It was 21st March, 2016 at about 9:30pm and I was trying to catch up with a Bible reading plan —Luke 1:1-38— I had missed in the morning. While reading, verses 8-9 caught my attention: “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.”
The priest in question here is Zachariah, the Father of John the Baptist and husband of Elizabeth. Prior to vv 8-9, Luke briefly profiled their lives: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years”(5-7).
Here is a couple described as rigthteous and walking blameless before God. However, there was a problem: (i) they had no child, (ii) Elizabeth was barren and they were (iii) both advanced in age. That last one sums up the seemingly hopeless situation of their lives. As I read on and the narrative progressed, my mind was fastened on vv 8-9 especially the last words: “he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.”
You see, events that unfolded that day hinges on the fact that Zachariah was chosen as the priest to enter the temple and burn incense by casting of lot. The lot could have fallen on any other priest than Zachariah and we probably might read Zachariah’s story in a different context. In this ordinary human act of casting lot, we see the Providence of God explicitly revealed in the narration.Though men made their choice, God through His divine Providence ordained His purposes through their action: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD,” (Proverbs. 16:33).
On this day, I believe Zachariah never expected what unfolded in the narration prior to his entering the temple (at least the text didn’t tell us). I also believe the team of priests who were involved in choosing him didn’t envisage what transpired on that day. The people made a choice, their choice sent Zachariah into the temple to burn incense and the events of that day changed the life of Zachariah and Elizabeth because the Providence of God was at work.
So what is God’s Providence?
God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.(Westminster Confession of Faith 5:1).
Gotquestions also defines Divine providence [as] the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8)
God’s Providence is a pillow believers can lay their heads on and sleep soundly. Nothing can happen to a believer that catches our heavenly Father by surprise. Though Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, he later informed them they meant it for evil but God meant it for good. Moses was left in a basket in the river Nile and as we know he went on to become God’s chosen vessel to deliver Israel out of slavery.
The believer’s life is not left to chance. Every single event in our life is part of God’s grand design to bring about His purposes and plans to pass. We serve a living God who is not bewildered thinking what to do next with the situations that confronts us. He has it all covered. He is personally involved in every detail of our lives including what we might consider mundane:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26).