Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 16
Thesis: Significant frustration of hope is not to be permitted to undercut joyful service in the disintegrating interim.
Introduction: In our study last week we considered Simeon's words to Mary as a frank declaration of the inevitability of grief as the outworking of the centrality of Jesus in history. As long as self-centered rebellion is in the world and Jesus has the destiny of being the inescapable opponent of that rebellion, there is going to be serious conflict and believers are not going to escape the grief it causes. Even the mother of the Christ was to experience a sword in her own soul...and she was told this 36 years before it was to ultimately come to pass. In fact, the very attempt by so many believers to escape the grief is testimony to the presence of rebellion even in the hearts of God's own people.
This reality -- that our summons by our God and Father is a summons to deal with the facts as they come to light without rebellion or complaining -- is a major aspect of Luke's presentation to Theophilus at this point in his record. Because that is so, our study this morning is going to, once again, make the reality as clear as possible for one reason: to enable us as the servants of God to continue to press on without despair.
As a preparation for our study, let me ask you this question: How do you handle continual and overwhelming frustration?
August 21, 2005
- I. Luke's Focus on Anna.
- A. He attempts to use her as an illustration of the principle of faith in the face of overwhelming frustration.
- 1. The illustration as it arises from her identity.
- a. She is "Anna".
- 1) The name in Hebrew means "grace".
- 2) This simply cannot be a coincidence in light of the deliberate theme of Luke's record regarding John, the grace-based forerunner of the Redeemer.
- a) The Lukan insistence on a theological shift from Law to Grace is rooted in the reality of its absolute necessity if Life is to be experienced.
- i. Given the reality of inevitable and serious conflict based upon the aggressive presence of rebellion and the immutable presence of Jesus as the Intolerant Rejector of Rebellion, life will not be experienced by those who cannot properly handle the conflict.
- ii. Given the reality that both Law and Grace have their roots in the very glory of God itself, no one is going to live who does not understand that it is the grace of Jesus as the Intolerant Rejector of Rebellion that provides life. If a person is willing to operate on the basis of grace, life will be the experience; but, on the other hand, if a person insists upon law, the conflict will destroy him.
- iii. This raises one critical question: Why do people not want to operate on the basis of grace? The answer is in our study this morning.
- b) The Lukan insistence on this theological shift is also rooted in the reality of the massive difficulty people have with living by grace.
- i. There is no point to repetitious emphasis if the "lesson" is readily understood and accepted.
- ii. That people do not, and can not, readily accept grace is obvious not only in life but also in the repetitiousness of the Scripture.
- b. She is the daughter of Phanuel.
- 1) Phanuel's name means "the face of God" and it is a variation from Peniel which is the name of the place where Jacob fought with God over how life was supposed to be lived (Genesis 32:24-32).
- 2) It can hardly be an "accident" or "coincidence" that "Anna" was, in this text, deliberately connected with "Peniel"...just as it was no "accident" that Jesus was deliberately identified with Joseph the son of Jacob.
- 3) The point has to be that "grace" is the way life is supposed to be lived and everyone who adopts Jacob's tendency to fight with God all of the time will only make their misery greater. He is, after all, the Intolerant Rejector of Rebellion.
- 4) Thus, Anna is the offspring of Peniel -- grace is the outcome of a battle fought and lost by a man committed to life on his own terms.
- c. She is of the tribe of Asher.
- 1) The tribe of Asher gets its name from the second son of Zilpah, the slave of Leah (Genesis 30:12).
- a) The name came out of the on-going, envy-based, competition between Leah and Rachel for the love of Jacob.
- b) Leah knew, and delighted in, the fact that her fruitfulness, and the fruitfulness of Zilpah, was a grinding agony to Rachel.
- c) Leah named Asher because the name means "envy-producing blessedness".
- d) The name has the "conflict" thesis clearly in mind and inserts the root of the issue of conflict: jealousy.
- 2) The tribe of Asher has no notable accomplishments associated with it in the Bible and was scolded by Deborah for its unwillingness to help in the fight against the Canaanites. The blessings of Jacob in Genesis 49 tell us of a tribe that was known for its abundance of physical pleasures.
- 3) Anna is the complete opposite of Asher's heritage; she has no commitment to sustaining the conflict of envy and no interest in indulging the flesh with dainty foods. As the opposite, Anna serves Luke's purpose of having a background for "grace" in the destructive notions of envy and hedonism.
- d. Summary: Anna is the downline, grace-developed, result of war with God over whether envy and hedonism are going to rule or whether Jesus, the Grace-filled Intolerant Rejector of Rebellion is going to rule.
- 2. The illustration as it arises from her age.
- a. There is, simply, no escape from the fact that Luke's point has something clearly to do with Anna's age.
- b. The age issue signals three things...
- 1) Luke used the same terminology regarding Anna as he did regarding both Zacharias and Elizabeth -- reminding us of the impact of long-term frustration of hope as it affected Zacharias while simultaneously showing us that that is not the inevitable result of hope-delayed.
- a) The hope issue was of a son for Zacharias and of the redemption for Anna. He went into cynicism under the weight of Law; she went into fasting and prayer on the basis of Grace. Both were "well stricken in age" before either saw the fulfillment of their hope.
- b) But the point is this: "Grace" changed Zacharias' experience of Life and sustained Anna's.
- 2) Luke oddly used the same terminology regarding Anna as he did regarding Mary -- reminding us that the Plan of Yahweh involves the Power that attends the Promise with no need of "man".
- a) She is a prophetess and neither her words nor her ministry of fasting and prayer in the Temple night and day does much of anything about what she saw developing in the Temple: she saw the same things Jesus saw...the disintegration of godliness at the very core of Israel's religion.
- b) She is not "put off" by what she sees so that she quits "ministry": she rests upon Grace to produce the Power to fulfill the Promise.
- 3) Her age is how she came to contentment in the face of frustration upon frustration.
- II. Luke's Point for Theophilus.
- A. Just as Zacharias and Anna both saw their hopes justified, we are to "stay the course" in hopes that are rooted in the promises of God.
- B. Just as Mary and Anna both saw Jesus as the Power of the Promise of Redemption, we are to "stay the course" in keeping Jesus the Central Figure of our history.
- C. Just as it is only those who are "aged" in Luke's record who "understand" without being surprised, we are to "stay the course" in realization that the longer we are in the process, the better we will understand it with contentment.