Digging Deeper: The Prophetess Anna

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education


Did you know that one of the people who welcomed Jesus and his adoptive father and mother in the temple on the day of Jesus’ presentation was an old prophetess who spent her time there in fastings and prayers?

Luke 2:36-38 informs us that her name was Anna and that her father was Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. The gift of prophecy was given at times to devout women as well as men. Several prophetesses are listed in both Testaments of our Bible such as Miriam, Deborah, Isaiah’s wife, Huldah, and the four virgin daughters of Philip. Some suggest her deceased husband may have been a prophet. Concerning her office as prophetess, Matthew Henry’s Commentary wrote, “Perhaps no more is meant than that she was one who had understanding in the scriptures above other women, and made it her business to instruct the younger women in the things of God.”

There is a difference of opinion about her age based on the text. Some claim she had been a widow for 84 years after a short marriage of seven years. This would make her well over 100 years old! Others suggest she was then 84 having been widowed many years after a brief marriage of only seven years. The statement that she departed not from the temple likely means either that she had been provided a living space in the temple complex or out-buildings or that she continually spent her time there in worship.

The name Anna in our Greek New Testament is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Channah, meaning “grace.” It is the same name as the Old Testament heroine, Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Being of the tribe of Asher would probably have made Anna a Galilean, as were 11 of Jesus’ 12 apostles. The tribe of Asher in the Old Testament was originally part of the House of Israel that was later carried into captivity hundreds of miles east and north by the mighty empire of Assyria. The bulk of the House of Israel never returned to the Promised Land. Nonetheless, small numbers found their way back to their ancestral home through the many centuries following captivity. The International Bible Encyclopedia article about Anna reports that “Tradition says that the tribe of Asher was noted for the beauty and talent of its women, who for these gifts, were qualified for royal and high-priestly marriage.”

The centuries since the captivities of the Houses of Israel and Judah made them long for the redemption and consolation of Israel through a coming Messiah prophesied by several of God’s spokesmen in the Hebrew Bible. This hope sustained Anna in her temple devotions for decades. She, and a just and devout man named Simeon (Luke 2:25-35), were delighted witnesses in the temple to Jesus’ birth. They were rewarded for their faithfulness by personally viewing the One who would provide spiritual deliverance to Israel and all humanity. Learning the news that the Messiah had arrived, Anna as a prophetess understood its significance and shared it with others who also looked for redemption in Jerusalem and Israel. Her brief account attests to the covenant loyalty of God’s devout people through the centuries. Their example should encourage us to trust Jesus’ promise to return!

Digging Deeper: A Cause to Pause

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education


Did you know that one of the greatest nations of antiquity suffered not just one pestilence but a series of ten plagues in succession?

That nation was Egypt. This harrowing account is recorded in chapters 1-12 of the Book of Exodus in the Holy Bible. Jews and Christians alike reflect on the meaning of the original Exodus and Passover stories in springtime. For Christians, this reflection includes meditation on the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross as our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7; John 1:29) to provide us an exodus from sin, Satan’s society, and self.

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is motivating people around the earth to consider the meaning of this frightening and deadly experience. Perhaps over several months, Egypt suffered plagues of blood, frogs, lice or gnats, flies, murrain, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of its firstborn. The plague of murrain on the animals was a pestilence (Ex 9:3, 14). Amos 4:10 referred to Egypt’s plagues as a pestilence. A working definition of pestilence is a contagious and destructive disease that is a calamity, a scourge, and an epidemic or pandemic. Today the world is reeling from one pestilence but imagine if it had to respond to ten in a row!

This story is one of the greatest epics of biblical history and literature.

The plagues on Egypt were God’s judgment upon a God-defying pharaoh and his people who had confined, enslaved and mistreated the Israelites for hundreds of years. God had given fair warning, through the preaching of his servant, Moses, to the proud Egyptians about the onset of these plagues if they refused to set His people free. By these afflictions, God released, rescued and redeemed His people from servitude to be His very own special people led by Moses, whose own birth narrative relates to the suffering of his people. God accomplished His will through this historic tragedy. It marked the beginning of the Israelites’ long journey to the Promised Land.

plague flies

The desolating plague of our own time will accomplish God’s purpose in something we may not yet even know. The key to understanding this experience is humbling ourselves in repentance to receive God’s reprieve when He deems we are genuinely establishing godly standards (2 Ch 7:13-14). In the meantime, Christians need to consider and follow the apostle Paul’s example while arrest in Rome: “… so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Phil 1:20) May God have mercy on us as we sincerely turn to Him in our time of need (Heb 4:16).

