One day while Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,
I. THE DOMESTIC BOND. Here we have conjugal relationship in its true form; established in mutual respect; justified and beautified by mutual affection; made permanently happy by common affinities and common aims; elevated and consecrated by the presence of another and still nobler bond - that of a strong and immovable attachment to God. A human life is quite incomplete without such tender ties of God's own binding, and these ties are immeasurably short of what they were meant to be if they are not enlarged and ennobled by the sanctities of religion.
II. HUMAN AND DIVINE ESTIMATION. These two godly souls enjoyed the favor of their Divine Father and of their human friends and neighbors: "They were both righteous before God," and they were "blameless" in the sight of men. God accepted them, and man approved them. He to whom they were responsible for all they were and did saw in them, as he sees in all his children, the imperfections which belong to our erring and struggling humanity; but he accepted their reverence and their endeavor to please and to obey him, forgiving their shortcomings. And their kindred and their friends recognized in them those who were regulating their life by God's holy will, and they yielded to them their fullest measure of esteem. No human life is complete without the possession of these two things:
(1) the favor of the living God; and
(2) the esteem of those amongst whom we live.
To walk in the shadow of conscious estrangement from God, to miss the sweet sunshine of his heavenly favor, - this is to darken our life with a continual curse, this is to bereave ourselves of our purest joy and most desirable heritage. And while some of the very noblest of our race, following thus in the footsteps of the Master himself, have borne, in calm and heroic patience, the obloquy of the ignorant and the malice of the evil-minded, yet it is our duty, and it should be our desire and aspiration, so to walk in rectitude and in kindness that men will bless us in their hearts, will esteem us for our integrity, will hold us in their affection. The man who "wears the white flower of a blameless life" is the man who will be a power for good in the circles in which he moves.
III. SACRED SERVICE. It may be questionable whether any distinction is intended between "ordinances" and "commandments;" but there can be no question at all that both together cover religious observances and moral obligations. The Law which these two faithful souls obeyed enjoined the one as well as the other. And no human life is complete which does not include both these elements of piety.
1. The worship of God, in private prayer, in family devotion, in public exercises, is a serious and important part of a good man's experience.
2. And certainly not less so is the regulating of conduct by the revealed will of God; the walking, day by day, in uprightness and integrity, in sobriety and purity, in truth and in love. Beautifully complete, fashioned in spiritual symmetry, attractive and influential, is that human life which is spent in the home of hallowed love, which is bright with the favor of God and man, and which is crowned with the sovereign excellences of piety and virtue. - C.
While he executed the priest's office.Exodus 19:22). None but they could minister before Him in the Holy place where He manifested His presence: none others could "come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary or the altar." It was death for any one not a priest to usurp these sacred prerogatives. They offered the morning and evening incense; trimmed the lamps of the golden candlestick, and filled them with oil; kept up the fire on the great altar in front of the Temple; removed the ashes Of the sacrifices; took part in the slaying and cutting up of victims, and especially in the sprinkling of their blood, and laid the offerings of all kinds on the altar. They also announced the new moons, which were sacred days like the Sabbaths, by the blowing of trumpets. But this was a small part of their duties. They had to examine all cases of ceremonial uncleanness, especially leprosy, clearing those who were pure, and pronouncing others unclean; to estimate, for commutation, the value of the countless offerings made to the Temple, and to watch the interior of the Temple by night. They were required, moreover, to instruct the people in the niceties of the law, and to give decisions on many points reserved, among us, to magistrates, The priests, in fact, were, within certain limits, the judges and magistrates of the land, though the Sanhedrim, which was the supreme court in later Jewish history, was composed of chief priests, laymen, and scribes, or Rabbis, in apparently equal numbers.
(James Foote, M. A.)
1. Earnestly desired.
2. Long delayed.
3. Promised in a surprising manner.
4. Incredulously waited for.
5. Gloriously vouchsafed.
1. That none but a son of Aaron might offer incense to God in the temple; and not every son of Aaron either; nay, not any of them at all seasons. God is a God of order, and hates confusion no less than irreligion. And as under the law of old, so under the gospel now, no man ought to take this honour upon him but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
2. That there were courses of ministration in the legal services, in which the priests relieved one another weekly. God never purposed to burden any of His servants with devotion, nor is He pleased when His service is made burdensome, either to or by His ministers.
3. That morning and evening, twice a day, the priests offered up their incense to God, that both parts of the day might be consecrated to Him who was the Maker and Giver of their time. This incense offered under the law, represents our prayers offered to God under the gospel. The ejaculatory elevations of our hearts should be perpetual; but if twice a day we do not present God with our solemn invocations, we make the gospel less officious than the law; and can we reasonably think that Almighty God will accept of less now that would content Him then?
(W. Burkitt, M. A.)1. While the incense was burning, the people were praying: while the priest sends up his incense in the temple within, the people send up their prayers in the court without. The incense of the priest and the prayers of the people meet, and go up to heaven together. It is a blessed thing when both minister and people jointly offer up their prayers for each other at the same throne of grace, and mutually strive together in their supplications, one with, and one for, another.
2. Observe how both priest and people keep their place and station: the priest burns incense in the holy place, and the people offer up their prayers in the outward court. The people might no more go into the Holy place to offer up their prayer, than Zachary might go into the Holy of Holies to burn incense. Whilst the partition-wall stood betwixt Jew and Gentile, there was also a partition betwixt the Jews themselves. But now under the gospel, every man is a priest to God, and may enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus. But, Lord! what are we the better for this great and gracious freedom of access to Thee, if we want hearts to prize and improve our privilege from Thee?
(W. Burkitt, M. A.)
(Bishop F. D. Huntingdon.)
(Hervey's "Manual of Revivals.")
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