“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.” (NKJV)
The name “Zacharias” is from the popular Hebrew name “Zechariah” and means “God remembers”. He was a Levite priest and belonged to one of the 24 priestly divisions (1 Chronicles 24:7-18) who served in the temple on a rotating basis for one week twice a year. “Elizabeth” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name “Elisheva” meaning "God's promise," or "God’s daughter." They were good people (both considered “righteous before God”), walking in obedience to the law, and both of priestly lineage. However, Luke adds a “but”. They had all the right “credentials”, but people around them did not see the blessing of God upon them. They were both “advanced in years” but had no children.
These people of the Almighty God were walking in the ways of the Lord, but they were not walking in the fullness of His blessing. In the culture and time, the social stigma of what people saw as ‘barrenness’ was probably very hard to bear. The blessings and curses of life were very real to the people of Israel, and Deuteronomy 28:1 & 2, which say “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” As a part of the blessing of obedience, verse 4 says “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body….”
Elizabeth and Zechariah were doing all the ‘right’ things. To the best of their knowledge, they ‘diligently obeyed the voice of the Lord’, but they had not seen the one blessing their hearts so longed for – children. It is likely that they prayed for a child for many years, and they probably always had a question in their hearts as they came before God, especially as they saw others blessed, and saw the questions in the eyes of those around them. They probably searched their lives and hearts to see if there was anything there which displeased the Lord, and found nothing.
Many of us can identify with the situation of Elizabeth and Zacharias as we wait on God for an answer to prayer. For us today, things are very different, as we appropriate the blessings of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, and as we believe in faith that all His promises are ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ for us in Jesus. However, there are times when we pray and wait, and wait and pray, and there seems to be no apparent shift in our situation. Zacharias stumbled on a secret. He accessed the presence of God through worship! As one of the priests in his division, he was chosen to offer incense in the Holy Place. This was a dream come true, and an opportunity which a priest would normally experience only once in a lifetime, so he must have been nervous but very excited at the wonderful privilege!
Before a priest entered the Holy Place to offer incense to God, it was the custom of the people who were standing outside in the courtyard to begin praying for him. As the people lifted up their voices to Heaven and Zacharias began to lift up the incense in the Holy Place, he suddenly noticed an angel standing by the altar of incense. Although this made him afraid, the angel reassured him with good news. His prayers had been heard and he and Elizabeth were to be blessed with the child they had longed for! Their season of dryness was being turned around – they were to know the rain of heaven, and the fruitfulness their hearts had wanted to see for so long!
Two things caused a radical shift in their situation:
1) Zacharias stepped out of the place of supplication and into a place of praise. As he began to offer up the incense of worship, he entered the realm of the supernatural; the realm of angelic encounters and divine answers to prayer. He worshipped in the Holy Place. Worship directs our focus to Jesus, and away from the problem. Spirit to Spirit worship creates an open heaven, a stairway for angelic visitations. It is the Holy Place, and the portal to the atmosphere for miracles!
2) There was a body of believers praying as one for him as he fulfilled His calling in the Holy Place. There are many like Zecharias and Elizabeth faithfully serving the Lord, but experiencing attack, or hindered from the fullness of God’s blessing because they need the covering of united intercession as they walk in their calling. The prayers of faithful intercessors cover the backs of the servants of God as they step into the front lines like soldiers in an army, and win victories for the name of the King. The work of the Kingdom is not about the strength of lone rangers; it is about the unity of the Body, and glorifying the name of Jesus as each one does his/her part, serving each other as they serve God.
God did the impossible for Zacharias and Elizabeth, and the meanings of their names were finally fulfilled in their lives when their prayer was answered. (“God remembers” and “God’s promise”). Elizabeth is known to have been past the child bearing age, but God renewed her youth and blew life into her body, restoring her womb and her hormones to carry and nurture the blessing He was giving them. In a time when there had been few divine revelations or heavenly encounters for hundreds of years, God sent the angel Gabriel to Zacharias as He worshipped in the Holy Place. So step out of where you are dear friend, and begin to seek the presence of God in worship. Seek the intercession of brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever you are facing right now, know that God is sending divine help your way. Your season of breakthrough is coming! God has remembered His promises. He has heard your prayers!
Friend, God has a new season for you. It is a season of fruitfulness, of angelic visitations, and divine intervention. As you continue to seek an open heaven through worship, know that Daddy God has undertaken for all your difficulties. He says to you today “I’ve got this covered”! May His blessing overtake you today and always, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Minoli Haththotuwa, 21 June 2011