Summary: Considering God’s blessing on Zechariah amidst his disappointment.
Luke 1:5-25 – Touched by God when I didn’t expect it
A man named Jacob had hit a low point in his life. He had thought about killing himself but he was too poor and too tired to secure the means to do it. He found a park bench and just lay down to die. He did not eat, because there was nothing to eat. All he thought about was his death.
A couple of days later he saw in the distance a teenage girl entering the park with a friend. Jacob wondered what on earth someone so innocent and angelic-looking was doing in a park filled with derelicts. He closed his eyes. In a few minutes he heard a soft voice speaking to him. Jacob opened his eyes and saw this same teenaged girl looking at him with compassion. He was caught off guard. It was the first time he had heard anyone speak words of kindness to him in years. At that moment he did not know whether he wanted to cry in gratitude or laugh in cynicism. But her concern moved him in spite of himself. "What do you want?" he growled at her.
"Sir," the young girl said, "I was afraid to come over here, but I feel like God is nudging me to tell you something, before I get back on my bus. I wish I knew how to say it better but, well, sir, Jesus loves you. He loves you. He really does."
Jacob looked at her in disbelief. After all the heartaches he had been through, all the indignity he had suffered, all the rage that had filled his soul for so many years this young girl told him Jesus loved him. As he looked up at her face he saw tears streaming down her cheeks, and to his astonishment he began to weep as well. "No one could love me, child. It’s too late for me," he said between sobs.
"No," she replied urgently as she took his thin, gnarled hand into hers. "It’s not too late. God will gladly take you if only you’d let him. Just tell him that you want to. He will love you and help you." Jacob says it was at that moment that he knew somebody was reaching out to him through her. He knew deep within that he received a touch from God in his hour of greatest need when he didn’t expect it.
This morning I want to tell you about a man whose name was Zechariah who was a Godly man, but who still had some real disappointments in life. He was at the climax of his career when he received a touch from God when he didn’t expect it .
Zechariah – A Priest of Yahweh
Zechariah was a priest in Israel and the climax to his career came about 7 BC when he was serving at the altar of incense of the Living God. Now you need to understand some background here. 2A To be a priest in Israel – you had to be born as a descendant of Aaron. And if you were born into this family, you were destined to serve God and the nation Israel in the temple. That didn’t mean that you lived in the temple for the rest of your life and were celibate though – They would have died out pretty quickly if that was the case.
How it was structured was that Aaron’s descendants were divided into 24 clans. Each clan took it in turn to serve periods of 1 week in the temple. So you had about 2 weeks a year that you were required to serve in the temple. This service involved four things …
1) declaring the will of God to the people gathered for worship
2) teaching and educating the people
3) facilitating the ceremony and ritual of the sacrifices and worship.
4) protecting the holiness of the site.
There were always many things going on in the temple every day. People were constantly bringing sacrifices to offer and every day the daily offerings had to made. Every morning,
• a 1 year old male lamb was offered as a burnt offering
• a grain offering consisting of 1 kg of fine flour, 1 l of olive oil and incence was offered.
• A wine offering (1 l of wine) was offered
Every evening the same offerings were made - a 1 year old male lamb a grain offering and wine offering were offered. And every Sabbath, an extra 2 lambs and 2 extra grain offerings were made. Life was fairly busy for the priests as they helped with all of this work as well as handling all the offerings brought by the worshipers.
Amongst the duties of the priests, there were a couple of very important jobs. One of these was the burning of incense in the temple. To understand the importance of this a bit, you have to know a bit about the layout of the temple and its holy areas. You might think I’m going to go into this in a lot of detail this morning, but it will be helpful to understand the temple as it features in many of the stories in Luke so to understand it’s layout will be incredibly important in the coming months