Children’s Bible Program – Level 3: Lesson 53 “Nehemiah”

Featured Passage: Nehemiah 1-6


The temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt by the group of captives that had been allowed to return to the city. However, even though the temple was completed and rededicated, there was still trouble for the people. The walls of the city were broken and Jerusalem was not protected from the attacks of the surrounding enemies. At the time, a man named Nehemiah worked as the cupbearer for the Persian king Artaxerxes. Nehemiah heard that the people in Jerusalem were in distress and he became very sad, and cried out to God for help. God, hearing Nehemiah’s prayer, had a plan to help the people through the kindness of a king and the leadership of a cupbearer. 

Discuss: 

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  • What was Nehemiah’s first reaction when he heard about the situation in Jerusalem? What can we learn from his actions? 
  • What are the responsibilities of a cupbearer? How did the king notice something was wrong when Nehemiah came before him? What does this tell us about the kind of person Nehemiah was? 
  • How did Nehemiah organize the building of the wall? Why do you think he did it this way? 
  • What kind of difficulties did the people have as they were trying to build the walls? What was the response of the builders to the adversity they met? What should our response be when we have difficulties trying to accomplish our goals in life? 
  • How long did it take the people to finish rebuilding the walls? What roles did Nehemiah play in helping the people finish the job so quickly?

Memory Challenge: 

Nehemiah 2:17

Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.”


Children’s Bible Program – Level 2: Lesson 53 “God Leaves His House”

Featured Passage: 2 Chronicles 36; Ezekiel 10-11


After the days of King Solomon, the Kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were ruled by many different kings. Some were good kings who led the people to serve God and worship Him properly at His temple, and God was pleased with them. Sadly, not every king wanted to follow God’s laws, but rather they turned away from God to worship pagan idols and led the people to sin against God’s commandments. This made God very sad, and as time went by the problem seemed to get worse and worse. As God had told the Israelites many years before, if they turned away from Him to worship false gods, He would no longer protect them and He would have to leave the people and the house that was built for Him. After all, there was no longer room for Him in a house filled with idols. Just as the prophets of God had warned the people, if they didn’t repent of their sins God was going to leave His house and  teach them a hard lesson. 

Discuss: 

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  • Who was the last king of Judah? What kind of attitude did he have toward God? 
  • The prophet Ezekiel was shown a vision of the glory of God leaving the temple in Jerusalem. Why did God remove His glory from the temple? 
  • Why did God send prophets to warn the people? What did the people of Jerusalem do when the prophets of God warned them what would happen if they didn’t listen to God? 
  • Who were the enemies who surrounded and conquered the city of Jerusalem? What happened to the temple and the things in it? 
  • Even though God removed His glory from the temple, did that mean that God would leave His people forever? What are some of God’s promises to the people of Judah and Israel? 
  • After the first temple was destroyed, who was the person God worked with to proclaim that the temple could be rebuilt? 

Memory Challenge: 

2 Chronicles 36:23 

Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!”


Children’s Bible Program – Level 1: Lesson 53 “David and the Ark”

Featured Passage: 1 Chronicles 15-17, 22


King David had built a house for himself in the City of David which is in Jerusalem. Though he had a beautiful place to live, he was sad because the ark of the covenant, the special box which represented God’s promises to Israel, was being kept in a man’s home at a place called Kirjath Jearim. He wanted the ark to be put in its own special house. He knew that the ark represented God’s dwelling place, so he wanted to build a house for God in Jerusalem to help show the people that God was with them. Before the house – the temple – could be built, David set up a special tabernacle in Jerusalem where the ark could be placed. He was very excited that the ark would finally come into the City of David, so he prepared a special celebration. 

Discuss:

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  • Who were the only ones who were allowed to carry the ark of the covenant? What was the special way the ark was to be carried? 
  • What kind of instruments did David want to accompany the ark being brought into the city? What do you think the music sounded like? 
  • What was David doing to worship God when the ark was brought into the city of David? What are some ways that we can worship God? 
  • What did David give all the people so they could join in the celebration? (1 Chronicles 16:3)
  • What is a psalm? How do we use psalms and music in church today? 
  • What was the covenant God made with David about the temple that he wanted to build? 

