Thursday, December 24, 2009

Notes on the Nativity 9

Simeon and Anna

When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple, they were blessed by a certain Simeon, a righteous and faithful man who "was waiting for the consolation of Israel." We read in Luke 2:27 that Simeon "came by the Spirit into the Temple" and found the child Jesus who had been brought there by his parents.

A testimony and witness would be borne by Simeon, a soul who sought for and lived by the inspiration of the Spirit, and followed its promptings. Although he was fairly old, nevertheless it was revealed to him that he would not die until his eyes beheld the Messiah. The fulfillment of that sacred promise was realized as he held the 41 day old baby in his arms.

Simeon blessed the tiny child and gave a prophecy concerning him. He said, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel..." It is of interest that the word "fall" here is used in only one other place in the New Testament. It is found in Matthew 7:27 where it reads, "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

Under the influence of the Holy Ghost, Simeon's prophecy pointed to another fulfillment of the Savior's parable--that because of their rejection of their Messiah, the house of Israel would suffer a great fall. This came to pass literally in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple.

Simeon's remark in verse 35 mentions that a sword will pierce through Mary's soul. It is noteworthy that the Greek word used for sword here means a large sword such as Goliath used (1 Samuel 17:51) and the verb tense means "constantly keep on piercing" (Wiersbe-Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. I, pg 178).

Anna, an aged prophetess, had spent her life in fasting and prayer at the Temple. Other women in scripture are also mentioned as prophetesses. They are Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), and the wife of Isaiah (Isaiah 8:3). Phillip the Evangelist had four daughters who were all prophetesses (Acts 21:8-9). We are told in verse 36 that Anna was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.

Since Luke wrote his epistle under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we can expect that every piece of information given about Anna has something important to teach us. A closer examination of these facts reveals marvelous truths.

First, Anna was the daughter of Phanuel, which would be written Peniel in Hebrew. Peniel is found as a place name in Genesis 32:30 where it says: "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." Peniel literally means "the face of God."

Next we are told concerning her tribe, which was Asher. Asher was one of the lost ten tribes that had been carried away into captivity around 722 BC. During this period of the second Temple, mostly just the tribes of Judah and Benjamin lived in the land, plus the tribe of Levi who served in the Temple. Obviously, Anna's genealogy had been preserved through her individual family for an important reason.

Asher was the son of Jacob and Leah, and when he was born, Leah exclaimed, "Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed." The name "Asher" means happy and blessed. Perhaps Leah named her son under inspiration which pointed to a time when one of her descendants through Asher--a daughter named Anna (meaning Grace)--would be blessed for her faithfulness.

The meanings of these three names taken together (Asher, Peniel, and Anna) express beautifully Anna's feelings concerning the choice blessing that was hers: "Happy am I" for I have seen "the face of God" through His "Grace."