Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Have you ever heard of the New Testament character Anna? Nancy Leigh DeMoss says we need to get to know this character and her beautiful heart.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Every Christian woman should have this kind of heart: a heart that is God-centered, a heart that is God-focused, a heart that is serving God—whether you’re in the kitchen or the temple, whether you’re in your van carting kids back and forth to school, taking kids to piano lessons, giving piano lessons, going to your kids’ sporting events, or whatever you’re doing.

Whatever season of life—loving your kids, loving your husband, doing the things God has called you to do—do you do it out of a Christ-centered heart, with eternity in view?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, December 24.

What is on your heart on this Christmas Eve? Today, we’ll get to know a special lady who set her heart on the most important thing in the days right after the birth of Jesus.

Here’s Nancy, continuing in a series called The King’s Dedication.

Nancy: We’re picking up again today with the life of Anna. If you missed the last session, you may want to get a CD of that or go on ReviveOurHearts.com. You can get the transcript; you can get the audio; you can download it onto your iPod. That’s a little commercial for the different ways that you can connect with Revive Our Hearts.

We’re continuing today in our study in Luke chapter 2. Let me read three verses that speak of Anna, and then we’ll continue to explore some things about her life that have had great benefit and blessing in my own life recently. I hope they will in yours as well.

We’re in the temple with Jesus, the 40-day-old infant, in the arms of Mary and Joseph. Simeon has come, has blessed Mary and blessed the Lord, and has spoken a prophecy over this child.

Anna is there at the same time. We read in verse 36, “There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years”—she was an elderly woman—“having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow for 84 years” (verses 36-37, ESV footnotes). That is the translation that some of you have, and I think that is the preferred translation. So here’s a woman who may have been in excess of 100 years of age.

“She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour.” What very hour? The hour when Simeon came up, the hour when Mary and Joseph came with the baby Jesus to dedicate and present him to God. “Coming up at that very hour.” What is implied here is that she was led by the Spirit to do so. “She began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (verses 37-38).

I want to focus today on that phrase in verse 37: “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” Here’s a woman who consistently, regularly participated in all the services, whether day or night—a women who spent her waking hours worshiping in the temple.

She loved the place where God’s presence and God’s glory dwelt. In the Old Testament, that was in the temple. That was where the Shekina glory of God was—the presence of God. She loved to be where God was, and she loved to be where the people of God were. She loved the people of God. Here’s a woman who had a heart and a hunger for the things of God.

Today, the presence of God is not limited to the temple or to a church building. Church is us. If this woman had been in the New Testament era, it would have said that she loved to be with the people of God. She loved to be where people were talking about the things of God in the presence of God

Now, as this woman was in the temple a lot, surely she saw the same things Jesus would see in later years as He grew to become an adult. He would go in and decry the hypocrisy in the temple, the materialism, the playing of games, the going through motions.

Here’s a woman who knew God and knew Him well, who communed with God and walked with Him for many years. Surely she discerned these things in the temple—the hypocrisy, the meaningless rituals, people giving their money and worshiping God with their mouths and their lips, but with their hearts far from Him.

Surely there must have been much going on in the temple that grieved her as it would grieve Jesus. She must have seen the money changing going on, the people making a profit off of religion.

Surely these things would have bothered her. And undoubtedly, these issues became the basis for much of this woman’s earnest praying. She became an intercessor as she saw these things going on that troubled God’s heart. They troubled her heart.

Now, that spoke to me as I studied this because I think of some people today who see what’s going on in the church.

  • They see the hypocrisy.
  • They see the issues.
  • They see the vain worship. They see the shallow profession of faith without a lot of life to back it up.
  • In many cases, they become critical.
  • Or they become disillusioned.
  • In a lot of cases, they just drop out of church.

They say, “I’ve had it. These people are hypocrites. This is not real. This is not genuine. This is shallow. This is fake. This isn’t the real thing.” And they become critical, disillusioned, and give up.

Here’s a woman who saw it all going on, but she kept coming, kept participating in the services, kept praying, “Lord, hasten the day when Jesus comes, when the Redeemer comes. Bring the redemption of Jerusalem.” She was waiting along with a handful of others for the consolation of Israel, for the redemption of Jerusalem.

