Today’s verses may seem an odd choice as a stand-alone source for an Advent devotional.
But when you dig a little deeper, they are a beautiful affirmation of how God used ordinary people to bring about His extraordinary purposes.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were two humble and obedient Jews living their lives according to the Law. As a priest, Zechariah was responsible to serve in the Temple two weeks of every year. He’d been faithfully doing his duty for years. Elizabeth had done hers too.
But they were fruitless. Elizabeth was barren. And barren women (in those days) were considered cursed.
And then something amazing happened.
Zechariah, chosen by lot, seemingly random, is given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to burn incense before the Lord. A sacred trust, a holy encounter representing the prayers of all Israel and especially those positioned outside in the temple courtyard.
“5 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. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.”
Luke 1: 5-10 NIV
We will stop here for today although I’m sure most of you know where our story is going.
I’m glad to take things a little slow. Because when I race through verses full of detail I tend to miss important insights. And there are several in these words that help my heart.
Doing my daily duty can be pretty boring.
Living a life of faithful obedience sometimes becomes a burden. And when obedience doesn’t lead to blessing but perhaps even to pain I can lose heart.
Luke reminds me that being precisely where God wants me to be doing exactly what He’s called me to do may lead to unimagined and unanticipated blessing.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had no idea that their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem would change everything.
But it did.
And that was just the beginning.
- Do you ever tire of daily routine, regular responsibility? Does this passage challenge that attitude?
- Scripture teaches that God is in control even when it seems like chance rules. Is that a comforting thought? Why or why not?
- Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story echoes that of Abraham and Sarah. An old couple, past the age of childbearing whom God blesses with not just any child but a child of promise. How does their story once again that God is the God of the impossible and improbable?
- Prayer is likened to incense throughout the Bible. I sometimes like to light a scented candle in the still dark early morning hours when I talk to God. Do you have any physical representations that help your heart connect with the Father?
I admit it-sometimes I’m just flat out tired of doing what’s expected of me. Dishes and laundry and ordinary work are dull and hardly rewarding. Obedience takes self-control. I’m not always interested in being who I ought to be especially when I feel like maybe there’s no upside to sacrificing fun for duty.
Even worse, I feel cheated when I’ve been a “good girl” and still not received the desire of my heart. In fact, the desire of my heart has been snatched away.
Help me feel Your Presence speaking courage and strength to my soul when I grow weary of doing well. Help me show up every time and everywhere You want me to be. Let the truth that there is no better place to be than in the center of Your will sink deep into my spirit.
You have a plan and You work through perfectly ordinary people to bring it to life. Who knows? It might be me doing my daily duty that impacts eternity. Thank You for inviting me to be part of the Eternal Story.