Reader: “When Zechariah was in the sanctuary,”
Response: “an angel of the Lord appeared to him.”
Scripture: Luke 1:5-17
When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Our attention in today’s passage draws us closer to events associated more directly with the nativity of Jesus. A little background to Luke’s account may be helpful. Note once again how the Scriptures are tied to verifiable fact. “When Herod was king of Judea . . .” is traceable historical truth. Zechariah was a Jewish priest. As you know, not anyone could be a priest. There was no job application to fill out. No Zip Recruiter agency! Unless you were from the tribe of Levi and could trace your ancestry specifically to Aaron, and could prove it, you need not apply for the position of a priest. Not all Levites were priests. The Hebrew word for priest is kohan or Cohen (in English). Zechariah was especially esteemed because Elizabeth also traced her lineage to the priestly line of Aaron. They were doubly blessed in that regard. There were twenty-four divisions of priests who ministered in the Temple. The rotation for service was determined by lot to determine God’s will. The eighth division was that of Abijah and Zechariah was one of the priests in that division. The lot fell on the eighth division and within the division, the lot fell on Zechariah. He was the priest who got to burn incense. If a priest was fortunate, he might get to serve one time in the Temple in his entire life time. It was a coveted magnificent privilege afforded Zechariah. He and his wife had suffered childless their entire marriage and the sun had set on those years of possible conception. Writing as a physician, Luke simply stated that Elizabeth was unable to conceive. Childlessness was not a punishment, for the Scriptures state clearly that they were viewed as righteous by God. Being viewed as righteous in God’s sight is a good place to be. (Something to think about, does God view you as righteous?) The day arrived and Zechariah entered the Holy Place, (not the Holy of Holies―that was reserved for the High Priest one day a year on Yom Kippur). At what is perhaps the most sacred moment in Zechariah’s long life, an angel appears standing right beside the altar of incense! He is terrified. Apparently, he and Elizabeth had been praying for a son for a long time, even beyond reasonable expectations. God has clearly ordained this whole sequence in unfolding his will from the first lot cast to the appearance of the angel, Gabriel. Not only would they have a son, the angel explained what this son would do and what his role would be in God’s unfolding plan. He would not be just another boy in Israel, he would be the very one prophesied 400 years earlier as the forerunner of the Messiah! Zechariah had his doubts as to Gabriel’s story. You know the rest. He was mute until the birth of John.
So what does this historical account tell us? You can rest assured that God is in the details of your life. One word never appears anywhere in Scripture and that word is coincidence. There are none. God is sovereign in all things, even in the throwing of the dice in this case! Nothing is beyond hope or the power of God. A baby was conceived when it wasn’t possible. God answered a prayer that had been prayed for years and his timing was perfect. In this case, his action came within the context of worship. At times, God intervenes in human lives in a miraculous way. Though it is rare, sometimes God tells the specifics regarding the future ahead of time. Throughout Advent, we see the glorious unfolding of the Father’s divine plan step by step.
Music: “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” Libera
Our loving heavenly Father, these past months have been rather uncertain, but I guess all time is uncertain. Forgive us for the occasions we have panicked and become afraid of what might be. Our faith has wavered and we’ve taken our eyes off of you. The passage of Scripture we read today certainly underscores the truth that you know all things and are the sovereign Lord of time and of history. You are able to bring about anything and are never late in your timing of those things you desire. May we learn to trust you in moving into the unknown paths of life now and in the years ahead. Nothing comes as a surprise to you. We say those words Lord, but help us to live them in our minds, in our souls, and in your Spirit. Do not let us succumb to the pontificating of the world, but may we continue to prepare for the coming of your Son in whose name we pray. ―Daniel Sharp
Friends,I want to thank you for subscribing this year. I want to mention something to you if the Lord so moves you. Doing these devotionals is not without actual cost ―e.g. getting the material into the proper format and year-round monthly rentals to the email host. I checked into setting up a 501c (3) and found it wasn’t feasible for writing this devotional. If you would like to help with expenses, you can make a donation which is not tax deductible. The subscriptions are always and always will be completely free. There is certainly no obligation to contribute, but if you would like to, please make your check to: Dan Sharp, 4017 Isle Vista Ave, Belle Isle, FL 32812.