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Royal Dainties

By Mary Peckham

When God has a plan to fulfil He makes what seems to us very strange choices.

The Lord needs twelve disciples so He spends a night in prayer and, having done so, He chooses, not the religious leaders of the day, but a bunch of commoners. No previous training. No impressive CVs. No earthly reason why they should be chosen.

It was like that with Anna the prophetess. She suddenly puts in an appearance on the pages of scripture in Luke 2:36, 'and there was one Anna a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.' Asher was a son of Jacob from Leah's maid, Zilpah. Not exactly the kind of pedigree that makes for a happy family! No doubt Asher could have told us a few stores along that line!

Jacob gave Asher a unique blessing. 'Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties!' (Gen. 49:20). That rather sounds like a baker's blessing! Matthew Henry suggest that Asher was blessed with riches and that these were exported to other tribes and to other lands. Maybe Anna herself was part of these 'royal dainties'!

But she was old, and that in itself would disqualify her from any involvement in evangelism today-a widow of about four score and four years (eighty-four). Furthermore, in this day and age her gender was against her too. An old woman spending all her time 'night and day' praying and fasting in the temple-'serving God'-does not exactly fit the bill in most of our churches today. Indeed this kind of behaviour might occasion a call for a special Board meeting and no doubt a suggestion that a counsellor should be called in to help Anna. She needed help they would conclude! After all, she was widow and probably lonely-and could she be depressed? Strange that she should separate herself from 'the fellowship' in this way. They wouldn't understand Anna!

However in the Scripture, there seems to be no objection to Anna the prophetess. She was totally devoted to God as seen from the fact that she served Him. Her time was spent in the most important exercise for which the temple was built-the exercise of prayer. Jesus Himself said, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer' Anna served God in this way. She was dedicated and 'sold out' to this task? Which of us can measure up to Anna's dedication?

Anna was also disciplined. She served God 'with fasting and prayers, night and day'. The yearning of her soul obliterated her need of daily sustenance. The Messiah must come! He must come soon! Anna would have been, like Mary, well versed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Her prayers were no mere recitations of personal needs, but a persistent groan of anguish as she grappled with the power of darkness which threatened to extinguish every glimmer of hope which shone through the promises of God. Anna was in a battle!

Who would ever think that the peasant pair making their way into the temple with their baby boy, and bringing with them the simple offering of the poor-two young pigeons or turtle doves-would constitute the answer to Anna's prayers! The Messiah had come!

Anna's emotions boiled over in a prayer of thanksgiving to God. She was delighted! Her new-found faith bubbled over in testimony and with boldness, 'she spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem' (or Israel).

Old Anna could not be silenced-nor is it recorded that anyone tried to do so! Her heart was full. Her prayers were answered. Had she not seen Him? Anna's enlightened eyes saw what the cold religious Pharisees did not see and could not see. They prayed to be seen of men. Anna prayed to please God.

Her testimony was simple to all who would listen-'she spake of Him'! Hallelujah!