There is a chance that Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian may be wrong when he states that between the time of Malachi and the birth of Christ that there was 400 years of prophetic silence.
Between the canonical prophet, Malachi and the birth of Christ there was a long period of silence, but It is important for us to realise that not everything that God says through, and to the prophets, is done so under the full gaze of public scrutiny.
The Bible tells us that God reveals His secrets to the prophets, and as any child will know, the rule of a secret is that you can’t tell until you are given permission. Sometimes God reveals His intentions, but the time to tell, may be afar off.
Eight days after the birth of Jesus we are introduced to a humble, unassuming character in the narrative of Luke who negates Josephus’ assertions.
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. 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. Luke 2:36-38
The prophetess Anna makes a brief public appearance in the Bible. Like Elijah, she emerges from the shadows of obscurity, although a little more is known about her. She is an eighty four year old woman who is finishing her days well, seeking God – worshiping, fasting and praying. Her sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit is evident, as is her discernment. Out of all the hundreds of children over the years that are carried to the Temple in parents arms to observe the law of dedication, only one attracts her attention.
This is the one that the prophets are pointing to, and before John the Baptist is even able to sit unattended or feed himself, Anna recognises Him.
There are a few things that we are told about Anna that might prove both encouraging and helpful. You don’t have to look far to see the signs of true prophetic calling in the life of anyone called to prophetic ministry, prayer. Prayer is never easy. Anna knew something that few today know – the persistent, relentless approach of God through worship, fasting and prayer.
There is something else to consider too, she never the left the temple, worshiping night and day. If you give yourself to God in prayer you will see remarkable things, amazing things. It may take a few years, but when you learn to seek his face, you will see his hand.
The temple was the place of prayer, of sacrifice, holiness and the presence of God. During the very days that Anna was seeking God, worshiping Him and giving Him her full, abandoned worship and adoration, nothing of immediate importance was happening in the temple. No powerful manifestations of the Presence of God, no thunder or lightning and little to be excited about. You never know when God is about to show up.
In the business of life, not everyone can give themselves to being in the temple, but the baton is extended. Everything we have from God comes from prayer, but the enemy draws us into the lie that somehow, what we need can be accessed through other means, usually our own common sense. That single lie from hell leaves us lethargic, disillusioned and apathetic. And that apathetic condition then unwittingly turns our hearts against the wonderful Savior as we begin to question His willingness to hear and answer prayer! Guard your heart!
But not so Anna! Nothing more is said of her. Even her prophetic words of encouragement to those who gathered around the baby Jesus are vague, but you are left wondering. What did she know, what did she say? What we do know is that she had a thankful heart – she gave thanks to God.
How do you measure up? Your thankful heart is a benchmark of the elementary work of the Spirit in you. It is very easy to be thankful when things are going well. Anna’s husband had died some years before. We are not told of the circumstances, but she had pressed through the heartache and grief and was now found in the temple, with Jesus, and with a thankful heart.
And the final mark of Anna’s prophetic ministry is the most staggering one of all in terms of her sensitivity, discernment and level of revelation. She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. There was nothing ambiguous – she knew!
That profound, deep relationship with God, nurtured over the years left her knowing God, worshiping Him, and telling others about Him.
There’s quite a lot more I could say about Anna. If you are a prophet read between the lines and see that Anna is still speaking, she still has a message to speak.
Anyone who is wise enough to imitate Anna’s lifestyle shouldn’t be surprised that one day, all of a sudden and unexpectedly, they will see something that others have just longed for and dreamed of – first hand.