Title: The annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist
Scriptures to Read: Luke 1:5-12
Zechariah and Elizabeth
In Luke 1:5 we are introduced to two people, Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah means “God Remembers” and Elizabeth means “The Oath of God”. Put these two together and it says “God remembers His oath or His covenant promises.” They were righteous people in God’s sight. Elizabeth was barren and they were both now old (V6).
Zechariah was a common priest of the division of Abijah
Back in First Chronicles 24, King David divided the tribe of Levi into 24 divisions. Each
division was headed up by a chief priest. You had the High Priest who was over all of them. But you also had 24 Chief Priests who were over the 24 divisions. Then under them you had the common priests. Zechariah was a common priest in one of the 24 divisions and verse 5 tells us he was of the course of Abijah. Now each division would be responsible to take care of the different rituals of the temple compound for a two-week period.
Zechariah’s job was to create a sweet smelling aroma before the Lord
The job that Zechariah was to do in the temple was to burn incense on the altar of Incense every morning and every evening for a two-week period. He would then put the hot coal on the Altar of Incense, then drop incense on the hot coal and a sweet smelling aroma went through the veil to be a sweet smelling aroma as an offering before the Lord in the Holy of Holiness.
Why was Zechariah filled with fear when he saw the angel Gabriel?
Now because of what happened back in Leviticus 10:1-3 to the two sons of Aaron, who performed their job’s improperly and were smitten dead by God, the common teaching of the first century was that if a priest made the same mistake and did something wrong he too would die in the Holy Place as Nadab and Abihu. Now in verse 11, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense”. There was something else about the common teaching of that day, that embellished it a bit. The embellishment was that if a priest did make a mistake and was about to die that before his death would take place, an angel would visibly appear standing on the right side of the Altar of Incense. That angel would be the angel of death. So if a priest should suddenly see an angel on the right side of the Altar of Incense, he was to conclude that he did something wrong and he was about to die. So low and behold here is Zechariah going about his duties and suddenly an angel appears standing on the right side of the Alter of Incense. Look at verse 12, “and Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear gripped him”. Guess why? From what he had been taught he should expect to die, but as we see it was not a message of judgment but of blessing and new life to come.