You will never find a perfect church. You will never find anything close to it. You will never find a group of believers who are without their faults and failures and frailties. But the question is: Do you love them as God does? Do you pray for them? Do you continue to participate, saying, “Lord, please do a work of grace in this place?”

“She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” Some of your translations say she “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (NKJV).

The word that’s translated here worshiping in my translation—or she served God, in some other translations—it’s translated variously because it means both of those things.

It’s a word that means "to minister to God, to worship Him by serving Him, to actively serve the Lord." Here’s a woman who, at her elderly age—at least 84, maybe 104—was not even thinking about retirement, but was actively serving the Lord.

She worshiped God. She served the Lord with fasting and prayer. Now, the way she served Him at 104 may have looked different than the way she served Him when she was a wife or as a teenager.

There are different seasons of life, and the way that some of you—as homeschooling moms or mothers of preschoolers or mothers of teenagers—the way that you’re serving the Lord in that season of life may look different than the way you will serve the Lord when you’re an empty-nester.

The way that you, as married women, serve the Lord will look different than the way you may serve as a widow. The way I serve Him as a single woman who’s not been married is different than the way you serve Him as a married woman.

But her heart was to serve the Lord as an act of worship. She served the Lord. She worshiped the Lord with fasting and prayer. Here’s a woman who participated in set times for fasting and prayer. I believe, as I’ve meditated on this passage, that she fasted and prayed in both a personal and private sense, as well as having public devotion to God.

The Jews in those days had times of fasting and prayer. I believe she participated in those days of fasting and prayer—the Day of Atonement would be a day of fasting and prayer. She would have participated in those, when everybody else was doing the same thing. But I think she also did it on her own when no one else saw, no one else knew, except God in Heaven.

As I think about her life, to me she stands as a contrast to the Pharisees and the religious hypocrites in Jesus’ day, who also fasted and prayed a lot. They fasted twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. They prayed at stated times throughout the day, but they were proud. They were self-righteous. They were doing it to impress others.

Jesus said in Matthew 6, “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. . . And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others” (verses 5 and 16).

That was the motive that Jesus had a problem with, because it made a mockery of true faith and true religion. It wasn’t God-centered at all.

To me, Anna stands as a contrast to that. She fasted and prayed. So did the Pharisees, but she did it for a whole different reason. The Pharisees fasted and prayed for show, but they missed God. They missed Jesus. Anna fasted and prayed out of a heart for God, out of true devotion for God, and as a result, her heart was sensitized.

She was tuned in when Jesus appeared. She recognized Him. She received Him. What did the Pharisees do when Jesus appeared? They resisted Him and rejected Him. They didn’t have eyes to see.

Jesus exposed their true hearts. On the surface they would have all looked spiritual. They all fasted. They all prayed. On the surface of things, they all looked godly, but when Jesus came, their true hearts were exposed in the way they responded to Him.

Fasting and prayer, for Anna, was not a formality. It was not just a religious ritual. It was not legalistic. It was not a performance on her part. Her motive was that she was longing for Christ.

In Luke chapter 5, some people came to Jesus and said, “The disciples of the Pharisees fast. Why don’t your disciples fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” (verses 33-34, paraphrased)

Who is the bridegroom? Jesus. Jesus is saying, “The bridegroom has arrived. It’s time to party. It’s time to celebrate.” Then He says, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days” (verse 35).

Why did Anna fast? Because she was longing for the appearance of the Bridegroom. She was longing for Christ to show up. She was desperate, and her desperation made her a true intercessor.

Now, here’s a woman who served the Lord with fasting and prayer night and day, Luke 2 tells us. As I studied that, I wondered if maybe she was at an age where she was having a hard time sleeping at night. It doesn’t say that; I don’t know. But you know, it’s been a blessing to me over the years to hear of some older people who can’t sleep at night and use those hours—instead of fretting and tossing and turning—use that time to pray.

