Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
(The Advent: Faces within the Christmas Story.)
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah…
During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah.
“In the days of Herod [the Great], king of Judea, there was a certain priest whose name was Zacharias, of the division of Abijah.” -AMPLIFIED
The first face that we will look at is that of Zechariah, otherwise known as Zacharias. (The Amplified version footnote gives us this information on the difference in the spelling; “The spelling is different because a Greek word cannot end with an “h,” and in place of “ah” the common Greek ending “-as” was substituted.”
Scripture indicates that Zachariah lived during the reign of Herod, king of Judea; that would be Herod the Great. This Herod reigned between the years 37-4 B.C.
We are told that Zechariah was a priest, belonging to the priestly division of Abijah. To understand this idea of the divisions we must referred back to 1 Chronicles where King David organized the priests into 24 groups that would serve twice a year for a week at a time. (See: 1 Chr 24:1-19) This would mean that each individual priest would spend most of their time at their home, spending just two weeks out of the year in Jerusalem to serve God at the Temple.
Luke tells us in his Gospel that on this particular day Zachariah had been chosen by lot to serve in God’s presence. It was to be his job to keep the incense burning on the altar directly in front of the Holy of Holies. Luke tells us, “One day Zacharias was chosen to perform his priestly duties in God’s presence, according to the temple’s normal schedule and routine. He had been selected from all the priests by the customary procedure of casting lots for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter the sacred precincts of the temple. There he burned sweet incense, while outside a large crowd of people prayed.” -Luke 1:8-10 (VOICE)
Something we need to understand about Zachariah is that he and his wife Elizabeth had no children. This fact is important for us to understand; children were an important part of the Jewish family. Children were considered a blessing from God and if a couple did not have children it was considered disfavor with God. Also, lack of children often brought social reproach to the family.
Now something extraordinary happens on this particular day when Zachariah went in to serve. He encountered an angel. “Suddenly Zacharias realized he was not alone: a messenger of the Lord was there with him. The messenger stood just to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was shocked and afraid, but the messenger reassured him.” -Luke 1:11-13 (VOICE)
We will examine the face of this angel soon; today though we focus on the message and the receiver of the message. The message was this, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God. He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.” -Luke 1:13-17 (MSG)
Zechariah’s response was one of disbelief; for he and his wife were old. Because of his doubt and disbelief the angel tells him this, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.” -Luke 1:19-20 (MSG)
We find Zechariah leaving his duties that day unable to speak. A direct consequence of his unbelief and doubt. We will find that his ability to speak will not be restored until the child has been born and named. (Let us be careful not to judge Zachariah too quickly. How often have we prayed for something; yet did not believe or expect God to answer?)
We will see that when (not if) God’s message is finally fulfilled Zachariah is once again able to speak and his first words were praise to God. Let us remember to give praise where praise is due; to the Almighty One! A gentle reminder to us that nothing is impossible with God and that if we ask anything of Him we must believe that He hears us and is able to do it.
Lord God, let me learn a lesson from Zechariah’s story; that you hear every prayer that I pray and you will answer. It may be in your timing and in your way, but you will answer. Lord, help me to ask, believing in faith and help any unbelief that I may have. Lord, as I look at Your Story during this Advent season, help me to give thanks for your overwhelming great love extended to all mankind.