ancient Jewish rabbis taught, but they were wrong. Paul, before king Agrippa, who was an expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews, testified that all ‘our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night’, Acts 26. 7, so still anticipating the promise of God. This is exactly what Anna was doing, ‘night and day’.

Her testimony was clear, simple and blessed
Anna had come into the temple just when Simeon was praising the Lord, and now she also ‘gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem’. Anna was not just echoing Simeon’s words. She was herself a prophetess, and her own testimony to the Lord was of divine origin. Both Simeon and Anna brought delight to the Father’s heart as they gave their testimony to His Son. This they did out of affection and spiritual discernment and so it was honouring to Him. To people who might have known her only by sight, she might have seemed to them ‘just an old woman’, but God knew differently and many taking notice of her were blessed as a result.

The next time you see an old lady in your assembly, who perhaps has been in fellowship for many years, but her previous life and experience are unknown to you, then think of Anna and her witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and see this sister as God saw Anna.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jim Voisey is in fellowship in the assembly meeting at Adamsdown Gospel Hall in Cardiff and has recently retired from his job as a university lecturer.