Beloved i hope by now your eyes of understanding might have been enlightened to see what the Lord Jesus Christ through His Spirit has been doing as the days unfold in our study.Before we continue our Lesson 3, let’s briefly look at our Recap of Lesson 2
In Lesson 2 we compared the scenario in natural Israel when the Lord Jesus was to be born and that which is prevailing in spiritual Israel of today which is His Church. We saw the reign of men in His Church given to the captivity of Self and Human Strength or Humanism which answers to the Rome or world of today. We also looked at the unique qualities of the men and women of whom the Bible records that the purposes of God for that time were revealed to by His Holy Spirit. In this line of thought, we were drawn to close on Hebrews 11 which details the heroes of Faith and the peculiar qualities those mentioned there had possessed and exhibited to merit their mention in that chapter.
We encouraged that further personal study of Hebrews 11 should be made to search out the characteristics that will make us attain unto the Lord’s eternal purpose for our lives, holding fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope till the end.
We see Zecharias here executing or performing his duties as a Priest BEFORE GOD. 1st Peter 2:9 tells us we are a royal priesthood and an holy nation called to show forth His praises. Therefore, if we, the present Church are a nation or kingdom of royal, reigning priests, we must consider what are the official qualifications and duties of this priesthood?
Discuss these qualifications and duties briefly before proceeding to consider what we have written down for our study
Qualifications of the Priest:
- Absolutely dependent on the one who calls or appoints to the office and is mostly unmerited – Hebrews 5:4 no man taketh this honour unto Himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron.
2. Faithfulness to God who appoints us – Hebrews 3:1-2. The Free Dictionary defines ‘Faithfuness’as follows: 1.Adhering firmly and devotedly, as to a person, cause, or idea; loyal.
3. Responsible; conscientious: the faithful discharge of his duties.
4.Dependable; reliable: The faithful engine started right up.
5. Consistent with truth or actuality: a faithful reproduction of the portrait.
6. Having or full of faith.
7. Engaging in sex only with one’s spouse or only with one’s partner in a sexual relationship.
- Compassion. The priest must have compassion and be capable of being touched with the feeling of the infirmities of the people – Hebrews 4:15; 5:2
A dictionary definition of this word helps us understand the same to be, ‘a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for someone struck by misfortune, accompanied by a desire to alleviate the suffering; mercy.
4. Holiness. The priest must be holy. 1 Peter 2:9 describes us as a royal priesthood and AN HOLY NATION. Holiness ought to be and is the product of Sanctification. While Sanctification which is a setting apart for sacred service is a gift and predetermined intent from God, Holiness is our response to Sanctification manifested in the conduct and conversation of our lives. 1 Corinthians 1:30 – But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
The four things or attributes or state depicted in the above scripture, we cannot be to or in ourselves. They must come from God Himself and are therefore gifts to us. However, as with all covenants and contracts, there is a corresponding obligation on the other party receiving a benefit and one of such obligation on our part to fulfil under this divine contract, is to BE HOLY.
In Lev 11:44 & 20:7 we see the Lord ask that the nation of Israel sanctify themselves first and then be holy. In the new, however, we read that once we accept the Lord Jesus and come into Him, we are sanctified, that is, made clean, set apart and dedicated ceremonially already for use. What qualifies us thereafter for priestly duties is our own deliberate pursuit to ensure we keep or possess our vessels or mortal bodies in sanctification and honour, and presenting the same holy and acceptable to God as our reasonable response or service to that which He has first done for us. Romans 12:1 & v 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 (Read). Hebrews 7:26
Always bear in mind that it is possible to be sanctified without being holy
Duties of the Priest:
- Ordained, placed or held up permanently in things pertaining to God. it is not a transitory position but a permanent and enduring one.
- This ordination or permanent placement relates to things pertaining to God or it is toward God and not man.
- Duties are primarily in respect of offering sacrifices for sins, reconciliation and peace through supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving – Hebrews 5:1-7; 1Timothy 2:1-4.
Supplications – ‘deesis'[dey’-ay-sis], a petition, prayer, request, to beg(as binding oneself), that is, beseech, make request or pray to.
Prayers – ‘proseuche'[pros-yoo-khay], prayer (worship); by implication an oratory, pray earnestly to God, supplicate, worship.
Intercessions – ‘enteuxis'[ent’-yook-sis], an interview, that is (specifically) supplication, to chance upon, that is by (implication) to confer with. Connotes a two way discourse as in Abraham on the issue of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Giving of Thanks – ‘eucharistia’ [yoo-khar-is-tee’-ah] Gratitude, actually grateful language (to God as an act of worship): – thankfulness, thanksgiving.
These offerings are in respect of sins because, God would have all men saved. The priest is supposed to be burdened and preoccupied with interceding for the salvation of men and their reconciliation to God through His Christ.