Memory Challenge: 

2 Chronicles 15:3 

And David gathered all Israel together at Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it.


Digging Deeper: The Legacy of a King

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education


Did you know that the captivity of the House of Judah was largely blamed on the actions of one of its kings?

For hundreds of years, God had sent prophet after prophet to warn his people to repent of their evil but to no avail. The entire nation was apostate from God. However, it was the regime of one of its kings that was the final straw. 2 Kings 21:4 and Jeremiah 15:4 describe Judah’s removal from its homeland into captivity for the “sins of Manasseh…for the innocent blood that he shed…which the LORD would not pardon.” Not only was there an entire tribe of the northern House of Israel named Manasseh, but the thirteenth king of the House of Judah bore this name as well.

King Manasseh was the son of one of the House of Judah’s most righteous kings, Hezekiah. Hezekiah had cleansed the southern tribes of idolatry and repaired and reopened the Temple with proper sacrifices before restoring the festivals of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread that had been neglected many years. Later in life, Hezekiah was told by the prophet Isaiah to get his house in order for he would soon die after contracting a disease. Hezekiah appealed to God who extended his life 15 years. During that time he begat a son who became his successor: Manasseh.

Hezekiah was not a perfect king, but Manasseh seemed to go to all lengths to undo his father’s reforms and go well beyond what any other king had committed in evil. Manasseh reigned the longest of Old Testament Israelite kings – 55 years. His evil reign is declared worse than that of the heathen who occupied the Holy Land before Israel conquered it (2 Kings 21:9). Manasseh even made some of his children “pass through the fire” (burning them alive) in sacrifice to a heathen god.

Manasseh’s wickedness is detailed in 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33. But only the account in 2 Chronicles tells the “rest of the story.” He was eventually hauled away in shackles into captivity by the Assyrians, perhaps even with a hook in his nose or lip as he walked hundreds of miles to the city of Babylon. Remarkably, while in captivity he came to himself, like the Prodigal Son, in this far-off land and appealed to God’s mercy who not only arranged for his release from captivity but even returned him to his throne in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 33:12-13). After his resuming power, he implemented a massive reform program to turn the nation back to God; however, the consequences of his earlier wickedness could never be fully reversed before the final captivity of the nation.

This story declares the graciousness of our God that even as wicked a person as Manasseh could be forgiven and restored! This account should encourage all of us to appreciate and draw closer to the God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and who will abundantly pardon through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ. We must never take His grace for granted but we can continue to count on it if we genuinely repent of our sin and change our ways.

Student Visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame

On Sunday, March 1st, the Living Education Students visited one of the most renowned sites in Charlotte – the NASCAR Hall of Fame! This fascinating part of Americana is showcased with full-size cars, displays recounting the history of the car-racing craze, going back to the days of Prohibition. As visitors, we learned about some of the early organizers of the racing circuit that is now big business throughout the US. We also took the opportunity to try our hand at racing in real stock cars simulators. One of the other highlights was having a go at a quick tire change in a simulated “pit” stop. It was a fascinating field trip!

Digging Deeper: Paul and Rome

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education


Did you know that, unlike most of his epistles, Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans during his third evangelistic journey before he ever visited the city of Rome?

House churches had developed in the Roman Empire’s capital city possibly beginning with observant Jews who had traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost and had returned as Christians (Acts 2:10). During the persecution of Acts 8:1, some Christians may have fled to Rome. Other Christians may have migrated there for business or personal reasons. Somehow congregations had formed among believers. Paul had wanted to visit them even before he wrote them but was prevented doing so more than once (Romans 1:11-15). One reason he wrote this letter was to introduce himself and prepare them for his coming after he delivered a gift from churches in Greece to Judean Christians enduring drought and famine. However, he did not arrive in Rome until about three years after writing them due to his arrest in Jerusalem. While there, Jesus informed him he would indeed stand before Caesar in Rome just as he had testified in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11; 27:24).

Paul believed his work on the eastern side of the Roman Mediterranean world had been accomplished sufficiently (Rom 15:22-23). He wanted to preach in the capital city as he had in scores of other cities and towns during his various evangelistic journeys. Long before Horace Greeley made his proverbial admonition to “Go west young man,” Paul wanted to travel west to visit the brethren and churches in Rome to solidify them in the faith as well as to disseminate the faith to other parts of the empire from its capital. Rome was a city of one to four million people, about half of whom were slaves. The conclusion of his Epistle to the Romans greets many people Paul knew there including relatives (Romans 16:13), but there were many more yet-unknown brethren Paul intended to meet and serve.

