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Zacharias, the priest, was an old man. All his lifetime he had been in the priesthood, for he was a descendant of Aaron. And he had married a woman named Elizabeth who also belonged to the family of the priests.
Zacharias and Elizabeth loved God and lived to please him as well as they knew how. They thought often of the promises God had given to the Jews by the old prophets who lived and died many years before their time. These promises were that some day God would send a Savior into the world, a son of David, to rule over his people forever.
Zacharias did not alway work in the temple. There were many priests, and these priests served in the temple by courses, just as David had planned when he arranged for the building of the first temple in Jerusalem. There were twenty-four courses of the priests, and Zacharias belonged to the course of Abia. When his turn came to serve, he left his quiet home in the hill country of Judah and went to Jerusalem. There he did the work that fell to him by lot. And his lot was to burn incense on the golden altar, in the holy place, or the first room of the temple, where only the priests might enter.
Twice each day, at the time of the morning and the evening sacrifices, Zacharias took his censer of burning coals from the great altar and went into the holy place alone to offer sweet perfumes upon the golden altar before God. While he lingered in that room, the people who came up to the temple to worship stood in the court outside and prayed. This was called the hour of prayer.
One day while Zacharias was offering incense upon the golden altar, he was surprised to see an angel standing on the right side of the altar watching him! At first Zacharias was very much afraid, for he had never seen an angel before. But the angel said, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard, and your wife shall have a son, whom you shall call John. This child shall bring you much joy, for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall never drink wine or strong drink, and he shall have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in him and giving him power such as Elijah had, to turn the people from their sins to serve God."
The people stood outside waiting and wondering why Zacharias was so long in the holy place. When he came out to them he could not speak, but showed them by motions that he had seen a vision from God.
Not long afterwards, Zacharias finished his course of service at the temple and returned to his home in the hill country of Judah, as speechless as when he came out of the holy place. But he knew the time would come when his voice would return, for he believed the sign that the angel had given him.
1. What angel was sent by God to Jerusalem?
2. To whom was the angel Gabriel sent?
A priest named Zacharias
3. What did the angel tell Zacharias?
His wife would soon have a son.
4. What was the name of the wife of Zacharias?
5. What name was to be given to this son promised to Zacharias and Elizabeth?
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Elsie Egermeier's Bible Story Book, Copyright 1922, Gospel Trumpet Company
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