April 15 - Encouragement to Be With God

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
 
Praise God. 
Praise God that he has eternally decreed everything that exists. Praise God that we do not live in a world that is randomly governed by chance or fate. Praise God that he is Sovereign (Absolute Ruler) over all that he has created. That there is nothing beyond his everyday control. Ephesians 1:11 and Acts 15:18. Psalm 24:1,2 and Matthew 10:29-31.
  
Acknowledge sin.
Acknowledge and confess the sin of being anxious and worried. Pray that God would help you to trust him and the promises he has made. Matthew 6:25-34.
  
 
Let's read Luke 2:36-40
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
 
v36 Meeting a godly woman.
Some people appear in the Bible a lot; others appear only once; either way, it is a remarkable thing to have an event in one's life spoken of in God's Word. Just like Simeon, whom we met yesterday, the person we meet today appears only once in the Bible, and it is here in the Gospel of Luke. It is interesting that God, at the very beginning of Jesus' life, has both a male and a female as the two witnesses to the fact that the Messiah has been born. This speaks of God's view of the equality of men and women, albeit appointing to them different roles in life; in the home and the church. What is this godly woman's name? How is she identified? Let's see what we can glean from these sentences about Anna. 
 
Anna was a woman of beautiful character. Her husband had died when she was a young woman; they had only been married for seven years. It's hard to say from the text whether Anna was eighty-four at this point, or if she had been a widow for eighty-four years; if that is the case, then she would have been well over one hundred years old at this point. Whatever the case, she was an elderly lady whose life would have been marked by any number of trials and difficulties. There were probably many times in her life when she would have had good cause to feel sorry for herself and ask, 'why me God?' But Anna, by God's grace, had lived her life with the gentleness of a soul at peace with God. She fits well the description of a godly widow as depicted by the apostle Paul as he describes when he writes, "She is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplication and prayers night and day." (1 Timothy 5:5).  
 
v37 Anna was a woman who loved God's house. 
What does it say about her being in the Temple? But why would she have done so? What was she engaging in every day? What was significant about being in the Temple? Yes, she would have met other people there, and that would be good for her. But there was more to it than meeting people; it was where she met God. This woman's heart desired to be with God. For her, the words of Psalm 84:2, "My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord!" were not just to be sung, they were a testimony of what was precious to her. Of course, we don't need to be in the church building every day to be with God; that was not the burning issue. The burning question is - what is our heart crying out for; time on Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, or time with God. The 'not God' things can have a place in our lives if we want them to, but if our heart desires to be on them more than to be with God, then what does that say about where our heart love really is. 
 
v37 Anna was a woman who was serious about engaging God.
We are told that two things marked her worship, what were they? I could write a lot about both fasting and praying. Fasting is the nonparticipating in something to focus on the latter with a serious frame of mind. Prayer becomes serious when one realizes that it truly is a necessity in one's life. This woman had become convinced of her daily need of God, and the decisions she took reflected that. She wasn't concerned about what others thought of her, although she would not have wanted to offend. For Anna, her life was about communion, earnest communion with God and that was it. No need to justify it, it was what it was, and she just got on with it. Maybe this will be a season which God will use to help us to assess what is essential in terms of life and eternity.
 
v38 Anna thanks God and speaks of Jesus.
What's interesting is what flowed through Anna's life because of this daily engagement with God. What does Anna do? Elated at being given the privilege of seeing the Messiah as a babe in arms, Anna expresses her thanksgiving to God. How many other men and women observed this young married couple bring their infant child to the Temple on that day and thought nothing of it? After all, the performing of what was required by the Law would have happened many times a day. So, this was far from strange. What is wholly unique is who this child is, and only two elderly people are given an insight into who he is. This is the type of reward that comes from having close communion with God. Spiritual rewards that God gives, that cannot be identified or catalogued, are an encouragement to be with God, but they are specific and wonderful to the individual who receives them.   
 
What is the next thing Anna does? She goes out and tells people about Jesus, that the Messiah has come. The people she speaks with were doing what? So how would you characterize these people in terms of their relationship with God? I would say they were 'faithful.' They were men and women who, in the midst of a religious but ultimately godless city, were waiting in faith on the coming of the Messiah. J.C. Ryle puts it this way, "They were not carried away by the flood of worldliness, formality, and self-righteousness around them. They were not infected by the carnal expectations of a mere worldly Messiah, in which most Jews indulged. They lived in the faith of patriarchs and prophets — that the coming Redeemer would bring in holiness and righteousness, and that His principal victory would be over sin and the devil! For such a Redeemer — they waited patiently. For such a victory — they earnestly longed!"
 
The focus of their lives was the person of God. The hope of their lives was the coming Messiah. The desire of their lives was to know him. How elated they must have been on hearing what Anna said. Their breath must have been taken away. The Messiah is here, he has come! What great news Anna was blessed and privileged to share. What's interesting though is not just the fact of the apparent joy these people would have experienced; it is that Anna had a relationship with these people based on their shared love for God, and anticipation at the coming of the Messiah. The fact that they didn't turn her away, at least that is not the impression one gets from the text, shows the nature of her relationship with these people and what they talked about. As we spend more time in communion with the Lord, one of the beautiful consequences will be an ongoing maturing of our conversations about the Lord Jesus, his person, his work, his second coming, the judgement and eternal life. (Romans 8:23; 2 Timothy 4:8).
 
v39,40 Back home.
What does it say about Joseph and Mary's fulfilment of the Law? (And sorry again for the mistake I made on Monday about the redeeming of the firstborn. It shows the necessity to read the paragraph and the chapter before seeking to come to a conclusion about a particular point within it. If I can say this without undoing that apology - it is better to make such an initial mistake than never do so because one is not reading and studying the Bible.) The life of the infant began with the observance of God's Law. So, the standard of obedience was set by his parents, even though he was too young to appreciate it. Parents, begin well, don't say we will observe what God requires of us when the children get older and can understand what we are doing. Such an approach rarely, if ever, works. Is there something you need to be doing today in terms of observing God's loving commands? Don't put it off; do it today. Lay hold of the importance of the eternal consequence of your simple obedience for you personally, your children and your children's children. Lay in store a reward of blessing by just doing it.
 
Where do they go when they leave Jerusalem? This is where Jesus would spend the first thirty years of his life. What do we read about his life as a child, young teenager, adolescent, and as a man? Obviously, growing up, Jesus would experience all of life, yes without sin, but still it was life. Maybe this is something we should share more often with our children and young people, to encourage them that they have a Saviour who doesn't just know about adult life.  That he has actually experienced what they are going through and can relate to them as they pray to him. 
 
Finally, let us be constant and earnest in our praying for our children and young people, that the favour of the Lord would be upon them.
 
 
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 23B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
 
 
Memory Verse. 
Keep up the memorizing; it will be good for your heart relationship with the Lord.
Psalm 121C:1-4, "Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid? The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made. Your foot from stumbling He will always keep; the One who guards your life will never sleep. He who keeps Israel slumbers not nor sleeps, by night or day."
 
 
Something to think about. Shorter Catechism.
Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.
Scripture proofs pdf - https://opc.org/documents/SCLayout.pdf
 
 
Thank God.
Thank God that we can have a personal relationship with him that will grow and mature as we get older. Thank God for the spiritual blessings he gives us, and for those times of particular insight through our communion with him.
 
 
Take care in Christ,
Andrew
 
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley