We might try to picture the scene when Gabriel appeared to Zechariah. It says, “He was of the priestly division of Abijah.” That meant he was a descendent of Levi, one of the sons of Jacob. From the time of Jacob on it was established that all male descendent of Levi would function as Israel’s priests. Levi had twenty-four male grand children. Zechariah was descended from one named Abijah.
For two weeks every year all of his fellow descendents of Abijah would go up to serve at the temple. They had hundreds of functions, many dealing with preparing animals for sacrificing. One of the prized gigs would be to enter the Holy Place to burn incense. For six hundred years the temple had been deprived of the Ark of the Covenant. The Holy of Holies where it had rested in Zechariah’s time contained only a table of incense and the invisible presence of God. Still, entering the Holy Place was a great privilege; and people always felt that something extraordinary might happen there. When Zechariah came out, unable to talk, people were filled with excitement, knowing God had made his presence felt.