In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Herod the Great ruled over, among other places, Judea and Galilee from 37-4 B.C. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were both in Judea. Priests during this time were required to keep incense burning on the altar in front of the Most Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem. To be the one to enter the Most Holy Place and supply fresh incense for the morning and evening sacrifices would have been a distinct privilege and a priest could only be chosen once in his lifetime to fulfill this role. As a priest, Zechariah would have been very familiar with Mosaic law and the prophecies about the coming Messiah.
What words come to mind as I think about what Zechariah and Elizabeth must have felt as they reached old age and were unable to have a child?
If I were the one chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter into the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was palpable, how would I prepare to fulfill my duties?
What could I do to prepare my heart and my mind before I approach God in prayer?
Lord God, sometimes I feel so disappointed and discouraged when things do not go the way I expect or want. I wonder if you are really present, hearing the deep cries of my soul. Remind me, Lord, of your majesty and greatness as I approach you in prayer. Help me to remember all the ways you have blessed me, from my first breath to the moment I woke up today. I cannot wait to encounter you today, Lord.