There was also a prophetess named Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, who was well along in years. She had been married for seven years,
I. THAT THERE IS ROOM IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST FOR THE SERVICE OF WOMAN-HOOD. It was well that the aged Simeon should bear his testimony to the birth of the Savior; it was also well that this aged and honorable prophetess should "likewise give thanks." Woman as well as man was to utter reverent joy on this supreme occasion. Woman, in the person of Anna, might well rejoice; for in the kingdom of Christ there is "neither male nor female;" all distinction of sex is unknown. Woman is as free to enter that kingdom as man; she may reach as high a position, by personal excellency, in it; she is as welcome to render holy service and fruitful testimony; is as certain to reap the reward of fidelity in the kingdom of heaven to which it leads. Women were the most faithful attendants on our Lord during his earthly ministry; they have been, since then, the most regular worshippers and the most devoted workers in his Church (see homily on Luke 8:2, 3).
II. THAT LONG LONELINESS MAY WELL BRING US INTO CLOSE COMMUNION WITH GOD. Anna had a very long widowhood (ver. 36), and in her loss of human fellowship she waited much on God. She "departed not from the temple, but served God... with prayers night and day." When denied one another's society, what can we do better than seek fellowship with our heavenly Father, with our Divine Friend? What, indeed, can we do so well? Communion with the Father of our spirits will bring healing to the wounded soul, will be companionship for the lonely hour, will promote sanctity and submissiveness of will, will remind us of those other children of his who need our sympathy and succor, and will send us forth blessing and blest on the errands of love.
III. THAT A VISION FROM GOD SHOULD RESULT IN PRAISE AND TESTIMONY. Anna "gave thanks unto the Lord, and spake of him [the infant Christ] to all," etc. Inspired of God, she recognized the long looked-for Messiah, and immediately she broke into praise, and forthwith began to communicate the joyful fact to all whom she could reach. This is the true order and the right procedure. When God reveals himself or his truth to us, we must first go to him in gratitude and praise, and must lose no time in passing on to others what he has entrusted to us.
IV. THAT AGE HAS ITS OFFERING TO BRING, as well as youth and prime. It is pleasant to think of the aged Anna, some way past four score, bent and feeble with the weight of years, speaking to "all them that looked," etc., and telling them that he whom they had waited for so long had come at last. A fair sight it is in the eyes of man, and surely in his also who estimates our service according to our ability (ch. 21:3), when those whose strength is well-nigh gone and who have earned their rest by long and faithful labor will not be persuaded to retire from the field, but labor on until the darkness of death arrests them.
V. THAT HOLY EXPECTATION WILL MEET WITH ITS FULFILMENT. There were many looking ("all of them," etc.) for redemption (ver. 38); and as they waited for God and upon him, their hearts' desires were granted. God may delay his answer for a while, even for a long while, but in due time it will come. The seeker will find; the worker will reap. - C.
And there was one Anna, a prophetess.1. Excited by long expectations.
2. Based on personal sight.
3. Given with full candour.
4. Sealed by holy walk.
5. Crowned by a happy old age.
(James Foote, M. A.)
Preachers' Treasury.I. PIETY IN THE AGED CONFIRMS AND ILLUSTRATES THE PROMISE WHICH GOD HAS MADE OF LONG LIFE TO THOSE WHO FEAR HIS NAME.
II. PIETY IN THE AGED CROWNS THOSE WHO POSSESS IT WITH ESPECIAL HONOUR.
III. PIETY IN THE AGED COMMENDS RELIGION TO OTHERS.
IV. PIETY IN THE AGED FURNISHES A BEAUTIFUL ILLUSTRATION OF THE MATURITY AND RIPENESS OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Concluding inferences:
1. We should imitate the pious aged.
2. How thankful should the children of pious and aged parents be.
3. The departure of aged Christians from our midst reminds us who remain that the ranks before us are thinning out, and that we are pressing up to the forefront of the line. We should see to it, then, that we have their piety, and can honour their place.
1. Anna departed not from the Temple — persistent, faithful, constant, and thus a woman pre-eminently.
2. She served God with lastings and prayers night and day — self-denial, profound devotion, continual watching.
3. Where Simeon prayed, Anna gave thanks. It would seem as if there was just the faintest touch of self-consideration in the prayer of Simeon, as he wished to be gone from scenes that wearied him; but the prophetess, eighty and four years old, constant through all changes, hopeful through all fears, was willing to linger longer, for she spoke nothing of her own release, but thanked God for His mercy, and comforted many that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Blessed are they who can sing in their old age, and turn all their own experience into comfort for those who mourn.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
1. What is the best cure for loneliness? — Something to do, and the determination to do it.
2. What is woman's work in the Church, and who are the women to do it? More and more every year it is coming to be understood that there are departments which women can excellently fill. There are thousands of devoted women scattered about in different parts of our country who, in quiet places, and by womanly methods, are doing an immense amount of good. More Annas to spend their days in God's Temple, and speak a kindly word to those who are in darkness: women who have a ready hand to take up any duty which would not otherwise be done — these are the women that are needed. But it is lonely women especially who are called to Christ's work.
3. God will most richly reward the services of the faithful. No one knows exactly what the reward will be, for He delights to give us surprises of joy.
(H. W. Beecher.)
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