Now there was one, Anna, a
prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a
great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;
and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not
depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night
and day. And coming in that
instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who
looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
is only one woman in the New Testament who is identified as a
prophetess. She is Anna,
the old widow who spent most of her life in the temple, fasting and
praying. She was widowed a
mere seven years after she was married.
She apparently had no children.
Her life was a life of simple worship.
she was a prophetess. No
other woman in the New Testament is called a prophetess.
In the Acts of the Apostles we learn that Philip the Evangelist
had four virgin daughters who prophesied.
The Bible does not call them prophetesses and there is no record
of anything they said. In
St. Paulís First Epistle to the Corinthians he tells the women who
were prophesying publicly that they should cover up their heads when
they did so. These women
are not called prophetesses and no record has been kept of anything they
said. There is a woman
named Jezebel mentioned in the Revelation of St. John who called herself
a prophetess, but she was clearly a false prophetess and did not speak
is the only woman named in the New Testament as a true prophetess. She came into the temple at the very moment that Simeon spoke
Godís word concerning the Christ Child.
The words Simeon spoke that Anna heard are the words of the Nunc
now you let your servant depart in peace
Church sings the Nunc Dimittis during Vespers.
She also sings it after receiving the Lordís Supper.
Simeon saw his salvation when he held the infant Lord Jesus in
his arms. We see the same
salvation when we eat and drink the body of the Lord Jesus in the
Sacrament of the Altar. The
baby Jesus became the man Jesus. The
little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay became the suffering Servant who was
stricken, smitten, and afflicted on the cross.
He is the Child born unto us.
He is the Son given unto us.
He is born of a woman. He,
who gave His law for us to obey, Himself submits to its authority.
He was born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who
were under the law, that we might become adopted into Godís family.
prophesied about this redemption. Our
text tell us: ďAnd coming in that instant she gave thanks to
the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in
Jerusalem.Ē Simeon did not mention redemption. Anna did. She
knew that the only way this Child could be our salvation, be the light
to lighten the Gentiles with Godís saving truth, and bring glory to
the nation of Israel would be if He were also the Redeemer who would
Anna prayed and fasted and
fasted and prayed. She did
not live a normal life. Prophets
lived rather odd lives, often wearing strange clothes and behaving in
strange ways. Prophets were
always called directly by God into the office of prophet.
Prophets and prophetesses are different from pastors in this
respect. God sent prophets
and prophetesses God directly without the participation of the church.
We call these immediate calls.
The call of a pastor, on the other hand, is a mediate call
because God calls pastors through the church.
God called me to be your pastor.
But He didnít do so immediately.
He did so mediately. He
acted through this congregation to extend to me His call to preach His
gospel and administer His sacraments.
Thatís not how God sent the prophets of old.
He didnít give to His church Ė either of the Old Testament or
of the New Testament Ė the authority to act on His behalf in choosing
prophets or prophetesses. He
did give to His church the authority to act on His behalf in calling
The difference between an
immediate call directly from God and a mediate call in which God calls
through His church is a very important difference for us to understand.
God immediately called women to prophesy.
We have examples of this in the Old Testament. Deborah (Judges 4) and Huldah (2 Kings 22) are called
prophetesses. God called
them directly, just as He called Anna directly.
The church has no authority to put a man or a woman into the
office of prophet. In
choosing prophets, God always acts alone.
With respect to the pastoral
office, however, God always calls through the church.
Pastors are called to serve specific churches and God gives to
the congregation the authority to put men into the pastoral office so
that they may publicly preach the gospel and administer the sacraments
of Christ as Godís servant among them.
God does not give congregations the authority to put women into
the pastoral office. In fact, He explicitly forbids this practice.
In 1 Corinthians 14:34, the Apostle Paul uses the word
ďshamefulĒ to describe a woman speaking in church as if she were the
pastor of the congregation. In
1 Timothy 2:12 St. Paul directly forbids a woman from the teaching that
belongs to the pastoral office. The
church may not appoint women to preach publicly in the church. God strictly forbids this.
It is not up to us to question
why God says what He says. We
may not defy His instructions to us when the popular culture demands
that we do so. Woman may not serve as pastors in Christís Church.
Churches that put women in the pulpit do so in defiance of
Godís clear word. While
the people may regard such women as pastors of the Church, God does not
so regard them.
But thatís not to say that God
has not, does not, and will not speak His holy word through the mouths
of Christian women. He has,
He does, and He most certainly will.
Anna is just one example. To
anyone who still believed that Jerusalem was the city of peace where the
holy God came to His people, Anna was the voice of God.
God spoke through her of the redemption that Maryís Child would
bring to Israel and to the whole world.
In her old age God revealed to her her own personal redemption.
For what was she praying all those years?
She was praying that God would fulfill the promise He had
repeated through His prophets for thousands of years.
As she fasted and prayed in the temple, she prayed to God that He
would bring to fruition the true meaning of the temple as the meeting
place where God would meet His people.
She knew that that meeting could only take place where the blood
of the promised Savior was shed. God
spoke through Anna to others. God
spoke through her of the redemption that had already begun as the infant
Jesus began to live under the law the life of sacrificial obedience that
would set the whole world free.
She did not need a call from the church to do so.
She had a call directly from God.
She spoke to anyone who would listen.
God does not put Christian women in the pulpit.
But He most certainly speaks through them.
He speaks His gospel through them.
It was to the women at the tomb that God first proclaimed the
resurrection of Christ. The woman at the well acknowledged and confessed Jesus long
before most of the men recognized who He was.
Martha confessed Jesus as the Christ before He raised her
brother, Lazarus from the dead.
People who have deeply imbibed
the biases of our post-Christian culture often stand in judgment against
Christian churches that still obey Godís instructions that forbid the
ordination of woman as pastors. People
believe that this prohibition assigns to women an inferior status.
They believe that if women may not be pastors this must mean that
they have nothing to say about God that matters.
But thatís not true. Not
only did God speak of the redemption of sinners through the voice of
Anna He has done so through millions of female Christian voices
throughout the history of His church on earth.
Think of the Magnificat of Mary, sung by Christians throughout
the ages. Here are words of
divine prophecy coming from the lips of the mother of God herself.
She needed no call from the church to speak the words that God
gave her to speak. As
surely as God Himself took up residency in her virgin womb, God also
spoke through her voice His holy word to be sung, confessed, and
believed by Christians all over the world.
Note what Anna, the prophetess,
prophesied about: Christís redemption.
She spoke of God setting us free, not by the payment of gold or
silver, but by the payment of the obedience and death of His beloved
Son. He was begotten of His
Father before all worlds. He
was conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man in
time. It was the fullness
of time. It was the right
time. It was the time set
by God from eternity and fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and
resurrection of His Son.
Anna prophesied about Christís redemption. She spoke of how this little baby would shed His blood to take away all sins. And she speaks for all Christians, men and women. She confesses what we believe. She is like Christian mothers who, during this holy season, finds great joy in seeing their children and grandchildren gathered around them. She gives meaning to the love of Christmas that goes even deeper than a motherís love for her children. She testifies to the love of God for His wayward and sinful and defiant children who refused to come home to join Him. She tells how God graciously brought them home by redeeming them from their sin, delivering them from their defiant hearts, and sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts to enable them to confess the Christian faith. Anna speaks for our Christian mothers. Therefore we will honor this prophetess by honoring the Christian mothers that God, in His great mercy, has given to us.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus