Wednesday, November 4, 2009

11/4- Luke 2:36-39= Anna of the remnant

(Anna, Simeon and the Christ)
Abridged commentary from John Calvin on the gospels with a thought and prayer- written fresh every day.

Luke 2:36-39

36 There was also a prophet, 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, 37 and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming 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.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

Calvin abridged: Luke only mentions two who welcomed Christ; this is intended to teach us that we should prefer the smallness from God to the abundance of the world. Simeon and Anna are entitled to be held in greater reverence than all the great splendor of the scribes and priests and the multitudes whose pride was swelled by nothing but empty titles. The historian mentions 1) Anna’s age, 2) designates her as a prophetess, and 3) speaks of her piety, holiness, and chastity of life. “Eighty-four”- could mean that she was a widow for eighty-four years (which would mean she would be over one hundred years old), or it could be her entire age (which makes more sense). The Spirit of prophecy still shone in a very few, who served as tokens to attest to the faith till the coming of Christ. In a state of society so dissolute, the elect of God needed such aids to prevent them from losing faith. 37- “She never left the temple”- This is a hyperbolic expression; but the meaning is she was constantly in the temple. “fasting and praying”- She did not come to the temple for outward show, but she added her inward devotion to her outward attendance. This same rule is not made for all of us. Each one of us has our own calling from God (cf. 1 Tim. 5:5 which seems to indicate this is an example to widows). Fasting is not a necessary part of worship, but it is an accessory that aids in prayer. Prayer is an essential part of worship. The holy woman used fasting as a spur to bewail the problems of the Church in that day. 38- “Gave thanks to God and spoke of the child”- This is the holy melody which came from the lips of Simeon and Anna, and it is praised by Luke. “All who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem”- this was again a small number of the godly. 39- “They returned to Galilee”- The departure of Egypt, came between this story of the temple and their return to Nazareth (Mt. 2:14). There is nothing wrong with one evangelist leaving out what is mentioned by another.

Thoughts: Anna, Simeon (and Calvin) are examples to all of us to seek to be close to God even if most fall away or are distorted in their faith by a corrupted church. Calvin noted before that there are many times in history when the church was reduced to a remnant, and some wonder if the church will survive at all. In such situations the truly godly are not lifted up by the world, but swept aside into a corner- as Simeon and Anna were. You will not be able to find Simeon and Anna in the histories of the day (Josephus, Tacitus, etc.), but God remembers them. In such a distorted world, the truly godly remnant are usually thought to be eccentric and overly-zealous. In our day- some are totally unreligious, and some find that non-religion removes too much of the mystery yet they will not come back to Christ but seek other religions (Islam, New Age, even the debunked Scientology). In such a day, Christians should seek to be Simeons and Annas. These did not leave the church to form a more “pure or perfect” Church, but they remained faithful, knowing that God saw their faithfulness. Anna was a prophetess- speaking forth the Word of God- showing that from the beginning of his ministry women could speak God's truth faithfully. So Simeon who wrote no books and held no office, and Anna who was a poor widow, were lifted up forever in the Bible as two who welcomed Christ. We should live and have a listening ear to God that is so attentive- that we can respond to God when He works in our world. We should not be afraid of being a remnant but should seek to be faithful and fruitful.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for godly people like Simeon and Anna. Help us to be faithful to you, looking to you, as they did.

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