Luke 1:5-17 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had no children. The longing of their hearts, had never happened, but it’s clear right from the start that they were righteous before God. In that culture, to have no children was stigmatised, it assumed it was a punishment from God. There is a long running theological discussion of the link between sin and suffering. The Old Mosaic covenant for the nation was an agreement between God that he would bless those who remained obedient (good things would happen) Those who rebelled, would be cursed (bad stuff would happen). When the nation went into exile, that was the story the prophets drew on to make sense of a crisis, “we’re suffering because we sinned”. However, the Bible isn’t that simplistic, along the way grace comes in and we have in the book of Job a clear example of someone who was righteous, but still suffered. Job’s comforters attempt to apply the formula, ‘you’re suffering, you must have sinned’ without listening to God. God demolishes their arguments. The Bible repeated demolishes the simplistic formula ‘you’re suffering – you must have sinned’, through telling stories of those who were righteous, but still suffered. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story does this.
Zechariah was a priest. Once a year for a month, his division of priests were on duty in the temple in Jerusalem. This year he was chosen by lot, (by God) to enter the Holy of Holies. A clear indication that he wasn’t rejected by God, a huge, possibly once in a lifetime, honour.
Here we have an intersection of two ways that we worship and pray within time. Zechariah’s priestly role is cyclical time, he keeps on showing up, to pray and worship, by repetition and routine. His approach is priestly, he is dutiful, he is faithful. In the midst of faithful routine, God sends an angel, this is prophetic, spontaneous time, the repeated cycle, is invaded by a now moment. I’ve recently been considering the contrast between priests and prophets. (see my blog on this here) Priests’ prayer lives are about cyclical time, faithful routine. Prophets are drawn to spontaneous time, what is God doing now?
God made me more prophetic than priestly, thankfully he’s made others more priestly than prophetic, we need both (& other forms of leadership gift). My natural inclination in prayer is the now, the spontaneous, listening to God, I’m rubbish with prayer lists. I’m passionate that we all need relationship with God, without it we have only hollow religion, but we meet with him in different ways. What strikes me here is that the prophetic moment, happens when Zechariah is faithful in his duty and routine of worship and prayer. The priestly discipline brings him to the place where God can speak.
When Coronavirus hit, I spoke and wrote a lot about the importance of self-discipline and routine. hHow are you getting on with that? To be honest, I’ve a way to go. Big open-ended tranches of time with no timetable aren’t easy for me, I’m used to a very full hour-by-hour managed diary. I’ve discovered an open day and a to-do list aren’t enough for me to flourish. In this season, I’m learning in a fresh way how much I need God and need to intentionally prioritise time with him. Writing these daily reflections is helping me to spend time daily in the Bible. God meets with us when we position ourselves to meet with him. Faithful, regular, self-disciplined routine, sets us up to meet with God.
Reflect on your time management in this season of ‘lock-down’. What habits are working for you? Where could more routine enable you to meet with God? When do your days drift?
Many of you already know which theories of time-management work best for your personality, how are you applying them now?