Here’s a woman who prayed, not just at set times, but as a way of life. Just think about this woman. While others around her—younger women and perhaps other women her age—were whiling their lives away, partying, playing, feasting, and being self-indulgent, here’s a woman whose heart was set on the things of God. Here’s a woman who lived a life of self-denial, a life of sacrifice—a woman who lived with eternity in view.

Now, I’m not saying—and I want to be careful to make this clear—that every Christian woman should live the kind of life, precisely, that Anna did. You’re in the church every time the church doors are open. You spend all your time fasting and praying—night and day, that’s all you do. As we’ve said, there are different seasons of life, and we worship God and serve Him in different ways in those different seasons of life.

But I will say this: Every Christian woman should have this kind of heart: a heart that is God-centered, a heart that is God-focused, a heart that is serving God—whether you’re in the kitchen or the temple, whether you’re in your van carting kids back and forth to school, taking kids to piano lessons, giving piano lessons, going to your kids’ sporting events, or whatever you’re doing.

Whatever season of life—loving your kids, loving your husband, doing the things God has called you to do—do you do it out of a Christ-centered heart, with eternity in view?

A woman whose heart is fixed on God. I have to tell you that as I’ve been studying the life of Anna—and I’m going to embarrass Miss Dorothy here by saying this—Dorothy, you have come to my mind so many times while I’ve been studying this passage. I don’t know that I know any living woman, personally, who epitomizes this woman to me as much as you do.

If you don’t have the privilege of knowing Miss Dorothy, you should. She’s in her 80s, and by today’s standards, that’s considered an older woman. But here’s a woman who is still growing spiritually, always learning, always asking questions.

She comes up to me after sessions, and she teaches me things I’ve never seen in the passage. She will ask questions. Her mind is just so tuned to the Word of God. She’s eager. She’s hungry. She’s teachable. She’s a woman who is serving the Lord.

Dorothy is a woman of prayer, and she’s shared with me often about how she has carried such a burden on her heart for the church—for revival in the church. She prays for her children and for her grandchildren. She cries out to the Lord night and day for those children and for the children of God, the family of God.

She’s a woman who is longing to see the "consolation of Israel, longing for the redemption of Jerusalem." To me, there’s a modern-day Anna sitting right in here with us. And I say, “Lord, that’s the kind of woman I want to be as I get older. That’s how I want to spend my life, serving You in those ways.”

Let me ask you to turn in your Bible to Psalm chapter 84. Sometimes, as we talk about someone like Anna or Miss Dorothy, some people may think, “I don’t know if that’s the kind of life I really want. It sounds a little boring. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. I kind of get the picture of a nun—you know, somebody in a cloister, always praying, always humming hymns, and always being spiritual."

I want you to see in Psalm 84 that this is a life of great blessing. In whatever season of life, you have a heart that is fixed on pilgrimage, a heart that is fixed on seeking Christ.

In this passage—we’ll read most of it here—the psalmist expresses this great longing that he has to be in the place where God’s presence dwells, which, in the Old Testament, would have been the temple. And notice the great joy that he experiences, the great blessing that he experiences, when he gets there. He says in verse 1, “How lovely is your dwelling place.” In some of your translations he says “tabernacle,” the place where the Lord’s glory dwells.

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!” He’s saying, “O God, there is no place on this earth that I’d rather be than the place where You live.”

“My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD.” He has an intense desire to worship God. “My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God” (verses 2-3).

I think it’s almost as if the psalmist is envious of those little birds who build their nests in and around the temple courtyard at the altars. He’s saying, “Those little birds are blessed to be so close to God, to live where God lives.”

Then he says in verse 4, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house.” You’ll see that word “blessed” three times in this Psalm—here in verse 4, then in verse 5, then again in verse 12. “Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!” He’s saying, “Happy is their condition. They’re contented. They have the best possible life.”

Verse 5: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” He begins talking here about the journey to the temple, the journey to the presence of God. Those who have their hearts set on pilgrimage—those who have their hearts set on finding the presence of God—are blessed.

And then look at verse 6: “As they go through the Valley of Baca . . .” Some of your translations say “Baca” and some of your translations say “the place of weeping.” “Baca” means “weeping.” “As they go through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.” What in the world is it saying there?

