It was that time of year for the elderly priest from Judea’s hills to join ranks with the other priests of his division and travel to the glorious city of Jerusalem. With all of the gumption he could muster, gumption only the younger ones were expected to have, he placed a tender hand on Elizabeth’s small chin, lifted it up to give a simple kiss, and let tired but trusting eyes speak what the mouth could not. Then Zechariah went on his way.
No doubt the questions went with him—questions like “Am I too old for this journey?” Or, “Do the other priests trust me?” Or, “Will this be the last time I go?” Or, more significantly, “Will this be the time?”
After all, in all of the years Zechariah has been serving the Almighty in Jerusalem’s temple, the Privilege had always eluded him. The lot never fell his way. Entering the Most Holy Place to offer the people’s incense—a symbol of intercession going forth unto God—was a supreme honor for any priest. Certainly the question raced through his mind. “Will this be the time?”
If Zechariah were like most people he probably believed that then was not the time, particularly if he lingered too long on his own circumstances. After all, despite their age and their wisdom and the righteousness that was characteristic of their long lives, Zechariah and his wife carried some hefty burdens. And with burdens like theirs, chances were good that good things wouldn’t happen. Or so the world says.
Consider one item among their heavy load. It is important to note that Zechariah and Elizabeth were well advanced in years (Luke 1:7). That really cuts deeply, for seasoned citizens such as these do not have a lot of time left. And for Zechariah this meant that the opportunity to fulfill the longed-for Privilege was slipping away. It also raised the thought that if all of the previous years of service had been somehow more productive, more glorious, more honorable, then maybe the dream would have already been fulfilled. This is one of the tragedies of aging: if one is not careful, critiquing and evaluating and processing days gone by can easily set the stage for disillusionment, doubt and anger.
That is why when Zechariah set out for Jerusalem it was no ordinary move. It was filled with faith and conviction and hope. Climbing those dusty trails leading to that magnificent city was no easy task. But it was easier than remaining in the hill country where the questions came more loudly and the weight of the burdens grew heavier with each passing day. Getting up and going in obedience to a call that appears to be waning is a significant thing. And Zechariah was willing to do that.
Even if the future was elusive and seemingly silent.