In the very brief account of the life of Anna that is found compressed in 3 verses in Luke chapter 2, her dedication to her calling and service to the Lord are exemplary. Anna exemplifies a life of dedicated service to the Lord.
She is introduced as a prophetess with the tribe of her origin and lineage also – of the tribe of Asher and daughter of Phanuel. She was advanced in years but Luke also notes that after being widowed early in her marriage (7 years into it) she never remarried but chose to do something unusual which marked her out, distinguishing from her peers. We find what she chose to do in Luke 2:37
She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
After finding herself widowed after only 7 years of marriage – somewhere in her twenties by then – Anna makes a shocking decision to make the temple of God her permanent home. She chooses not to depart from the temple but stay put in there for the rest of her life. Anna was young and could have possibly remarried but chose rather to dedicate herself to her calling and a life of service to the Lord.
She probably had many things going against her as she opted to dedicate her life to the service of the Lord. For starters, she was a woman. Women did not take up active service under the law of Moses. Second, she was from the tribe of Asher not Levi, the tribe selected by God to serve Him in the temple. Nonetheless, she was accepted and admitted into the temple grounds – possibly as a result of her radical dedication or gifting (obvious?) as a prophetess. Her choice not to depart from the temple was definitely one that would have aided and supported her cause of living out her calling and service to the Lord.
When Anna made the temple her home, she knew what it represented. The temple was the nation’s focal point for worship of Yahweh. The temple represented the presence and dwelling place of God in the life of the nation of Israel. This was not only God’s dwelling place of choice but also His designated place of worship. In choosing to stay put in the temple Anna chose well because she chose God’s dwelling place. It was here, where God had chosen to dwell that she too chose to dwell.
Initially the sanctuary (or tabernacle as it was known) was what later on morphed into the temple in Jerusalem where God dwelt as represented by the ark of the covenant that took centre stage. In Hebrew terminology the temple was literally referred to as the house of God – Beth Yahweh or Beth Elohim. Anna chose to be permanently connected to this temple, to God’s house, to His dwelling place. She treasured and cherished God’s presence so much that she chose to dedicate her whole life to it – that is His presence.
Worship of the Lord was her life – she had no other. Hers was a life dedicated to worshipping God. She did this with fasting and prayer powerfully demonstrating the earnestness and seriousness with which she engaged in her worship of the Lord.
Anna’s worship was not limited or restricted to certain seasons and occasions and neither was it intermittent but nonstop, a life of unbroken worship and dedication to the Lord. Her act in the temple was worshipping which she did with fasting and prayer night and day.
In her choice of not departing from the temple, Anna seemed to echo her forefathers’ sentiments, the sons of Korah who in Psalms 84:10 sang:
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
They were enamoured by and fixated to God’s house, to His presence. Their hearts’ longing and desire was God Himself. Psalm 84 starts with their expression of their love and pursuit for God –
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Here were a group of musicians and singers for whom God was their everything – they would choose Him over anything and anyone, any day.
But what did this choice of “not departing from the temple” do for Anna? How did staying permanently connected to the temple in the way she did aid her cause?
First, Anna’s choice not to depart from the temple but make it her home demonstrated her total and unreserved commitment to her service to the Lord. Her action was a clear statement of her resolve and intent to fulfil her calling.
Second, in choosing not to depart from the temple Anna was rightly positioning herself for success. This change of address (positioning) away from the community at large was instrumental and key to her successfully living out her calling – in her case as a prophetess. She did not take her calling or purpose lightly but seriously enough to change address facilitating for its successful realisation in her life.
In choosing to stay in the temple over the community at large, Anna distanced herself from all that which could have distracted and hindered her from pursuing her desire to dedicate herself to the service of the Lord, to her calling to serve Him. In removing herself from the community and staying put in the temple, she eliminated all distraction and potential impediment to fulfilling her calling. In this way she was able to concentrate and focus on living out her calling without distraction.
She welcomed and unhesitatingly embraced a change of address that afforded her closeness and proximity to God. Anna seized the opportunity to remain in the temple ground to be close to the Lord and as a dedication to her service to Him.
Third, her decision to make the temple her home and permanently stay connected to it placed her in the very advantageous position of being constantly encouraged. She knew she’d be greatly encouraged and find it much easier to live out her calling when positioned in proximity to God and in community with others where communal worship was routinely conducted. Here she could maintain focus and find encouragement in community with others to stay on the course for the long term. Her life witness bears testimony to this truth.
Staying well connected and maintaining a right connection to the body of Christ in as many ways as possible is critical in encouraging and enabling us to live out our calling and demonstrates our commitment to Christ and His cause in our lives. Many take their connection to the body of Christ, the assembly of the saints lightly. But it is here, in our right connection to Christ’s body, to His dwelling place that we are able to fulfil our individual callings. Our callings in God’s kingdom are not detached or disconnected from the body of Christ, from the body of the brethren but firmly connected to them. Our commitment to God’s calling in our lives (whatever that may be) and the cause of His kingdom is demonstrated by our dedicated and firm connection to Christ’s body which is His church.
It is also here that God has ordained (and we also find) encouragement in living out our calling. The manifold grace of Christ that is expressed in many different ways in His body serves to encourage, equip, exhort and enable those rightly connected to His body fulfill their callings.
Holding on to, staying rightly connected within the body and to it can be challenging and demanding. But it is also the place of transformation where the Lord uses these challenges and demands upon us to cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit and grow us into His likeness. So don’t be in a hurry to abandon ship, to disconnect yourself from the body of Christ, from His community but determine to stay firmly connected and, like Anna, live out your calling too.
Your choice to go nowhere else but stay put in God’s house, rightly connected to the body of Christ, is one of the wisest choices you will ever make in positioning yourself for godly success like Anna.