It’s saying that on their way to find the presence of God—on their way to the temple—they encounter some difficulties. They have to go through this valley of weeping, this place of sadness or sorrow or suffering. But because they are seeking the presence of God, God will transform that dry, arid valley into a place of abundant springs—a place of joy, a place of refreshment, a place of praise. That’s the presence of God.

“They go from strength to strength” (verse 7). I think that’s a picture of those who are seeking the Lord. The anticipation of finding Him, of being in His presence, causes the natural weariness from the journey to be overcome. We’re strengthened in the journey, difficult as it may be, as we press on to see the Lord.

“Each one appears before God in Zion” (verse 7). That is the goal—to get to the presence of God. Anna was a woman who lived to see God, lived to know God, and lived to see the redemption of Israel, Jesus Christ.

Look down at verse 10 here in Psalm 84: “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

Doesn’t that sound like Anna, who just wanted to be where God was? The psalmist is saying here, “I would rather be able to spend one day in or near the place where God is than to spend any length of time with those who don’t love God, the ungodly.” He’s talking about the blessings of being near God. It’s not a deprived way to live.

Look at verse 11: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield.” He lights our way. He protects us. “The LORD bestows favor and honor.” (As Psalm 23:5 says, “My cup overflows.”) “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

I think sometimes we think, “If I trust the Lord—really trust Him—if I surrender my life to Him completely, I’ll be miserable. Maybe God will make me stay single. Maybe He’ll never let me get married, or maybe God won’t bless me with a child, or God will make my life hard in some way.”

I want to tell you that if you trust your life to God or if you don’t trust your life to God, life will be hard. One way or the other, life is hard. But I want to tell you, if you do trust your life to God, life may be hard, but it will be blessed.

It will be blessed. God is a sun and shield. He bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Verse 12: “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” That’s what Anna experienced—the blessings of a lifetime of trusting in God, being utterly dependent on God, looking to Him, loving Him, living for Him, centering her life in Him.

Ladies, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. Here’s Anna, who says, “I love being in the place where You are, Lord.”

My heart cries out as I read about her life, “Lord, that’s where I want to be. I want a life that is centered in You.” And that will be a blessed life, whether you’re four or 14 or 44 or 84 or 104. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

 Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to wrap up today’s message. It’s part of a series called The King’s Dedication.

I always spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus in a manger during the Christmas season, but I don’t usually spend much time reading about baby Jesus in the temple. So I’ve learned a lot from this series and have gotten such a rich picture of what the birth of Jesus meant for those living in 1 A.D.

Maybe you’ve missed some of this series. There are a variety of ways you can connect with this important message. Listen to the audio stream at our website. Download the free podcast, or read the daily transcript.

You’ll find all these options at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can order the series on audio CD or MP3 CD. When you do, you’ll receive additional minutes of teaching we didn’t have time to include on the broadcast. To order, visit ReviveOurHearts.com or call 1-800-569-5959.

When you become an older woman, how do you want to be described? Hear how your actions today will affect that description tomorrow. Nancy will talk about it on our next broadcast. Now, she’s here to wrap things up.

Nancy: As we’ve been looking at the life of Anna, would you say that your heart is set on the things of the Lord? Or have you been distracted with lesser things, things of time rather than things of eternity?

Do you find that your mind and your thoughts are fixed and obsessed with buying and shopping and wrapping and cooking and traveling and planning—good things, but have you lost sight of the best thing, knowing and loving and living for Christ?

Is your heart happiest when you’re with the things and the people of God? Is that what you long for? Is that what you love? If you’re a child of God, there is in your heart something that longs to be with God.

Lord, how I thank You for the example of this woman who trusted in you as a widow, who stayed in the place where Your glory dwelt, who didn’t depart from it day and night. She continued with fasting and prayer, serving and worshiping You.

O Lord, make our lives as women be a lifetime offering of service to You. Call us to fasting and to praying and to serving You in many different ways—not just in set times and seasons, not just on Sunday morning, not just on special occasions, but all day and night, every day, every year of our lives, until You call us home. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion