Priestly Duties. The priest was part
of the division of Abijah. Abijah was one of twenty-four divisions of the Levitical priests. 1 Chronicles 23-24
lists all of the twenty-four divisions. Abijah is found in 1 Chronicles 24:10. King David had divided the Levitical
priests into divisions when there were too many priests to perform the work at the temple. According to David’s
guidelines, each division served at the temple twice a year and at the major holidays. Fifty-six priests from
one of the divisions served each day. It has been estimated that there were as many as 8,000 to 18,000 priests
throughout Israel at that time. Consequently, the priest who offered incense at the Altar of Incense in the
Holy Place each day was determined by a random lot as we will see shortly. However, a priest could only offer
this service once in his lifetime.
The Couple. Zacharias and Elizabeth were both descendants of the Levitical priestly
line. The Holy Spirit tells us that God considered both of them to be righteous individuals.
They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments
and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced
in years. (NASB) Luke 1:6-7
We discover that they had no children and both of them were now senior citizens. Zacharias had been faithfully
serving as a priest for many years while Elizabeth mourned because she had never had a child (Luke 1:25). She
must have been a godly woman who struggled quietly and with grace. What an awesome holy couple they were! Difficulties
in life either grow us or break us. It is our choice.
The Dream. We do not know what year or day; but on one special day, Zacharias
had the desire-of-his-life finally come true.
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed
order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple
of the Lord and burn incense. (NASB) Luke 1:8-9
He would finally be able to enter the Holy Place and offer incense to God. This was a once in a lifetime
event. Can you imagine his excitement? His heart may have been skipping beats, and his blood pressure may have
been high. I would imagine that he was nervous. His emotions were probably all mixed together. This was a wonderful
Before a priest entered the Holy Place to offer incense, it was the custom for the people who
were standing between the Holy Place and the Bronze Altar to leave the courtyard area and to begin praying.
Everyone would be praying for him as he entered the Holy Place. Zacharias was going to enter the Holy Place
alone. There would be no one nearby.