ANNA: WAITING FOR REDEMPTION
36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming 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.
Last time, looking through the eyes of Simeon "waiting for Consolation," we saw how God knows and sympathizes with us in the sorrows and pains we feel and identifies with our revilement at our own and the world's sin. We noted that Simeon had no advantage over us, but, as much as we need to, by faith he saw God's Consolation and Light and Glory and Sign in the Baby Jesus. - Now we'll be considering Anna and the stark reality of the rebelliousness of ours and the world's sin which underscores our dire need for REDEMPTION through God's action...
ISRAEL'S CONDITION REQUIRING REDEMPTION
Although they were so miraculously delivered from Egypt through the 10 plagues and God's direct presence and parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites were soon found complaining that the water available for them was bitter. God sweetened it up, and the people began murmuring that the purpose in His bringing them to the desert was to starve them to death. God provided manna. Then they went right back to complaining about no water. God provided it, then in His Commandments He also provided the procedure of government for the people. When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive God's commands, the people impatiently assumed that they had been abandoned and therefore made a golden idol to be their god. They complained for meat and received quail. They were afrai d of giants living in the land promised to them!
Once finally settled in the Promised Land, later generations complained that they wanted to be like the nations around them rather than to be set apart as God's special people. They demanded a king! - God, knowing their hearts and stiff-necked natures from countless such episodes, told the Prophet Samuel to give them a king, but also to warn the people that they wouldn't be happy with that king.
Most of the remainder of the Old Testament then tells us how, time and time again those people became unfaithful in worship, stinted on their offerings and chased after the gods and wives of neighboring nations, and became oppressive and unfair towards the underprivileged. God therefore issued and carried out threats of their being taken over by other nations because of their stubborn refusal to repent and return to Him. Through the Prophets He also repeated His promise for a Savior-Redeemer over-and-over, though.
There's no doubt that the people just kept getting what they were asking for when war came within their borders and they were carried off to places like Assyria and Babylon. It's quite clear in Scripture that the peoples' sin brought such tragedies on themselves, all the way to their time of occupation by the hated Romans.
OUR LIKENESS TO THE ISRAELITES
We shouldn't smugly suppose, though, that (because it was so many centuries ago) the people were just more ignorant and didn't know any better than to get caught up in all their idol worship and other sins -- as if modern technology has made us any more spiritually sophisticated. They had certain knowledge of God and His commands, and so do we! They deliberately transgressed and rebelled against what was clear to them and thus deserved the famines, disasters and calamities that befell them. We, too, deserve death and eternal damnation(!) for transgressing what we know to be God's will.
A young person defying his teacher's authority by so little a thing as chewing gum shows that his heart wants to be and is in rebellion -- and that's not such a little and innocent thing! Every least little infraction by any of us against any one of God's Commandments shows the same depraved heart-condition that merits what the Israelites got and worse. ("I want You to serve my wants, God, but don't You try to tell me what to do.")
Repenting people of faith have always understood that the REDEMPTION people need isn't in the first place from natural disasters, earthly troubles and wants, and things like the Romans' oppression of Israel. What we're desperate for is REDEMPTION from our own rebellious hearts of sin. With that given, then everything else such as physical wants being abundantly satisfied, and love and goodwill between nations and races and the perfect condition of Eden's garden can be restored.
ANNA'S QUEST AND EXAMPLE
Anna is one who accepted that truth. Being a "Prophetess" implies that she was endowed by grace with God's Spirit and faith. Beyond punishing or getting the Romans out, she was waiting for God to fix the condition of people's hearts that brought the consequence of their oppression. She was waiting for forgiveness of sin, in other words!
Although being a woman meant she couldn't enter certain areas of the Temple, Anna still seems to have almost lived there. She had perhaps spent over 50 years "not depart(ing) from the Temple (and) worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." -- What a dedicated example! Her personal longing in waiting for REDEMPTION was incredibly intense, wasn't it?
With such a desire, maybe we can understand how sincere and profuse Anna's words must have been when she happened on the Baby Jesus there. As the text says, "She gave thanks to God and spoke of Him to all who were waiting for the REDEMPTION of Jerusalem."
"Redemption" is a word that indicates the price paid in buying something. Saint Paul teaches, "You are not your own; you were bought with a price." "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and 2 Corinthians 8:9)
In the body of this Baby Boy, Anna like Simeon saw God come in human flesh! He was more than even that, though. This little bundle of bones and skin, beating heart and pulsing blood, was the PRICE - the ransom - the one thing set in all of human history that could and would pay and obtain our needed REDEMPTION. --- What a thrill that realization of faith must have been for Anna!
From such a poor, humble beginning, Jesus grew and went on to be the Redeemer of the Cross. The shedding of His blood in His suffering and dying at His crucifixion was the paying action. He Himself was the perfectly innocent and infinitely valuable and precious payment! - That God raised Him in just three days to live forevermore is our proof that the payment was satisfactory. Our REDEMPTION OF FORGIVENESS was fully accomplished and now is finished!
Because of our sin we're often ineffectual, passive and good for nothing in spiritual matters, - just standing around and "waiting!" God is who took charge and did something about our need, beginning our REDEMPTION through the humble incarnation of His Son--> His lowly birth to impoverished parents in a cattle stable in little Bethlehem.
When you think of what the Bible says our sin deserves, but then realize how wonderful God's REDEMPTION through Christ and His precious sacrifice is, - doesn't it make you want to embrace that REDEMPTION with all you've got?! Doesn't it instill a desire for a dedication like Anna's? Doesn't it inspire a thankful song in your heart and the desire to tell others of their REDEMPTION, too? - I know it does me, and I pray that God might grant us all to grow in such joyful and holy desires!