Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 8, 2017
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
— Luke 2:36-38, ESV
In this early section of Luke’s Gospel we are exclusively introduced to two godly characters: Simeon and Anna. Both were prophets or preachers, both were temple junkies and prayer warriors, and both of them recognized Jesus and pointed people to Him as the Messiah.
In the last passage we looked at Simeon the visionary, and learned much from what he saw. Though fewer words are used to describe Anna, from her we can learn even more. For while Simeon was indeed a visionary in the way he accurately looked at God and the gospel, Anna was a radical for the way she lived out the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The word “radical” is a both salty and diverse. It can be used as an adjective or a noun. It has a variety of meanings depending on the context, and it can be ascribed in a flattering or derogatory manner. Radical can imply change, usually extreme change, which most people do not like. Radical can speak of extreme or exemplary commitment, something most people are not willing to give. Radical can speak of good things in hipster lingo, like “Radical, dude.” IMB president David Platt authored a best-selling book, Radical, to describe the normal, first century Christian life as opposed to the nominal, twenty-first century version of the faith. All of these definitions of radical were embodied by Anna, an early and true radical for Christ.
Anna was radically pure.
Anna remained a virgin until she was married, and apparently remained chaste after her husband died. That would have been normal in her day. In our day, it’s a little more radical. This isn’t a sermon on sex, but sex should be mentioned in the sermon. Sexual activity is ordained by God to be enjoyed by one man and one woman in a committed, covenant marriage. Any thing else is sin, and sin is a radical departure from God’s perfect plan.
Does this mean that God will strike you dead if you have sex outside of marriage? I don't think so, or else there would be a lot more funerals being conducted these days. God is gracious and forgiving, even though the scars of unwise sexual activity can linger. Anna had no scars, however, because she kept herself sexually pure.
Purity is power with God. Purity, or holiness, is part and parcel of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Anna was able to do some great things for God because she kept some basic principles of God, including sexual purity. That’s radical, dude, and we should copy.
Anna was radically simple.
Here we must speculate a little, but I interpret Anna to be a quite simple, even economically poor person. We don't know for sure. Perhaps she inherited a large sum of money from her family or deceased husband. Or, maybe she was a temple beggar, since she located herself there every day.
What we do know is that Anna was radically dedicated to some of the disciplines we are about to discuss, things like worship and prayer and the word of God and witnessing. She could not have excelled at these things if she had devoted herself to making large sums of money and purchasing extravagant furnishings and clothes.
This is neither a sex sermon nor a guilt trip over your possessions, but we should touch on them both. Money is a fairly neutral subject in the Bible, for both rich and poor can be found inside and outside the kingdom of God. Time is probably a better indicator of the heart. Anna did not spend her time making more money than she needed, but rather determined to spend more time with God. As Jesus would go on to say, you cannot serve both money and God, and time will tell whom you serve.
So, should we quit our jobs, give away our savings, and stay in a church building all day? No, unless you are a prophet or prophetess and God has spoken to you and ordered these things. But, is there any way we can live more simply, more deliberately, more generously, for Christ? I think so. Now, let me quit meddling and start preaching.
Anna was radically worshipful.
Once we get past the mundane matters of sex and money, Anna starts to really make us nervous. She did not merely attend church services on Sunday and take in a Bible study or two each week. She assembled herself with others at the temple “day and night.” Indeed, this is radical.
The worship of God should take place among certain people at a certain time and certain place. I would not give you a plug nickel for anyone who claims to be a Christian but steadfastly refuses to join a local church and gather with them on Sundays for public worship, unless they are providentially hindered. But I readily admit that worship is far more than a public service on one day a week. True, radical worship of God is twenty-four-seven.
Anna had a special calling from God to do what she did, and she fulfilled it. Pastors and church staff members find themselves inside the four walls of a church building for hours each day, weeks on end, but it is their specific calling to do so. God may not call you to the prophetic ministry of Anna or the pastoral ministry of the church, but He has called you to radically worship Him every day of your life, inside and outside the building. A consistent commitment to public worship usually results in rewarding hours of daily quiet time worship as well.
Anna was radically prayerful.
Anna was, though, in or near a religious building almost all the time. She was all in, in more ways than one. People could see her. But, the one thing that will show you if you are all in, or not, is something only you and God can see. It is your prayer life, and Anna had a great one.
Prayer does not require a certain place, even though Anna positioned herself at the temple. Prayer does not require high, lofty language, which I’m almost sure Anna didn’t use. Genuine prayer simple requires faith, hope, and love. If you have faith that God is real, then you know He is really listening and speaking. If you have hope or confidence that God can do anything, you won’t hesitate to ask him anything in prayer. If you love God, with all of your heart and mind and soul and strength, then you want to spend time with Him in conversation, and prayer is merely and majestically a conversation with Almighty God.
Prayer is the key to accepting God, understanding God and His word, and serving God. Prayer, like purity and devotion, is power. It gives you power from God to use for God to move those mountains and reorder lives for Christ. It is not a means to gain health and wealth for yourself, for what did Anna have? It is a means to love God and minister to others. In other words, it is radical.
Anna was radically prophetic.
Prayer and God’s word walk hand in hand all throughout Scripture. They can also be found as the priorities in the life of every true follower of Jesus Christ. Though both involve two-way communication, prayer is primarily our way of talking to God and Holy Scripture is primarily God’s way of speaking to us. Anna was a prophetess, which means she was gifted and able to receive and speak God’s work accurately and boldly.
In this brief text, Anna can be found at the end of the day telling other people about Jesus. She took God at His word that Messiah would come. She affirmed the interpretation of her colleague, Simeon, by adding an amen to the advent of Jesus Christ. Her knowledge of Scripture was so much better than the religious rulers of her day, for they missed the first coming of Jesus while Anna said, “This is the One we’ve been looking for!” Spending a lot to time in the Bible will help you speak biblically to the issues of the day, and the most important issue is always the gospel.
Anna was radically redemptive.
“The redemption of Jerusalem” is fraught with soteriological and eschatological import. Those who were looking for it, though, sought out Anna’s advice. In her own words and in her own way, she told them the timeless message, “Jesus saves!”
Anna was very old at this point, and I doubt she lived much longer after she finally met Jesus. Like her friend Simeon, though, when she left this earth, she departed in peace. Such spiritual and sublime peace requires at least two things.
To have a fulfilled life, a radical life if you will, you have to know Jesus and make Him known. When Anna died, it could be said of her that she trusted in the Lord and led other people to Him. She did not need for people to raise their hands or repeat after her. She did not need to give a count in some promotional newsletter. She was too radical for that. She simply loved Jesus, lived for Jesus, which made her a force for God to lead other people to Jesus. This is the life you want.
Are you pure and simple, worshipful and prayerful, led by the word of God and influencing other people for Christ? You don't have to be just like Anna. If any of you start hanging out in the church sanctuary all week, I’ll probably ask you to leave. Be yourself, in whatever family and vocational setting God has placed you, and be radical. You, and so many others, will be blessed.
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