37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
1901 ASV Translation:
37 and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years), who departed not from the temple, worshipping with fastings and supplications night and day.
I. Luke's Inclusion of Anna.
A. Because her name means "Grace", she fit the same thematic scheme that "John" (Yahweh is gracious) introduced.
1. The contrast between what was going on in Israel in the days of Zacharias, Simeon, and Anna and the "Grace" of God was huge. Israel was on the last legs of an incipient legalism that was prepared to murder God, and God was on the verge of fulfilling all of His "gracious" promise regarding redemption. As Israel was on the edge of demonstrating her hatred, God was on the edge of proving His love.
2. Those who were to be the gracious instruments of Yahweh to accomplish His gracious plan were being "pushed" by special divine pressure (from a combination of angelic and human instrumentality) to embrace His grace.
B. Because Luke deliberately tied her to his record of Zacharias and Mary in chapter one, she exists as a motivator to embrace God's grace.
1. She was a deliberate contrast to Zacharias' attitude as an "old" priest in respect to her attitude as an "old" widow: where he became more unbelieving as the days went by because of the incipient legalism, she became more believing because of the grace of God.
2. She was a deliberate reinforcement of the significance of the virgin's fledgling grasp of "every word of God has His power behind it to accomplish it" (1:37) as a non-virgin who also "served" Yahweh's purposes. The power of God to accomplish His plans in spite of how men and spiritual forces of wickedness act is both absolute and sufficient.
II. Luke's Focus Upon Anna's "Service".
A. It is an enormously "committed" service.
1. She never left the temple.
a. This comes across to many as enormously restrictive because they view "life" as requiring a variety of experiences and activities.
b. Anna no longer viewed "life" in that way: God is the only "condition" for "life" and God is absolutely "sufficient" for "life". Life is available to anyone no matter what their restrictions are if they are capable of seeing the sufficiency of God and the absence of constraint upon that sufficiency.
2. She "served" by means of fasting and prayer.
a. The issue of "service" has to do with making a contribution to the process of the Plan.
b. The methods of "service"...
1) Fasting: what does this really accomplish?
2) Prayer: what does this really accomplish?
3. Her intensity was "night and day".
a. The reference is to the "time" of her life in terms of alternating periods.
b. Anna knew the difference between night and day and which came first and why.
1) Darkness was first in Genesis 1.
2) Light was afterwards.
3) The cycle involves the process of moving from original darkness to ultimate light.
4) The condition of "creation" is such that a developing process is the only way to ultimate light. The sharing of Life by God requires development of the creature to the point of capacity for the experience of it.
B. It is "theologically adept" service.
1. She "responded back" (anti) to the actions of God with "confession in agreement" (homologeo).
2. She spoke (laleo) of God tothose who are characterized as "having embraced the redemption of Jerusalem" (Simeon was one such as 2:25 declares).
3. Theologically adept service always has a God-ward aspect and a fellow-creature aspect. A significant aberration from legitimacy in either, or both, of these aspects will absolutely kill the behavior as a "service".
a. "Service" is construed as voluntary participation out of shared values and beliefs.
b. That Yahweh always plugs everyone's activities into the "service" of His Plan does not mean that all "serve". It is to God's credit, not man's, that what occurs can be "made to fit". If man seeks to "serve", that is good, but even if he seeks to obstruct, his actions will yet serve the higher interests of God.
III. Luke's "Point".
A. The process of the promise "capturing" the whole and undivided attention of a person is a process that is dependent upon time and focus.
1. At some point, the promise becomes a matter of some level of focus.
2. Then, over time, the promise takes up more and more of the attention of the person.
3. Finally, the person is consumed by the significance of the promise so that all of the other "stuff" is left behind as the consuming focus simply disallows its value any further.
B. The issue for Theophilus is a question...
1. Is your interest in the promise moving from the periphery of your vision to the center of your attention?
2. The issue is not a question of "demand" that a person be what he is not and can not be, but an "offer" to a person of the opportunity to become what he is not but can be. This is the difference between Law and Grace. Law demands an immediate being and Grace offers a promise of future being.
C. The "Anna" material makes two points about the offer of grace...
1. One does not have to be on the Zacharian Path of Legal Frustration.
2. One is not to be consumed by the present reality, but the future hope. Anna saw the disintegration of the temple without despair as she knew the difference between night and day and which one comes first.