August 25, 2010

In Spite of (Zachariah, part 2)

I'm sitting here just after midnight thinking I should take myself off to bed.  Yet once again I sense that "nudge" to write and post about Zachariah.  I have learnt to be obedient to that prompting as I know that someone, somewhere, is seeking God for an answer.  I humbly pray that God will use these words to encourage you and to draw you close to the One who loves you immeasurably.


Luke 1:9 

"When Zechariahs 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."

As mentioned in the early post, there were many priests around this time and most of their duties would be the killing and preparing of bloody offerings.  The privilege of preparing the burning of the incense was done by drawing lots.  This would only happen once in a lifetime and for many priests, never.

Zachariah knew this was a great honor.  But I wonder, did he enter that holy place with fear?

The reason I wonder this is because of Luke 1:7 
But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren;
and Luke 1:25

"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."
The belief system of Zachariah and Elizabeth was one where being barren was viewed as God deliberately shutting up a womb because of sin or disobedience. 
(side note:  I have faced infertility so I recognize the need to be sensitive here.  This is being viewed in the light of the belief system of this era to bring out an illustration as we go along.)

You can see by Elizabeth's response that she also views it as "his favor" and a taking away of "disgrace".

in spite of being shunned by some and gossiped about by others, they faithfully ministered in simple obedience.  Even though they were childless (as seen as God's disfavor) they served Him humbly believing in His righteousness.

But this brings me back to the point of Zachariah entering the holy place with fear.  A fear for his life.  If Zachariah felt that they were barren because of sin or disobedience entering the holy place with the incense was putting his life on the line, literally.

Entering the Holy Place to light incense was not as serious as that of entering the Holy of Holies  but it was performed knowing that there was a need to maintain personal holiness before God and extreme caution entering close to the veil as you can read in Leviticus 10:1-2;21:23.  A priest could die in this holy place if he enters knowingly with sin.

I think that Zacharias may have had some fear and trepidation as this could be a death sentence.
There was a great crowd praying outside the temple and I wonder how many of them were murmuring and thinking that this couple were not as righteous as they appeared.  Maybe some were waiting to be proved right?
In spite of his fear, he stepped out believing in God's righteousness and faithfulness. 
In spite of the gossip, he served God.
In spite of thinking that God may be judging Elizabeth and himself, he was humbly obedient.
In spite of not seeing an answer to his prayer for a child, he remained faithful.
Zachariah was a man who had no pretense.  He was willing to enter the holy place because his ministry started with a relationship with God.  His was no "outward ministry" with no "inward life".
Zachariah served God out of love, not out of the expectation that God will do "this" or God will do "that". 
It is our love for Him that will keep us putting one step in front of the other in service for Him, in spite of.

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