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God's Faithful Witness



"And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."
Good Morning my beloved,

We welcome you to worship in the name of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I am delighted to have all of you here with us today.  
When you get to be as old as I am, you begin to look at the world become amazed, shocked really, by the changes that have occurred, particularly in the last 30 or 40 years. One of the things that strikes me is how our society has changed in its perception of a woman, not just the roles of women in a broader sense, but even the very concept of what constitutes a woman, decades of corrupt thinking has literally thrown our nation into a state of utter chaos. How much more confused can you be than to imagine what you feel determines reality? But that's exactly what's happening in our culture today. As Christians, we look at the world with an entirely different perspective than unbelieving people do. While we may share some superficial commonalities, when you get down the core of our differences, they are are so diametrically opposed to each other, it's radical. Satan always attempts to overthrow the purposes of God and confuse people, if there's one thing that can said of our culture today, it's that they're terribly confused, in fact, they're not just confused, they've gone completely insane.  
I believe that we all understand that we're living in a godless world, and we were to go a step beyond that, we could even say it's very anti-God. A rebellion against the God of Truth. I am often reminded of our Lord's words in Matthew 11:16, "But to what shall I compare this generation?" Allow me to mention, this was just before He began to denounce the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum in verses 20 through 24, who even in the face of the countless miracles He did in front of them, they refused to repent, so He pronounced judgment on them, concluding with a strong indictment, "Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you." I believe that few words that Jesus could have spoken would have stunned the Jews, who thought themselves to be eternally safe as the descendants of Abraham, more than being unfavorably compared to pagan Gentiles. 
If there are any redeemed sinners in this world, and there are, it's because God loves. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." If God didn't love penitent sinners, we'd all be in trouble, because such were some of us, we were all a bunch of ex-somethings, right? While God loves sinners is not a false statement, but it is a misleading, because God despises those who do evil, He finds them reprehensible. Once you understand how much God hates vile, wicked people, it makes salvation that much more incomprehensible. Therefore, it is unimaginable to me, that the modern church would attempt to embrace the culture and to redefine itself to make sinners feel more comfortable, by endeavoring to espouse satanic doctrine. 1 John 3:24, "The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us."
It's irrational to imagine that you can divert the purposes of God, by making such an unholy alliance with Satan to achieve a godly end. If God will condemn sinners to eternal judgment for disobedience, how much more will He condemn ungrateful Christians to whom He has given us so much? There is absolutely no possibility for a true Christian to simultaneously have a relationship with two completely incompatible, influences, such as are the diametrically opposed kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God, which cannot work together in a common partnership. Tragically, there are professing Christians who are trying to simultaneously live in two different, mutually exclusive worlds, one is built on God's Truth, and the other is built on Satan's lies. That's why James tells us in chapter 4 verse 8, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." It's important to recognize that evil exists, false teachers are everywhere, many churches are offering a sexually perverted perspective to the Gospel that defiles both the body and the spirit, that is no different from the worlds standards to draw a crowd of lust filled people into a demonic, damning religion, that will have no part in God's Kingdom. (c.f. 1 Corinthians 6:8-11) We are the temple of the living God, you cannot desecrate that temple of God in direct disobedience with what He has forbidden, Scripture is clear, God commands His people to abstain from all sexual sin! In the end, it will not matter how many unfaithful pastors, under the influence of Satan affirm your sin, when you're standing face to face with the God Who condemns it.
God finds no morbid pleasure in the necessary punishment of impenitent sinners, that's why Scripture uses very strong, confrontive language that lacks any sense of tolerance for man's disobedience, intended to bring conviction over iniquity, sin, and transgression, therefore, having no rest for his soul, leads him to genuine repentance, that produces salvation leading to obedience, because He loves His people so greatly, His objective is always reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration. Pastors have a responsibility to bring God's message to the fallen world, by not receiving the message of the one whom God has sent, you have in turn rejected the God Who has sent him. Repentance is inextricably linked to salvation, the real indicator of whether repentance is genuine or not, is the abandonment of sin and an aggressive pursuit of righteousness and purity. In other words, there's an eagerness to change the direction of your life, it's not just lip service. In Matthew 15, Jesus said, "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.’" When a person really comes to genuine repentance, they don’t need to be pressured to change, they'll have an overwhelming desire to do what is right. It's unstoppable, it's really quite an amazing thing to witness. Genuine repentance is a work of God, but not apart from ones willingness to respond. I have never once had any regrets in walking away from sin, I do however, regret not doing it sooner. That's how you know it's real. I've met a lot of sad people, full of self-pity, reminiscing over all the things they've given up, that's not repentance, that's remorse

Let us pray 

Heavenly Father,
Father, thank You for Your Word, thank You for the gracious gift of repentance. I pray that You would continue to produce repentance leading to salvation in the hearts of those who remain entangled in the bondage and brokenness of sin, open their blind eyes to see the desperate condition in which they now exist. Lord, what a treasure Your Word is to those of us who love and adore You. Help us to show our gratitude for all that is ours in Christ, through our faithful obedience to His commands. To that end, we ask and pray in His precious name.

Today's Message: God's Faithful Witness

Open your Bibles with me, if you would and turn them to Luke chapter 2. Luke 2:36-38. I'd now like to encourage you to follow along with me read the text to you, to set it in our minds, as we open our hearts and listen for the voice of our Lord.

