8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
(Zechariah's tomb- based on a first century inscription and confirmed by inscriptions in the fourth and sixth century)
Thoughts: Of the 20,000 priests of his day, broken into 24 divisions, one priest was chosen to burn incense in the morning and evening before the sacrifice. It was possible that a priest would not be chosen during his lifetime. Proverbs 16:33 says, "The lot is cast into the lap but its every decision is from the Lord." The priests believed in the sovereignty of God in their appointments. One prominent view in the Old and New Testaments is that there are no room for accidents, but all things work under God's purposes. Zechariah's choosing was the first part of the miraculous birth of John the Baptist who was a forerunner by a few months of his cousin Jesus. John had to precede Christ to prepare the way for Him. We should live our lives with trust in God's purpose being worked out in our lives as well.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, help me to grow in trust in you.
John Calvin abridged: Exodus 30:7,8 prescribes that incense be offered twice a day (morning and evening) and David arranged the families to take turns 1 Chron. 24:3 . Zechariah entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple as a priest Mediator for the people, and many people were interceding for him. The Holy of Holies symbolized the very presence of God. As long as people live on earth they need a Mediator between God and them. The purpose of having incense was to remind the people that the sweet savor of the sacrifice does not ascend to heaven except through the office of a Mediator. More about how this applies to us is found in Hebrews.