Luke 1:8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
Even though Zacharias had been a priest for a long time, this was the first time he had ever had the privilege to enter the most sacred parts of the temple. Some have estimated that there were perhaps as many as 10,000 or more priests during the days of Zacharias and to be the one chosen to burn incense in the Holy Place was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No doubt as he entered the room, he took a moment to look at all that was there. On the one side, he saw the golden menorah burning brightly and on the other side, he saw the table with the twelve special loaves of bread. In front of him was the great veil that hung between the place where he was standing and the area known as the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and where some said the Shekinah Glory of God sometimes dwelt. This was the most sacred place on earth and Zacharias had the special blessing to be there.
There was something else in that room that was the reason why Zacharias was there. Setting before the great veil was a small altar overlaid with pure gold. For over a thousand years, every morning and every evening a priest would enter the Holy Place and lay hot coals on the altar. Then, upon these coals he would sprinkle a special incense. David said in Psalm 141:2 “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” As Zacharias was offering incense in the temple, we read from Luke 1:10, “And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.” As great as this moment was, something even more spectacular was about to happen.
Luke 1:11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 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.
The angel said, “Your prayer is heard.” What prayer was heard? Was it the prayer Zacharias had just prayed for the nation of Israel or was it another prayer? I believe it was the prayer he had prayed a thousand times or more for a child. Though Zacharias had sometimes wondered if his prayers did any good, the angel told him that his prayers had been heard and that the time had come for him to receive his answer.
The Bible tells us that our prayers are very important to God. We read from scripture, “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelation 8:3-4) Our prayers are like the incense that Zacharias sprinkled on the golden altar. The pain we experience in life is like the hot coals on the altar and the prayers we make to God are like the incense sprinkled on the coals. “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard…”
God bless you, Brethren.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version