“Life begins at forty” was a phrase made popular by an American self-help book of the same title written by Walter Pitkin in 1932, meaning that life tends to be better in one’s middle age. However, just fifty years before, it would be more accurate to say “death begins at forty”, as that was the life expectancy then. But at the time of the book’s publication, the life expectancy had increased to sixty, and with medical and technological advances, the life expectancy today has increased to seventy and continues to rise. It is no wonder then, that for some, life begins at seventy, and they choose to go back to school or start a second career after they retire. Sadly, there are some who regard old age as a time to retire from God’s service, having grown tired of serving God, or they do not think that they are of any use in serving God. In this article, we shall consider the example of Anna, one who is both willing and able to serve God regardless of circumstances in life.
Anna was the daughter of Phanuel (Luk 2:36). In the Roman culture, women were regarded as 2nd class citizens, and the situation wasn’t much better in the Jewish culture either, with women having to face male prejudices and biases (Joh 4:27). However, women have an important role in God’s plan, evident in the life of Christ. While the apostles were a visible part of Jesus’ ministry in preaching the gospel and healing the sick, various women supported and ministered to Him behind the scenes (Luk 8:2-3). Despite being a woman herself, Anna too was willing to serve God.
Anna was from the tribe of Asher (Luk 2:36). Asher was one of the ten northern tribes of Israel taken into Assyrian captivity for their sins (2Ki 18:11-12), and many of them turned to serve the idols of the pagan nations (2Ki 17:40-41). However, some from Asher heeded the appeal of Hezekiah to turn back to God and went to Jerusalem to keep the Passover (2Ch 30:11). Despite being in the minority herself, Anna too was willing to serve God.
Anna was a woman of great age (Luk 2:36-37). Even if we assume that she married at a young age of 15, this would mean that she lost her husband at 22, and would have been 106 when she saw Jesus, likely older. While some might have seen themselves as a burden by 80 (2Sa 19:35), others like Caleb had the same vigour to do God’s will at 85 as when he was 40 (Jos 14:10-11). Despite being of old age herself, Anna too was willing to serve God.
Even as a woman, Anna served God as a prophetess, teaching others about Him (Luk 2:36,38). Besides Anna, other women have been used by God in His service, such as Miriam (Exo 15:20), Deborah (Jdg 4:4), Huldah (2Ki 22:14), and Philip’s daughters (Act 21:9). Women can also serve God today in teaching the lost (Act 8:4), teaching men privately and informally (Act 18:26), teaching women (Tit 2:4), and teaching children (Pro 6:20).
Even as a minority, Anna served God in not departing from the temple, worshipping Him regularly (Luk 2:37). Besides Anna, other minorities have been used by God in His service, such as fishermen (Mat 4:18-22), tax collectors (Mat 10:3), and political activists (Luk 6:15). The minority can also serve God today in being present in worship to stir up love and good works (Heb 10:24), and to encourage others (Heb 10:25).
Even at an old age, Anna served God with daily fastings and prayers (Luk 2:37-38). Besides Anna, other aged have been used by God in His service, such as Moses and Aaron (Exo 7:7), Caleb (Jos 14:10), Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luk 1:7), and Simeon (Luk 2:26,29). The aged can also serve God today in helping others by praying for them (1Ti 5:5), and doing good works (1Ti 5:10).
Anna was willing to serve God despite being a woman, who is a minority, and of a great age. Not only was she willing, she was also able to serve God in teaching, in worshipping, and in helping others. Do we allow gender, status, or age to hinder us from serving God? Even as we grow old, there remains much work for us to do (Jos 13:1). Our time of retirement will come, but only when God decides that it is time for us to go home to Him, but we have to be ready by being diligent to enter that rest (Heb 4:11), for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Gal 6:9).