December 5, 2020
THINK ABOUT THIS!
Verse 5 validates the narrative with historical legitimacy, just as the genealogical record does in Matthew. These were real people who lived in a certain place and time in history. Herod was king of Judea. Zechariah was a priest in the division of Abijah. His wife was also a descendant of Aaron. This is a reliable story.
In verse 6, we learn about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s character and spiritual quality. They were both upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. Now we know that all of us have a sinful human nature and all have sinned. Yet Luke tells us here that Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright in the sight of God. And they observed the law blamelessly. So it is possible to live a life that is affirmed by God! That’s good news!
This is a great point for personal reflection. How am I doing before God? Am I upright? Am I following God the best that I can? Am I observing His commandments? Am I faithful in spiritual disciplines of reading scripture, prayer, worship, fellowship, and giving? Am I blameless? Advent is a perfect time to reflect and refocus on the things we can do to get closer to God.
Verse 7 gives us more detail into Zechariah and Elizabeth’s place in life. They had no children. Elizabeth was barren. They were both well along in years.
There is no mention that God was punishing them with infertility for any fault in their lives. We already know they were upright and blameless before God. They were good people. They just hadn’t experienced the blessing of children…yet!
Being “well along in years” brings blessings, too. With age comes maturity, we hope. My mom liked to say, “You can only be young once, but you can always be immature!” It was a frequent joke to excuse pretty much anything. But really, maturity brings wisdom, patience, and the ability to see God’s hand at work, all things Zechariah and Elizabeth would need in raising a child in their golden years!
Verses 8 and 9 describe Zechariah being “on duty” in his priestly service in the temple. Apparently the priests took turns doing certain tasks. Maybe they rotated on a schedule. I wonder if they assumed their duties like our military reservists? Regardless, it was Zechariah’s turn to be “on duty,” and he was “chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood to go to the temple of the Lord and burn incense.”
I wonder why scripture includes the phrase, “chosen by lot,” and the details about burning the incense at the temple. So the priests had schedules and took turns. But for this specific task, Zechariah was chosen by lot, as if by the luck of the draw, or by random, or by chance.
But we know that with God, nothing is left to chance. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” And in Proverbs 16:33 we read, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” It wasn’t just luck or chance that had Zechariah burning incense in the temple that day. It was all planned by God!
If we read ahead in the passage, we know that God is getting Zechariah ready to be informed by an angel of some life-changing news! He and Elizabeth are going to have a baby, and God will use that baby in a big way! So God makes the moment memorable!
In verse 10 we learn, “And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.” It seems that a significant moment is about to happen, and Zechariah is serving in solitude, with a crowd praying worshipers outside.
Why the solitude? It is a moment when God can get Zechariah’s attention one-on-one. Why the crowd outside? They are going to be witnesses of how Zechariah is changed after seeing the angel. But that’s for the next devotional!
In conclusion, here are some ways to apply this to our lives.
We CAN live our lives to be upright, faithful, and pleasing to God. Zechariah and Elizabeth did it, and we can, too!
God leaves nothing to chance. Even if the details of our stories seem random or trivial, God uses these things to order our steps and accomplish His plans. God is with us all!
God, use solitude and crowds to glorify you. In this season of Covid and closures, we may feel like we have more solitude than we want. Help us be inspired to use this time to develop our spiritual disciplines of reading the Word, prayer, worship, giving, and fellowship from a distance online or over the phone, to have a meaningful time with you!