ZECHARIAH, JOHN THE BAPTIST’S FATHER
FROM THE DIVISION OF ABIJAH
Just as God established David’s lineage as a royal one, so did God establish Aaron’s lineage as a priestly one. Every direct descendant of Aaron was a member of the Levitical priesthood. Since there were many priests by right of descent, King David had divided them into twenty-four sections. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was from Abijah’s division, the eighth of these twenty-four sections (1 Chr 24:10).
ZECHARIAH’S PRIESTLY DUTY
All priests served in the Temple of Jerusalem during the busy season of the three pilgrimage feasts: the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of the Tabernacles. At other times, each division of priests served two terms of one week each in a year. Even then, it was unnecessary to have all priests of the division to serve in the Temple during the off-season, so the authorities would select a few by lot, which they would then impute as God’s choice. Many would not get this opportunity. God’s providence ensured that Zechariah got the much sought-after chance to incense at the Holy Place in the Temple at that juncture.
According to the Old Testament, it is the Lord who gives speech and makes one dumb or deaf (Ex 4:11). God once made Prophet Ezekiel mute (Ezek 3:26) because Israel was rebellious and ignored his message. When they became receptive, God restored his speech (Ezek 24:27; 33:22) after seven years. Similarly, Zachariah lost his speech when he expressed disbelief and regained it when he obeyed the angel’s request to name the child.
The childlessness of Zachariah and Elizabeth were providential to prove that their child would be a miraculous one. Similarly, the muteness of Zachariah was not a punishment but a proof for his family, friends, and neighbors the divine intervention of his special child. When we or others face misfortunes in life, we should not judge them as punishment from God. The divine punishment happens to sinners mainly after death.