And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She did not leave the temple grounds, serving night and day with fasts and prayers.”(Luke 2:36–37 NASB)
Simeon was not the only aging Israelite with the gift of prophecy to receive Messianic revelation on the day Joseph and Mary went to the temple to “redeem” their firstborn son.
The old man was there at that precise moment only because the Spirit of God had directed him there. But Anna, an elderly widow, lived there in the temple complex. Although not a Levite, she was nevertheless allowed to reside and serve on the Temple Mount. She must have been very special.
Perhaps Luke mentions her father’s name because he was an important man. Luke also informs us that Anna is eighty-four and had been widowed after only seven years of marriage. A little math, along with the assumption that, per the customs of that culture, Anna had been wed as a teenager, suggests that Anna had likely been a widow for roughly six decades. Had she been serving and prophesying at the Temple complex that entire time? If so, she was certainly an iconic figure among all the devout of Israel.
We can safely assume that Simeon’s ecstatic reaction at encountering the baby Messiah caught Anna’s attention. Or perhaps the Spirit had nudged her just as it had Simeon. In either case, she walks up just as Simeon finishes prophesying. Luke tells us:
And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak about Him to all those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38 NASB)
Anna’s testimony will serve as a significant source of fuel to the fires of Messianic expectation that will engulf the land in the days to come. Fires so hot, that when, in thirty years, John the Baptist begins preaching way out at the Jordan River, “all of Jerusalem will come out to hear him.” (see: Mark 1:5)
Throughout six decades of service at the Jerusalem temple, this large open plaza outside the gates of the inner complex, sometimes called the Court of the Women, is as close to the heart of the temple Anna, or any other woman, has ever been permitted to stand.
One level deeper lies the Court of Israel, (or the Court of Men). Deeper still lies the Court of Priests. Finally, in very heart of the complex, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The latter chamber is where the very presence of God is said to dwell. Only the High Priest is allowed into that sacred space, and only once each year.
Here’s the irony. On this day, this devout widow gets closer to the presence of God than the corrupt High Priest ever has or will. Anna has seen the face of God.
Prayer of Declaration:
Jesus, the curtain or veil that blocked access to the Temple’s Holy of Holies was torn in two as you laid your life down for me. Through your blood, I now have direct and free access to the very Presence and Person of God, my Heavenly Father.