The Long Wait and the Unlikely Prophet
Luke 2:36 ¶ There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
Luke 2:37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.
Luke 2:38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna was a very unlikely prophet, but she had been faithful in her devotion to God. She was from the tribe of Asher, which meant she was from Galilee. Her life was a foreshadowing of that of Christ — for the officials wondered whether anything good could ever come from Galilee!
During those days there were very few who heard the voice of the Lord, and yet here we see a woman known as a prophet, because of her personal relationship with the Lord. While the religious officials would pray and fast just so that others could take note of them, she prayed and fasted because of her love of God. Prayer and fasting became a part of her life as her faithful commitment to God continued daily for eighty-four years. Now, after her long wait God allowed her to see the answer to her prayers. Can you imagine the great joy as she looked upon the baby, knowing he would bring about the salvation of his people!
Anna is truly an unlikely prophet and seems to appear almost out of place in the story. How could it be that a woman is considered a prophet and why is she the one who is hearing the voice of the Lord? However, she is framed within the story right after the meeting with Simeon. Could it be that right from the beginning of Jesus’ life that we begin to see the destruction of traditional barriers that had been created. Jesus was coming to set all of humanity free, slaves and free, Jew and Greek, male and female! In this moment, when Anna is presented, we see the gospel message affirming the presence of a woman in this new narrative.
Not only is the fact that Anna is female a glimpse into the new kingdom of God, but the tribe from which she hails. Here in one sentence the author pulls back the curtain and allows us to see what Jesus is coming to do! He too will be the unlikely one from Galilee — and the religious officials will sneer at his upbringing! Anna is from that part of the world, and Jesus will be as well — all creating disdain among the religious officials. Those who held power within the established systems had their own preconceived notions of how that power would be controlled or shared. God had other ideas in mind and the new kingdom that the tiny baby was ushering in was about to turn their world upside down. If only they had been paying attention that day!
Anna waited a long time! She was faithful — and God used her to be a reminder to all of history that something new was happening. Anna didn’t know that God would use her in this way, and yet, she lived faithfully devoted to him every single day of her life. We are called to live in faithful obedience to him. Maybe God will use us as he did Anna — or maybe we will pass away without seeing the new and dramatic changes. All that God requires of us is faithfulness to him. But, he may use us to be the unlikely within his kingdom and when that happens, be prepared to do what Anna had always done — be faithfully devoted day in and day out.
It is during the long wait that we discover the intimacy with him that is worth it all.
Lord, thank you for faithful servants like Anna who serve as reminders to us today. Amen.