The old priest, Zacharias, had forgotten the frequent prayer of his younger years—a child from God.
His love for his wife Elizabeth was greater than his desire for a son or a daughter so after years of disappointment, they never discussed having children anymore. Life in the rotation of priests who ministered in the Temple was rich and full; the fellowship of the priests and their wives was sweet. As the years advanced for each of them, their integrity and winning personalities won them friends their own age and from among the young priestly couples just beginning their families. They enjoyed this inter-generational community. There was much to teach the next generation. It was as if they really were parents. Zacharias would not allow anyone to speak of Elizabeth as a woman cursed. It just didn’t seem to fit her, somehow.

Burning Incense
It fell Zachahrias’ lot to burn incense at the Altar of Incense in the Temple. He loved this assignment. The sweetness of God’s presence renewed him in every way. In the Holy Place, there were three holy objects.

  1. There was a beautiful table where a loaf of unleavened bread was kept. All the priests knew this was a symbol of the Word and Presence of the Lord.
  2. Closer to the old man’s heart, a brass Altar of Incense where a special mixture of oil and other flammable material was always burning as a representation of ceaseless prayer. Zacharias was assigned the installation of new fuel for the constant flame.
  3. Giving light to this enclosed space was a beautiful seven-fold lampstand of pure gold. Lamps brimming with oil drove the darkness of this enclosed space back, just as the nation of Israel was supposed to drive back the evil in men’s hearts with the power of God.

During the course of this duty, Zacharias had a shining visitor, an angel from the very presence of Jehovah, Gabriel by name. His news was this: God had not forgotten the earnest prayer of this godly couple. Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son. They were to name him John and he would come in the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of parents to their young and the young to their parents. He would prepare the People of God for great things to come.

How will I know?
The old man was full of questions and he couldn’t keep them to himself. When he asked the angel how he would know and pled the logical case against such a thing, Gabriel was annoyed and stuck him dumb. Zacharias had the best news of his life and he couldn’t talk!

Facing the Crowd
All of this took longer than normal and the people waiting outside began to worry about the old man. When he finally emerged from the Temple, his face seemed to glow and he could not talk. Onlookers perceived that he had seen a vision. To be sure, it was true.

Back Home
Soon the time of his service ended and he and his wife went home with a new energy in their hearts. Soon Elizabeth was pregnant and safe from public view.

Luke: 1:5-25

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 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. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Lord Jesus, in Luke Your story begins in the Temple with a faithful priest tending the flame of prayer. How appropriate! Help me be faithful to prayer each day for You have made me a holy, royal priest! Help me know that angels attend my times of prayer with messages direct from Your throne. Like the golden lampstand, the light and power of the Holy Spirit help me pray. With a daily routine like this, Your story will be on my lips throughout each day. Thank You, Jesus!

God Answers Prayer

God answers prayer in the morning.
God answers prayer at noon.
God answers prayer in the evening,
So keep your heart in tune.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

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