First Week of Advent Wednesday—Luke 1:8-12; Psalm 31
No matter where you live, you probably move through life governed by seasons, whether those seasons be driven by nature, annual holidays, work or school schedules, etc. For first century Jews, the temple, with its daily offerings and feasts, created a rhythm for life. Also, if a person wanted to meet with God, he would go to the Temple. Therefore, it is fitting that the climatic rescue of the story the Bible tells begins with events that occur in the Jewish temple. Here, Luke introduces us to two more characters in the unfolding Christmas story: a Jewish multitude and an angel by the name of Gabriel.
The incense offering symbolized and expressed the prayers of the Jews, which by this time would have undoubtedly included a petition for the Messiah. Twice-daily the incense offering ritual happened this way...when the priest entered the Holy Place with the incense, the people left the temple, waited outside, silently praying. After placing the incense on the fire, the priest bowed reverently toward the Holy of Holies, retreating slowly backwards. Upon emerging from the temple, the priest would stand before the people and offer a verbal blessing over them.
Everyday…twice a day. Regardless of weather conditions. No matter who sat on Rome’s throne. Despite dismal circumstances. The multitudes (not just the appointed priests) gathered at the temple and prayed in hope, in waiting, with certain expectation that God would fulfill His promises. Our need is the same (the intervening rule of God). Our prayer is the same (PLEASE COME!). Yet, all too often, our perseverance is lacking. (Forgive us, Lord.)
Tomorrow’s devotion focuses on Gabriel’s message, but just one quick observation for now. Why do so many folks picture angels as ethereal, docile creatures when (nearly) every Biblical recording of an angelic encounter leaves the observer "gripped with fear," and/or falling "flat on the ground"? The Christmas story, when fully understood in its context, is not a tender tale but a covert, dangerous rescue mission. As such, the Lord of Hosts—one of the names for God which literally means Commander of the Heavenly Armies—sends one of His angelic commanders to deliver a message.
In your waiting, have your faithful prayers waned? If so, reignite your fervent petitions. Meditate on the power of God, and His armies, to intervene in your circumstances, remembering that His intervention can come at anytime, in any place, in any way, using any one.