Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Zachariah, and the Priestly Order of Abijah

When I first started doing readings daily from the Lectionary, I used a Bible, and often I would find myself intrigued and would read past where I was supposed to. Later, I discovered the joys of doing my readings on the internet, where I could instantly look up something I didn’t understand.

Today is a wondrous reading from Luke, where and old rabbi/priest, Zechariah and and his old wife, Elizabeth, who is barren, are to be blessed with a son, long after their young, fruitful years, and it is the Angel Gabriel who brings the news. One of the things I love about this story is that the characters are common to all Abrahamic religions, and I was able to find an article by Shmuel Safrai in The Jerusalem Perspective on what the Priesthood of Abijah would have been all about. If you are interested, just click on the blue type and you can read it, too.

Living in Moslem countries has helped me so much with understanding the human issues in these writings. Elizabeth’s barrenness was more than a personal tragedy; barrenness in a land and culture that highly values children and large families would be endlessly painful. The gift of John/Yahyah in her old age was a wondrous mercy.

Luke 1:5-25

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’

18 Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’

19 The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Christmas, Cultural, Family Issues, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Spiritual, Values | , , , , , | 2 Comments