Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rebuilding the Altar

I am on my quest to read through the Bible this year and I have made it to the book of Ezra. Ezra tells the story of God bringing Israel back to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity. When Israel gets back to Jerusalem the first thing they do is rebuild the temple. Before they work on any of the walls or any other infrastructure they rebuilt the altar.
Ezra 3: 1-4 - 1When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 
Why start with the alter and not the exterior walls of the city? We are not specifically told why but I believe they realized that their release from captivity had nothing to do with them and had everything to do with God. He orchestrated the entire release and return of his people to Jerusalem. I think Ezra and the other leaders realized this and knew that if God ordained this He would protect them during the process.

As I thought about this I looked for the Gospel in this story. I believe the city is a representation of man. We are born in sin, our life is a mess. We may try to cover it up with a successful career, a nice car, new clothes, etc but internally we are all messed up. The problem is that we seem to try to focus on the external. We will work a little harder at our job hoping a promotion will fix us or we will buy a new car, maybe get a new wardrobe. Maybe we will try to will our self into putting down the bottle or turn off the computer so we stop looking at those web sites but it does not seem to work long term. We might find a little success but eventually our sinful nature rears it's ugly head again and we blow it.

The story of Ezra shows that we have to focus on the internal, the spiritual aspect of our lives first. If we focus on our internal altar, our hearts, true reconstruction can take place. The Gospel teaches that we cannot work hard enough, we cannot do enough to fix ourselves. The true fix has to come from the outside. Once we come to the end of ourselves and we realize we are broken people we can then understand the true message of the Gospel. Christ came to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He lived the life we could never live, he fulfilled the law that we break on a daily basis. His perfect life and eventual death was acceptable in the eyes of God as an atoning sacrifice.
Romans 3:25a God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood--to be received by faith
When we come to realize this and allow the Holy Spirit to begin working on our spiritual altar we can have true reconstruction. We can allow Him to change our hearts which will in turn change our actions. Once our heart is transformed to understand who we are in Christ we can then begin to rebuild our exterior walls. Once the change happens on the inside our exterior cannot help but change.

Remember that Christ can produce in us what we cannot produce on our own, a new heart. He can rebuild the alter of our soul.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Preach it brother. Experienced this recently when I had a serious accident with a circular saw and was unable to do anything for a month. My false identity built on what I did fell apart and I had to re-learn who I am in Christ: a child of God. Then my life could be re-ordered rightly.