There was also a prophet named Hannah Bat-P’nu’el, of the tribe of Asher. She was a very old woman — she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage and had remained a widow ever since; now she was eighty-four. She never left the Temple grounds but worshipped there night and day, fasting and praying. She came by at that moment and began thanking God and speaking about the child to everyone who was waiting for Yerushalayim to be liberated. (Luke 2:36-38 CJB)
She grimaced in pain as she awakened that morning, the inflammation of old age searing through her hips and lower back. Groaning, she stretched her legs carefully, before rolling to her side and pushing herself up to a seated position gingerly. “Oh Yahweh,” she groaned as a sharp burning pain shot through her legs, “How much longer must I tarry?” Grabbing her cane from the ground beside her, Anna awkwardly hoisted herself up, standing hunched over, as the burning, tingling pain again radiated from her lower back down her legs. She used the cane to steady herself, breathing deeply from the exertion of getting up. As her labored breathing slowed, her palpitating heart also slowed to a regular rhythm, and her pain settled to a dull ache.
With each day that passed, it became more and more difficult for Anna to move about, but she firmly set her face like flint as she determinedly forced herself to get up each morning and worship Adonai. After rolling her bed mat into a neat bundle, Anna placed it in the same spot she had been placing it in for more than 6 decades. Cane in hand to steady herself, she then walked toward the Beautiful Gate, as she did every morning, briefly leaving the Court of Women behind, as she went to relieve herself and then wash up, singing softly to the Lord as she did so…
Kadosh kadosh kadosh
Kadosh kadosh kadosh
Adonai Elohim tz’va’ot
Adonai Elohim tz’va’ot
“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?” Anna softly whispered as she rinsed her face, wiping the sleep from her eyes. After filling her flask with fresh water, Anna combed through her long silver hair, and plaited it before covering it once again. Then she continued worshiping the Lord as she walked back toward the Beautiful Gate and once again entered the Court of Women.
This was as far as Anna was allowed to go on the Temple Grounds, as women were forbidden to go any farther. It didn’t occur to Anna to be upset by this law. That’s just the way things were, and this is where she had made her home for many years. Long ago, when she was a young girl, she had once been married to a man she had loved passionately, but after only seven years of marriage, Elohim had called him to Paradise, and Anna had been alone ever since.
Well-meaning friends had told Anna that she would find another love and remarry, but Anna knew that she would never marry another man. She had given her heart to one man, and that was the only man she would ever love. When he died, Anna made a vow to be Elohim’s bride and to serve Him and worship Him for the rest of her life, and so she had. She had given all of her belongings away, save for her bed mat and a few personal items, and she had made her home on the Temple Grounds, in the Women’s Court, where she worshiped night and day, praying and often fasting. She trusted the Lord to take care of her needs, and He always had.
As she worshiped the Lord in spirit and in truth, He had given her the gift of prophecy. He had also promised Anna that she would see Israel’s Messiah before she died, and she clung to that promise. “O Adonai,” she would whisper each day, “how much longer till I see Him? Will it be today?”
Feeling melancholy, Anna sat down in front of the fire in the Women’s Court and thought back over the years, remembering when Rome had conquered Jerusalem, shortly after her husband had passed away. She was glad he hadn’t been alive to see the destruction caused by these brutes. That was a time of great horror, for the Romans were a cruel, harsh people. Anna looked beyond the Temple towards the hill of the place called Golgotha, and shuddered. When they gained control of Jerusalem, the Romans had brought a cruel new form of punishment with them, and the hills were often covered with crosses. This shameful, barbaric death penalty was horrifying to watch, as many Jewish men were stripped and hung on a wooden cross, arms and legs held in place by large crude nails driven into the victim’s hands and feet.
As God’s chosen people were brought low under the weight of this oppressive government, they cried out mournfully for their Emmanuel to come, and Anna cried out for Him too. She tried to comfort the people with the promise that she had been given by Adonai, but most refused to believe, often treating her as though she was a crazy old woman, rather than a prophet anointed by God. “Lord,” she often cried, “Your people are so frustrating! They see, but they don’t see, and they hear, but they don’t understand!”
Anna often wondered and asked the Almighty, “What will happen when He comes, O El Kadosh? Will they see Him and not recognize Him? Adonai, please tell me they won’t miss Him!” Sadly, the Lord was silent when Anna shared these fears with Him. Still, Anna tried to prepare the people, and her impassioned pleas for them to, “Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. In all Your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path,” had grown even more urgent, as she shared the imminence of Messiah’s coming.
For she had heard of the birth of the son of Zechariah, the priest, who was said to be the forerunner of Messiah, and in her spirit, Anna knew that this was true, and so now, she looked for Messiah even more ardently than before. Her heart quickened this morning, as she worshiped the Lord, hoping and praying that today would be the day. “O Adonai,” she cried out, unmindful of what others might think of her. “You said that if I would delight myself in You, that You would give me the desires of my heart.Yahweh, You above all others know that I do delight in You, for there is none that I love any more than You. So hear my cry, O Lord, and attend unto my need. How I long for Messiah’s arrival. Please, Elohim, let today be the day that I look upon His face. Please! Let this be the day!”
As she worshiped, Anna looked around, and it was then that she saw Simeon rushing into the Temple Court, and when she saw Him, her spirit quickened, and she knew. “This is it!” she whispered to Adonai, as she struggled to her feet and cane in hand, walked as briskly as she could to Simeon and the young couple he was speaking to, watching as he gently and reverently lifted the infant and gazed into the baby’s face.
There was deep reverence on Simeon’s face, as he lifted the child to Yahweh and said, “Lord, now I can die in peace! As You promised me, I have seen the Savior You have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of your people Israel!”
Anna drew her breath in sharply, as she felt the power of the Almighy hovering over all of them. It was breathtaking to gaze at the young couple, who stood there listening respectfully to all that Simeon said, as they bowed their heads in reverence when he blessed them both. Anna felt indescribable joy, mixed with overwhelming grief and heartache as Simeon looked at the mother of the child and spoke again, “This Child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But He will be the greatest joy to many others. Thus, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
The young mother looked frightened and confused at these ominous words, and Anna wanted to comfort her and tell her not to worry, that all would be well, but the old prophet knew that Simeon spoke the truth. A sword would pierce this young mother’s soul, and most of the people of Israel, the very people who continued to cry for their Emmanuel, would miss His arrival, and they would reject Him, the One born to be their King.
Still, it was not yet time to mourn. It was a time of great rejoicing, because Emmanuel, God With Us, had come! And so Anna lifted up her voice, crying out to the people that on this day, in God’s holy city, God was indeed with His people. And those who lived in darkness have now seen a great Light, and for those who lived in a land where death cast its dark shadow, the Light has come! “Rejoice!” Anna cried, “Rejoice! For the long awaited Promise, Emmanuel, Yeshua, the Messiah has come to you, O Israel!”
In the light of her joy, suddenly, all of the years of pain seemed to melt away, as Anna continued to sing and shout praises to the Holy One of Israel. She had seen Messiah’s beautiful face. She had looked into the face of glory. All was well, and it had all been worth it, for she had received the long awaited promise.