As I walked through the temple, I reveled in the sweet sound of prayers and songs being lifted to our Almighty God! Such reminders that our faith was still very much alive energized me. For many years it has been my calling to remind people of God’s promise. I am commissioned to share a single message of hope with all who will listen. It saddens me that so many will not receive my words! I hear the whispers and see the way people look at me. Some say I have lost my mind after years of grief and loneliness. They speak in ignorance. I knew what it was to be wholly loved by a man for seven beautiful years. In experiencing the love of a devoted husband, I caught just a glimpse of the covenant loyalty–the Hesed–of the Mighty One of Israel. When my husband was taken from me, this temple became my home. Some see it as blasphemous, but I consider myself betrothed to the Messiah. My heart and devotion are His alone, and I rise each day to embrace this divine mission. Do not look upon me with pity, for I am a woman ablaze with purpose!
“Listen to what I speak! Remember the unfailing love of the Mighty One of Israel! The Messiah will come to rescue His people!”
In the courtyard, I could already hear a teacher opening scripture to his young disciples. He was one of my favorite teachers, not only because he often taught in the Court of Women, but also because he had a genuine passion for both the scriptures and the One who spoke them into being. Today, he shared words from the scroll of Hosea, one of my favorite prophets.
“Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a Door of Hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”
The thought of turning this “Valley of Achor” into a “Door of Hope” commanded my attention. I felt a familiar fire in my bones – a sensation that only one who shares my gift could recognize. My heart began to race, and the very breath in my lungs felt different! The Almighty One was moving among his people! He was about to reveal this Door of Hope! We have been dwelling in the Valley of Trouble long enough! I wonder if the teacher or his students were aware of the timeliness of his lesson.
Life in the temple had advantages. I knew the scriptures better than most women. In truth, I knew them better than most men. The Valley of Achor received its name because of the greed of a single man named Achan. His brazen disregard for the commands of the Almighty caused the death of thirty-six men, as well as the defeat and humiliation of the entire nation of Israel. After his sin was exposed, the covetous man and his household paid the ultimate price for his actions. It is a sad testimony to the far-reaching consequences of sin. Generations later, we live a similar story. I know we are here, at the mercy of the Roman Empire, not because of the might of Caesar, but because of our disregard for the God of Israel and for His Torah. Such sin has indeed had far-reaching consequences. Our comfort is that we are children of the Faithful One of Israel, who has promised that He will one day restore us. We are waiting for Him to open the Door of Hope.
The elderly rabbi continued his teaching, reminding his disciples that the word “hope” used in this passage–“Tikvah” conveyed an image of a strong woven cord. It was the scarlet cord that Rahab hung in her window when the Israelites conquered Jericho generations ago. The Israelites were instructed to look for the cord in the window to honor the promise given to Rahab. The eyes of Achan did not look for the scarlet cord. Instead, they lingered on the riches of Jericho. Rahab’s hope would have been Achan’s salvation.
“My children,” the rabbi concluded, “when we study the scriptures, our eyes must be diligently seeking the scarlet cord in the window.”
The words of the teacher fed the fire within me. Could the scarlet cord in Rahab’s window be symbolic of the Door of Hope that was about to open?
As I considered this possibility, I noticed Simeon and his young friend, Jeriah, standing nearby. They were also focused intently on the words of the teacher. The Spirit of God rested powerfully upon Simeon. It had been revealed to him that he would see the arrival of the Promised One before his death, and he devoutly proclaimed the Consolation of Israel. Together, Simeon and I waited in hopeful expectation for a Messiah that many had begun to dismiss. In this age, many of our nation much younger than ourselves were simply going through the motions of temple life. They lacked the hope, the Tikvah, that burned within us. There were exceptions to this mindset, such as my young namesake, Anna, and her husband–the young man who at this moment stood at Simeon’s side. I turned my attention back to the teacher as he concluded his lesson with a Psalm of praise.
“Let us worship our Lord with all of the passion of our great King David,” the teacher encouraged his students to join him in worship.
“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”
The teacher stood for a moment with his arms raised to the heavens and then turned his eyes back to his students.
“God our Savior! The Hope of all the ends of the earth! This is our Scarlet Cord! Our Door of Hope! Our Tikvah.”
I was excited to know that the unveiling of this “Door of Hope” was eminent. The Almighty has provided another sign! Months had passed since the first one: the miracle child of the priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth. Wondrous things happened even before the child was conceived. Young Anna and I were privileged to hear Zechariah prophesy over his newborn son and wise enough to document every word he spoke. I committed this prophecy to memory and entrusted the parchment to Anna for safekeeping. My young friend was unique among the women of her generation. The daughter of a priest, she had knowledge and passion for the Scriptures that rivaled any of the religious leaders. Over the years, she had secretly transcribed all of the holy scriptures, and now had a private library of the treasured words of God. When her parents named her in my honor, it seemed they conveyed on her more than just a name. We shared a kindred mind and spirit — and she also carried the fire within her. There was a life-long bond between us that was only made richer by her marriage to Jeriah, Simeon’s equally passionate young friend. I was grateful that the Almighty had permitted Simeon and me enough years to see these young ones journey through their first years of life together. Our remaining days upon this earth were few, especially now that God was once again moving among his people.
I meditated on that day when the elderly mother, Elizabeth, cradled an infant in her arms, recalling the final words that Zechariah spoke over his son that day:
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Zechariah spoke of the Consolation of Israel! The prophet was here! The sun was rising! Even now, I felt that I could make out the outline of a scarlet cord in the window! The expression on Simeon’s face revealed that he also had felt the stirring. I noticed that he was focused intently on the entrance to the temple; there was something more! I followed his gaze until it rested on a young couple carrying an infant. As soon as I laid eyes on the child, I felt the fire roar. Like Simeon, I knew immediately that this child was the Anointed One. In spite of his age, Simeon raced to meet the surprised couple, sweeping the child into his arms. He stood weeping, an expression of unparalleled joy gracing his features. Without taking his eyes from the child, he began to pray.
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
He stood for a few moments longer, and then reverently returned the child to his mother’s arms. Through his tears, he spoke a blessing over the couple. Then he reached out his hand, as if to place it upon the woman’s head, and he prophesied over her:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
As those startling words fell on the young woman’s ears, she lowered her eyes to the infant. She was lost in tender, awestruck wonder of her child. When I looked toward the man, I saw a fierce resolution behind the sacred bewilderment in his face. I marveled at the beauty of this family. Simeon took a step back to allow me to share a moment with them. I could do nothing more than gaze upon this holy infant, and give thanks to God.
“Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”
I rejoined Simeon and we watched the young couple with quiet reverence. It was a moment no one else could understand. He and I were united by a scarlet cord. The peace in his eyes told me what I already knew; his mission was complete. It was a beautiful bittersweet moment. For me, however, the fire was still burning. At least for today, I still had a message to proclaim. As the couple took the child to fulfill their obligations, I returned to my calling. My words would have to change. Before today, I pointed only to the holy Scriptures to convey my message. The promise of the scriptures had become flesh and bone–in the form of an infant. How unpredictable our God is!
I looked at young Jeriah, who seemed almost overwhelmed by wonder. I was so glad that he stood here with us today. The message would not be lost. He would relay these events to Anna, and she would record them as she always did. The infant Messiah would not soon be seated on his throne, and neither Simeon nor I would see that day come to pass. It mattered little to me, because he had arrived! I meditated on the fact that the baby that Simeon had just cradled in his arms was our Scarlet Rope, our Door of Hope, our Tikvah! It would be a different world for our young friends and their children!
“Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season!”
Featured Image by Robert Bye