worship

The Altar

Jerusalem Reconstruction

Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening.

-Ezra 2:2-3

It is significant that the first thing built as the Israelites began the Temple reconstruction project was the brazen altar, because it is at the altar that peace is made between God and man.

Peace with God… that’s a rare condition in this world. Many who think they have peace with God really only have a cease-fire. There is a difference between peace with God, and a ceasefire with God. While the ceasefire pauses the obvious signs of a struggle, it lacks the safety and security of true peace.

In the aftermath of World War II, America made peace with Japan. In the years following, the United States worked to rebuild Japan, which went on to become a world economic power, the dream that the emperor had for the country to begin with. In that peace, two opposing sides agreed to stop fighting, to reconcile, to become partners, and both became stronger as a result.

The Korean War ended with a ceasefire. Technically, the two sides are still at war, and neither feels safe or secure at the moment.

Sadly, many people today have opted for a ceasefire with God, electing to tune out the conviction of His word and Spirit, and deadening their spiritual sensors so they can enjoy the life this world offers. Many times, God gives them up, and allows this to happen. The man in this state thinks he has peace with God, but he remains in rebellion against God, and will still face His judgment.

What you really need is peace with God, which only comes through surrender to God. This involves repenting (turning from sin) and faith (trusting the Lord to save you). It’s one monumental decision to trust Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Once that happens, the Bible teaches that you have peace with God through Jesus Christ your Lord (Romans 5:1).

Then, God begins to transform you into the person He intended on you becoming. He builds you, cares for you, and provides for you, giving you a peace and security that does not come through a mere ceasefire. Then, He gives you the eternal blessing of a place in His Kingdom. You become a new person, and all things become new.

So, peace with God, which comes through your conversion to Christ, is of the utmost importance, which is why the people of Ezra’s day built the altar first. The altar is where peace was made with God.

The altar had four horns fashioned on the corners. These horns represented the judgment of God for sin. When a worshiper brought a sacrifice to the altar, that sacrificial lamb was tied to one of those horns.

Now, it is important to remember that the sacrificial lamb was a picture of Christ. Just as the lamb at the Temple was killed to bring peace with God over sin, Jesus Christ was killed to bring us peace with God once and for all. That’s why John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).”

Back to the Old Testament temple, when this lamb was tied to the horn of judgment, it demonstrated that God’s judgment would be passed from the worshiper to the lamb, just as His judgment was passed from us onto Christ.

Then, the lamb was slain, and his blood was placed upon the horn of the alter, thus the blood of the lamb covered the judgment for sin. The blood of Jesus Christ covers the judgment for our sin.

At that point, the body of the lamb was placed on the altar. In some sacrifices, such as the peace offering, the worshiper would eat part of the cooked meat to signify restored fellowship between him and God.

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ restored our fellowship with God.

So, in the reconstruction of the Temple, with the people facing mounting pressure from their enemies, it should come as no surprise that the altar was the first thing to be built. They understood their need to be at peace with God.

Do you?

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Consider Your Ways (Haggai 1)

Haggai’s prophetic ministry took place after the Babylonian Captivity of the nation of Israel was coming to a close. People began to trickle back to Jerusalem, having secured enough provision for the journey home.

As Jerusalem slowly began to be repopulated, the people began rebuilding their homes, businesses and streets, all while the Temple remained in ruins. Seeing his house remain ruined while everyone else’s was being rebuilt prompted the Lord to say, “Consider your ways.”

In calling the people to consider their ways, God called them to consider their priorities, their worship, and their faith. The lesson is as relevant to us today as it was in Haggai’s day. We all need to consider our ways, to make sure our priorities are in line, that our worship honors God, and that our faith is in tact.

The above-posted episode of The Point will bless you with encouragement.

It’s time to worship

Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. -Haggai 1:8

God is good. All the time, God is good; God is good all the time.

In Haggai 1, the prophet spoke to the people who had been brought out of the Babylonian captivity back into Jerusalem. God had followed through on His promise to return them home, to rebuild the Kingdom, to establish a new covenant, and to prepare the place for the coming of Messiah.

Yet, even with the fulfillment of God’s promises in progress, the people forgot to return their praise to the Lord. Because they had quit building the Temple, and thus quit worshiping, God allowed financial challenges to arise in order to get their attention (Haggai 1:9).

His exhortation in verse 8 was to rebuild the Temple so that worship could resume. God’s promise in verse 8 was that if they built the Temple, God would take pleasure in it, and be glorified.

God has been good to us. He has made eternal salvation freely available through our repentance and faith, He has given us a place in His Kingdom, and He has promised deliverance from the struggles of this life.

That is the hope that drives us forward as Christians.

God has provided for us, protected us, and blessed us. What can we give God in return?

Scripture is pretty clear. What pleases God is when His people trust Him, and show others His glory.

As He said in Haggai 1:8, if they built the Temple, He would take pleasure in it.

You can give back to God. You can make Him happy. Isn’t it time you did that?

Worship the Lord. Praise God for how good He is. Show others how good He is. God will be honored and blessed by your worship.