The Order of Abijah
The priestly order of Abijah to which Zacharias belonged originated with King David and his desire to build a Temple for the Most High God in Jerusalem. Not permitted to do so because he was a man of war who had shed much blood, David did the next best thing: He prepared for it with all his might (1 Chr. 29:1–5).
He gathered building materials, precious stones, gold, silver, and bronze in abundance to make his son Solomon’s task easier, since the new king was young and inexperienced. David gave Solomon all the plans for the Temple—“the plans for all that he had by the Spirit”—including “the division of the priests and the Levites, for all the work of the service of the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ” (28:12–13).
Previously the priests and Levites worked with the Tabernacle, which was a much smaller, portable house of worship. The Temple would be substantially larger and permanent, with stationary furniture.
Those Levites who were not physical descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, had the unique responsibility of ministering “over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it” (Num. 1:50).
David divided the descendants of Levi into smaller divisions so that each family would have an equal opportunity to minister. Likewise, the priests were also divided. There were 24 divisions, which allowed each division, or order, to serve for two weeks each year (1 Chr. 24:4-6).1 The order of Abijah was the eighth order (v. 10).
The fact that the order of Abijah used lots to determine where one would minister indicates there must have been more priests than avenues of service. God’s people often used lots (Hebrew, purim) to discern His will and direction (Acts 1:26).
How amazing it is today that we have so many avenues available to encourage, teach, lead, and serve the Lord. Yet it often seems that, unlike the priests of old, so few actually desire to step up and minister.
- Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible, expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 659 n. 1 Chronicles 24:4.