"And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."
Every word in Scripture is God breathed, supernaturally inspired by the Holy Spirit, therefore, free from error and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped, having been thoroughly equipped for every good work. (c.f. 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
That means, if God included something, it's because we're meant to learn from it. One thing we learn from the unfamiliar characters like Simeon and Anna, is that they both lived with expectancy in an age when few others truly believed in Christ's coming. The unregenerate world would have us believe that Christ is not coming, there is no judgment, no future existence, so live it up, there’s nothing to hold you back. As Christians, we should expectantly wait for the immanent return of our Lord and Savior, or as Paul says in Titus 2:13, that we are to be "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."
The world contains many books, but only the Bible contains prophecy after prophecy, hundreds of years before an event occurs, with one hundred percent, pinpoint accuracy, most notably, the widely celebrated virgin born birth of the Messiah, and also predicts the time of Jesus' death, before He was alive on this earth. Clear evidence of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. Even more amazing, are the promise after promise of the coming of the Savior of the world, in fact, one out of every 25 New Testament verses directly refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and we are told more than fifty times to be ready for His return. The reason those who do not want to face the judgment of God have always denied the Second Coming of Christ, is because it is directly connected with final judgment and the end of man's age. Frankly, men are more diligent in setting their clocks for daylight savings time, than they are in preparing for their eternal destination. The fact that someone chooses to deny the Second Coming of Christ will have absolutely no impact on the reality of it happening.
Let's look at verse 36, "And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin." It's interesting that Luke introduces her as a prophetess is an inspired woman designated to proclaim the truth of God’s Word to others. There's nothing in Scripture that suggests that she directly received any divine revelation, in fact, her revelation about Jesus being the promised Messiah seems to have come from overhearing Simeon. There are only a handful of women in the Old Testament that are ever referred to as "prophetess," the first is found in Exodus 15:20, a woman by the name of  Miriam, the daughter of Amram and Jochebed, and the older sister of Moses and Aaron, who leads the women of Israel in a song of praise with a tambourine in worshiping God after the sons of Israel miraculously crossed the Red Sea on dry land and seeing the drowning of Pharaoh and his army, recorded in verse 21. Unfortunately, the Lord disciplined her for pride and rebellion, questioning the His wisdom in choosing Moses as the leader (c.f. Numbers 12:1-15) striking Miriam with leprosy.
The second woman referred to as "prophetess," is found in Judges 4, a woman named Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, she was Israel's only female judges during a time of oppression. In fact, she was the only woman in all of Scripture who ever held that kind of leadership position, for which the Lord blessed her and raised her up as a rebuke to the men of her generation who were too paralyzed by fear to leave their homes due to Jabin, king of Canaan and his army commander named Sisera, for he had 900 iron chariots.  God called Barak, who was weak-minded and afraid, through Deborah to gather 10,000 men to achieve the first great victory Israel had gained since the days of Joshua.

The third woman referred to as "prophetess," is Huldah found in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34, a parallel passage. Scripture tells us she was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah. And she spoke a word to King Josiah from God that he would not see all the disaster the Lord was going to bring in his lifetime. No further details about her are known. By the way, I'd like you to notice none of these women have an ongoing prophetic ministry, that's in no way intended to diminish the importance of the amazing roles they played in Scripture, only to emphasize that God has always used women in ministry for short intervals, to accomplish His purposes and plans in both the Old and New Testaments; there's absolutely nothing wrong with women proclaiming God's Word, just not in the leadership roles over the church that we see so much of today. When Jesus selected the Twelve Apostles, He was following the plan of God and setting a precedent by not choosing a woman for a leadership position. However, He did demonstrate their importance by appearing first to the women at the empty tomb, after His resurrection, act that was particularly meaningful in a society that marginalized women, elevating them above their second-class  inferior status, but not as one who speaks for God in the assembly of His people. God delights to use people who the world thinks are nobodies. (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:26)

Luke further identifies Anna as the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. If you remember your history, after Solomon, the second son of King David and Bathsheba, began to rebel against God, after his reign the kingdom was split into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom called Israel and the southern kingdom called Judah. Ten of the twelve tribes went north, two tribes stayed south. Asher was one of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom. In 722 B.C. the northern kingdom was taken captive by the Assyrians and never returned, but just prior to that, a remnant of believing Jews up there weren't happy with all the idolatry that was going on and began migrating back down into the southern kingdom. (c.f. 2 Chronicles 30:11) I only mention this as reminder that the ten tribes weren't lost, they just don't know what tribe they're in after 70 A.D. So this woman Anna, all these years later she still knows her heritage. She was advanced in years having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin. She probably married young and was in her twenties when she became a widow.

Verse 37, "And then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers." The point here is, this is an older woman, wholly devoted to God since becoming a widow at a young age, had no interest in remarrying and chose to passionately serve God night and day with fastings and prayers all the remaining years of her, notice Luke doesn't mention anything about her teaching. Stating that she never left the temple is an emphatic statement, Luke uses the word "οὐ," (c.f. Matthew 5:37) strengthening the idea she's a fixture there in the temple, and may have lived there or at least close by. Being a devout woman of God, she's was bound to have noticed the corruption of the religious leaders and was probably praying and fasting for the coming of Messiah. 

That brings us to verse 38, "And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem." And at that very moment, while Simeon was giving his great testimony, the Holy Spirit of God moves in Anna, this little old lady, and she comes up to Joseph and Mary and began giving thanks to God. Keep in mind, this was a huge courtyard, with thousands of people around, she providentially knows this Child is the Messiah that she had been praying and fasting all these years to come, and began giving thanks to God for answering her prayers. Now, we can assume it is this point where she becomes the prophetess and continued to speak of Him to all those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. This woman who had spent most of her life talking to God, praying and fasting, probably spent the rest of her life talking about God and telling everybody the Messiah had come.

May it be so..

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name


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