Paul did indeed travel to Rome but not in the way he had planned. He arrived as a prisoner who of necessity had appealed to Caesar, employing the right of every Roman citizen to a fair trial. He spent about two years in Rome under a form of house arrest but afterward evidently was released and traveled further to spread the gospel, perhaps even to Spain as he had planned (Rom 15:24, 28). Finally, tradition states he was rearrested, returned to Rome for retrial and was beheaded. Paul’s testimony in Rome was sealed in his blood.

Second Thoughts: Leaving Stephen Behind

Author: Thomas White | Living Church of God, Editorial Department


“And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his death” (Acts 7:58-8:1).

Dr. Douglas Winnail’s recent assembly addressed the uncomfortable truth that what you do when you’re young will affect the rest of your life. People in many walks of life need that warning, and like most warnings, we need it when we haven’t done anything yet.

But what if you’ve already consented to Stephen’s death?

Wonderings

I wonder how many times Saul saw Stephen’s face in his dreams. I wonder if he ever woke up in a cold sweat while being taught by Christ Himself in the wilderness, hearing “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” reverberate through his mind. I wonder how much he felt as though he were haunted by Stephen’s death.

I wonder if he ever knelt before Christ during those years of training and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! I let them kill him, I wanted them to, and I don’t know how to make up for it. I’ll never be able to forget what I’ve done, and I don’t know how You can, either. I’m tainted, Lord—Your work deserves better. Your people deserve better.”

And I wonder if he heard something like, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. I do not condemn you—go and sin no more.”

Going

When we read in John 8:11 of Christ saying that to the woman caught in adultery, we pay needed attention to the first part, “Neither do I condemn you,” and the third part, “sin no more.” But it was only very recently that I even noticed the second part: “go.”

Only a writer inspired by God could pack so much into a single word. “Sin no more,” our Savior says, but also, “Go. Move forward. Don’t stay here in your mind, wallowing in this time and place, letting the memories of your sin hold you captive. Leave Stephen behind.”

Saul had to, and we have to. Whatever we’ve done, however grievously we’ve disobeyed our Savior, the response he expects of us is to ask His forgiveness, believe Him when He says He does not condemn us, go, and sin no more. And it has to be in that order: If we’re going to leave Stephen behind, we have to first believe and accept that Christ does not condemn us, and if we’re going to “sin no more,” we have to first leave Stephen behind—because we’re almost never more vulnerable to future sin than when our minds are enveloped in past sin.

I doubt Saul ever truly forgot about what he did to Stephen, but I don’t believe he remained haunted by it. In fact, we know he didn’t, because the same man who consented to Stephen’s death—but also, in a very real way, an entirely different man—said, “one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

It’s true—what you do when you’re young affects the rest of your life. But it doesn’t have to rule it.


Children’s Bible Program – Level 3: Lesson 52 “Ezra”

Featured Passage: Ezra 7-8


A group of Jews had returned from exile to rebuild Jerusalem and to restore the temple. They had met with some adversity, but ultimately they completed what they had set out to accomplish. Another group of Jews was planning to come back to Jerusalem to help with the job and to help restore the true worship of God in Jerusalem. Among this group was a scribe named Ezra. He was very skilled in knowing the scriptures and teaching the law, but more than that he possessed a heart prepared to seek God’s Law and to do it with all his might. As it turned out, he is just what the people in Jerusalem needed. 

Discuss: 

Richard Gunther (www.richardgunther.org) | FreeBibleImages.org
  • Who was the king of Persia who gave support to Ezra and the others with him returning to Jerusalem? What did he do to show his support? 
  • When the King of Persia promised Ezra his help and support, to whom did Ezra give the credit? 
  • When Ezra returned with the group of people to Jerusalem, he wrote that he was ashamed of something. What was it? What does this say about the kind of person Ezra was? 
  • How did God protect the people on their return to Jerusalem? (Ezra 8:31)
  • When the Bible says that Ezra “had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord” what does that mean? How can we follow this example? 

Memory Challenge: 

Ezra 7:10 

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.