It is not our calling to be preoccupied with how to prosper, how to excel in this life etc but how to reconcile men to God by standing in the gap before God to remind Him of His will to save all men and to invoke His mercy, peace and goodwill toward all men. This is why the first coming of the Lord’s Christ or Saviour was heralded with the greeting ‘… on earth peace and goodwill toward men’ – Luke 2:14. His second coming will be no less different for a people must stand to declare and invoke His mercy and goodwill toward men. Moses understood this to be the primary purpose of God for his life and so always stood in the gap against God’s wrath toward an erring Israel. I John 5:16 pray for a brother that sins.
Note we are first and foremost interceding priests for ourselves and then others toward God for our sins and those of others – Ezekiel 22:30
Luke 1:9 – Confirms to us one custom of the Priest’s office and it was to burn incense in the temple of the Lord.
Incense here literally means, to Fumigate and it comes from another primary verb word meaning to Rush (breathe hard, blow, smoke) by implication to sacrifice (properly by fire, generally); by extension to immolate (slaughter for any purpose): kill, do sacrifice, slay.
Here we see the course of Zecharias was to offer incense and we know this incense to be that which was placed on the altar of incense in the Holy Place in the Temple. This incense was not ordinary or made anyhow. It was made with spices according to the specifications given by the Lord to Moses in Exodus 30:34 made up of Stacte, Onycha, Galbanum and Frankincense, each of the same weight.
Stacte – [‘naw-tawf’] a drop; specifically an aromatic gum. From another word meaning to ooze, distilgradually, by implication to fall in drops; figuratively, to speak by inspiration:- drop(ping), prophesy.
Onycha – [‘shekh-ay’-leth] peeling off by concussion of sound; a scale or shell. that is, the aromatic mussel: -onycha.
Supposed to be the same as another word meaning to roar; (a lion from his characteristic roar); (fierce) lion
Galbanum – [‘khel-ben-aw’] an odorous gum (as if fatty):- galbanum. From another word meaning to be fat whether literally or figuratively hence the richest or choice part: best, fat, grease, marrow, finest.
Pure Frankincense – [‘leb-o-naw’] frankincense (from its whiteness or perhaps its smoke). It if from another word which means ‘the heart‘.
From the spices ordained by the Lord to make up acceptable prayer and worship (Incense), such prayer or offering must consist of
- a) His Word which is what distils as the dew and is the spirit of prophesy,
- b) His sound or intensity as in the fierceness of the lion’s roar (effectual FERVENT prayer of the righteous)
- c) Our best, being offered to Him in time and quality, and
- d) From a pure heart devoid of iniquity (If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me).
Just as in the natural, we know the purpose of fumigation is to exterminate pests of any sort and sanitize an environment, so also does our prayer and worship offered as incense to the Lord, fumigate our spiritual environment/atmosphere ridding it of all demonic parasites, revealing the things that offend our God and making our space suitable for the presence of the Lord. Since the Lord Himself is fire, He can comfortably come in and dwell in the fire of our praise, worship and prayer while everything else that bears not that same quality is exterminated with extreme prejudice.
We must therefore offer this incense not from an impure heart or motive, whilst neglecting the specific provisions of His word and without noticeable fervency or the investment of our best times, comfort and content. All such incense can only attract His judgement as did Nadab and Abihu as well as Korah. Leviticus 10:1 & Numbers 16.
Luke 1:10. The whole multitude of the people were praying without AT THE TIME OF INCENSE.
This tells us and we have come to believe from the scriptures that there is a time that incense or prayer is most effectual. While the Bible enjoins us to pray without ceasing, one has come to see that an understanding of divine timings will accelerate the effectiveness of our prayers.
– Why did Elijah wait until the time of the evening sacrifice to repair the altar and offer his own sacrifice to the Lord in 1 Kings 18?
– Why would David say in Psalm 142:2 ‘Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice’ if there was nothing to that time of day?
– Why would Daniel keep set times for prayer in each day if there was nothing in the habit of consistency with the Lord?
– Why would patriarchs like Abraham go to battle at night rather than in the day time if there be no advantage or insight to these set times?
We believe that God is a God of times and timing as He never Himself does things outside of His set times. So if we must tap into how to speedily get His attention in the matters at hand, we also must learn to adapt the offering of our incense to such times as command His best attention. Even wives know that some of the best times to get our husbands’ attention is in the very early hours of the morning before they are fully awake. Then their anger if any the day before, is reasonably abated, their ears are open to assimilate and understand what is being said and not just hear words only.
Without making this into any form of doctrine, one has just come to believe from some experience, that there is something about the early hours of the morning, between 4am-6am, the third watch of the night between 11pm-1am and the early hours of the evening between 7pm-9pm.
One does not claim to have perfected offering incense at these times, but limited experience has shown personally, that these times contribute immeasurably to the efficacy of prayer.
Discuss individual experiences to what limits or hinders prayers and what enhances them.
Kindly let us know your opinion on our study so far. Shalom!