(25) And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
(30) For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, (31) Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; (32) A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
(36) And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; (37) And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. (38) And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. King James Version Change Bible versions
How were Simeon and Anna able to recognize the Messiah three decades before His first witness actually began? Luke provides the answer. He shows us that, in aggregate, the people of this group displayed the following characteristics:
1. They had God's Spirit. As a result, they were able to understand "the deep things of God. . . . No one knows the things of God except [by] the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). When He promised the Spirit to His disciples, Christcalled it the Spirit of truth [which] . . . will guide you into all truth; for [it] will not speak on [its] own authority, but whatever [it] hears [it] will speak; and [it] will tell you things to come. (John 16:13) The Spirit taught Simeon and Anna, just as it taught the apostles—just as it teaches us today. 2. They heard God's Word. Anna "did not depart from the Temple . . . night and day." She often heard the reading of God's Word, which Christ defined as truth (John 17:17). That Word "is profitable for . . . instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16). The Devout received frequent instruction from God's Word. 3. They talked with others of like mind. Simeon was not alone; neither was Anna. Luke 2:38 says Anna "spoke of [Christ] to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." An unspecified number of other people also waited for the Messiah! They fellowshipped with those who were "just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel" (verse 25). 4. They fasted often. Notice the plural: Anna "served God with fastings" (Luke 2:37). These were not the fastings of vanity (see Matthew 6:16-18), but she fasted in service to God. A result of proper fasting is knowledge (see Daniel 9:1-22; 10:1-21). Surely, Anna's frequent fastings contributed to her ability to recognize the Messiah. 5. They prayed regularly. Again, notice the plural, "prayers" (Luke 2:37). Many hours of prayer lay behind Anna's recognition of her Messiah. Solomon writes in Proverbs 2:3-5, "If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, . . . then you will . . . find the knowledge of God." Solomon should know. God greatly increased his knowledge and wisdom as a result of his prayer (II Chronicles 1:10). 6. The Devout made the right connections.As a result of hearing God's Word, they were aware of the Seventy-Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:20-27). They realized that it was about 69 prophetic weeks since the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the Messiah's coming was imminent. That is what Luke 2:26 tells us: God's Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. 7. The Devout saw the Day approaching and did not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). They understood the value of Christian fellowship. The prophet wrote of them and their sort through the ages: "Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them" (Malachi 3:16).
Discussing God's Word in frequent fellowship, with humble fastings and prayers, the Devout received understanding from God. Thus, they recognized their Messiah while the superstitious and the proud did not.
— Charles Whitaker