She Was Not Too Old to Serve Jehovah
MANY elderly people feel that their remaining years hold little hope of happiness. A well-known aging actress even said: “I have messed up my life, and it’s too late to change it . . . When I go walking alone, I think back over my life, and I’m not happy with the way I made it . . . I’m restless everywhere and unable to settle down.”
An elderly woman who lived almost 2,000 years ago had no problem of that kind. She was an 84-year-old widow, but she was active, happy, and wonderfully favored by God. Her name was Anna, and she had a special reason for joy. What was it?
“Never Missing From the Temple”
The Gospel writer Luke acquaints us with Anna. “Now,” says he, “there was Anna a prophetess, Phanuel’s daughter, of Asher’s tribe” in Israel. As a prophetess, she had the gift of God’s holy spirit, or active force, in a special sense. And Anna had a grand opportunity to prophesy on one notable occasion.
Luke relates: “This woman was well along in years, and had lived with a husband for seven years from her virginity, and she was a widow now eighty-four years old.” (Luke 2:36, 37) Likely, Anna became a widow when she was quite young. Widowed Christian women of any age know how heartrending it is to lose a beloved husband in death. Like many godly women of our day, however, Anna did not let this sad experience halt her service to God.
Luke tells us that Anna “was never missing from the temple” in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:37) She keenly appreciated the blessedness that results from service at the house of God. Her actions revealed that she, like Israel’s psalmist-king David, had only one thing to ask of Jehovah. And what was that? David sang: “One thing I have asked from Jehovah—it is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) In this respect, too, Anna is like Christian women today who find delight in regular presence at Jehovah’s place of worship.
Anna rendered sacred service to Jehovah night and day. She did this “with fastings and supplications,” indicating mourning and earnest longing. (Luke 2:37) The centuries-long Jewish subjection to Gentile powers, coupled with the deteriorating religious conditions that reached even to the temple and its priesthood, could well have accounted for Anna’s fastings and supplications to Jehovah God. But she also had reason to be happy, especially because of something extraordinary that happened on a truly eventful day in the year 2 B.C.E.
An Unexpected Blessing
On this highly significant day, the infant Jesus was brought to Jerusalem’s temple by his mother, Mary, and his adoptive father, Joseph. Aged Simeon saw the babe and spoke prophetic words on that occasion. (Luke 2:25-35) Anna was at the temple as usual. “In that very hour,” reports Luke, “she came near.” (Luke 2:38) How thrilled Anna must have been as her aging eyes beheld the future Messiah!
Forty days earlier, God’s angel had startled shepherds near Bethlehem with the words: “Look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city.” A multitude of the heavenly army praised Jehovah and added: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.” (Luke 2:8-14) Likewise, Anna was now moved to bear witness about the One who would be the Messiah!
Upon beholding the babe Jesus, Anna “began returning thanks to God and speaking about the child to all those waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance.” (Luke 2:38) Like elderly Simeon, also privileged to see the infant Jesus at the temple, undoubtedly she had been longing, praying, and waiting for the promised Deliverer. The good news that Jesus was that One was just too good for her to keep to herself.
Though Anna might not have expected to be alive when Jesus was grown, what did she do? She joyfully witnessed to others about the liberation due to be effected through this coming Messiah.
Anna’s Fine Example
How many religious people of the world would give such a witness or still be rendering worship night and day at the age of 84? Likely, they would have asked for a pension years earlier. Anna and Simeon were different. They set fine examples for all elderly servants of Jehovah. Indeed, they loved Jehovah’s house of worship and praised him with all their heart.
In Anna we have a splendid example of a godly widow. In fact, Luke’s description of this humble elderly woman compares well with the qualifications of a worthy widow outlined at 1 Timothy 5:3-16. There the apostle Paul says that such a widow “persists in supplications and prayers night and day,” is “a wife of one husband,” and ‘diligently follows every good work.’ Anna was that kind of woman.
Today, we find faithful elderly widows rendering sacred service to God night and day in thousands of congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the earth. How much we appreciate having these modern-day “Annas” in our midst!
Even at an advanced age, men and women can make a dedication to God and symbolize this by water baptism. The elderly are never too old to serve Jehovah and to witness about the Messianic Kingdom now installed in the heavens and soon to bring rich blessings to obedient humankind. Aged persons now rendering sacred service to God can testify to Jehovah’s blessing upon them, even as Anna was specially blessed centuries ago. She was not too old to serve Jehovah and praise his holy name—and neither are they.