“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.'”– Luke 1:13
Zacharias was of priestly descent, in the line of Aaron. He was of the division of Abijah with his responsibilities outlined in first Chronicles. His name means “Jehovah has remembered.” What a fitting name, God would remember him at the appointed time. His wife Elizabeth was also of the priestly line of Aaron. Her name means “God of my oath.” God would undoubtedly fulfill His oath when announcing the birth of their son John. Zacharias and Elizabeth were both of an age beyond childbearing, and they had no children. Society viewed this as a sign of divine disfavor. We are told, however, they both continued faithfully in the commandments and ordinances of God regardless of how they were perceived.
The custom of the priesthood was to cast lots in the Hall of Polished Stones. Four times a day, the priests would pass into this hall and cast lots for the day’s services. This was a way of selecting one for service, as revealed by God. According to tradition, the third lot was considered to be the most important. It determined who was to offer the incense. It was considered a great honor. A priest could only ever make this offering once in his lifetime. On this occasion, it happens to fall to Zacharias.
There was complete silence on the Temple grounds while Zacharias was in the sanctuary. It is said that the priest offering the incense would typically be in the Holy place performing this duty for about half an hour, giving the appropriate prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings. It is likely at this time, Zacharias may have said another prayer for himself and Elizabeth and their desire for a child. And, the Lord answered! The angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias at the altar of incense. This event never happened before to any other priest fulfilling this responsibility. After over four hundred years of silence, God was once again speaking to His people. Zacharias was told they would have a son and name him John, which means “Jehovah has shown grace.”
Zacharias and Elizabeth served God because they revered and loved Him, even if that meant they would not receive anything in return. They were faithful. They continued to pray for the burden that was on their hearts. And, God answered at His appointed time. They would have a son who would be the forerunner of our Lord and Savior, Jesus! It can be easy to become frustrated when we think our prayers are not being heard or answered. We want God to do for us as we please, and if He does not, many times, we go off and do things in our own efforts. Yet when we remain faithful, God has promised that there is a plan for each of us. He will call us up at His appointed time and fulfill His purpose in and through our lives in a way that will glorify His name!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”– Jeremiah 1:5