Today we’ll explore two very unusual days at work as representatives of the many instances in the Bible when God met people in their workplace and changed the course of their life. You might not immediately think of the Jewish temple as a workplace, but scholar Aaron Kuecker points out the temple was the center of Jewish economic and social life in addition to being a religious facility. Priests and Levites there were engaged in butchery, cooking, janitorial work, accounting, and a wide variety of other activities.
Luke 1:8–9 provides a window into the temple’s management: “Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” In his commentary on Luke, Darrell Bock explains that as one of about 18,000 priests, Zechariah served in the temple twice a year, but only once in his life would he get to assist in the daily offering by going into the holy place. His job was to offer incense as a sign of intercession rising to God, and one can’t imagine a more dramatic moment for the angel Gabriel to appear.
In contrast, the shepherds in Luke 2 were keeping watch over their flocks on a night just like countless other nights when a heavenly host of angels suddenly appeared heralding Christ’s birth. In the social hierarchy of the first century, shepherds were near the bottom, since they had to wrangle dirty animals for a living. From temple priests to smelly shepherds, God breaks into the workplace in order to bring people into an encounter with His good news. No profession is too grand or too lowly to escape God’s care.