The principle of that ancient act of setting an altar on the bases of a ruined temple building is forever written in my heart.
Worship at the altar was the unanimous act of protection in the face of fear and uncertainty.
It could not have been easy to leave their assorted lots and half-done tasks of restoration to answer the call of the priests to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles.
And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem
The Feast of the Tabernacles [Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16] is celebrated around September of our calendar year, the fifteenth day of the seventh month on the calendar of Moses in the desert. It was the most joyous feast of the year. It was a time of thanksgiving and joyful reminders of the time the former slaves of Egypt spent in the desert, God’s provision in the desert and the miraculous outcome He so graciously bestowed upon them. They had to build booths of branches and leaves to remind them of the desert journey and include their family, servants, foreign guests as well as the widows and orphans around them in a happy, hospitable festivity recalling the goodness of God.
First things first. Relationship with the most high God, Who brought them back to the promised land, began with a feast, unhindered by pagan surroundings, which they had to endure through the years in exile. They must have delighted in the new freedom where worship to Yahweh was the number one priority and could be enjoyed within the nation without the constraints of secrecy or unsympathetic onlookers.
Worship was the first step, the foundation for everything that followed. After the altar had been set up, the people rallied to…
…give money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia. [Ezra 3:7]
The feast at the altar laid the foundation for the majestic task of rebuilding the house of God.
It is super important to establish the priority of worship as the groundwork for the work of God. The feast was celebrated as it is written. The offerings were burnt as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. This was the guideline, the certainty they could rely on: the commandments of the faithful God who brought them back to worship at the appointed place. As it is written gave the direction and protection for the restoration that established them into their own.
Jesus spoke the first words of His ministry to set our altar on its base.
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 4:17]
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [Matthew 9:13]
Our immigration into the kingdom of heaven, the invisible kingdom that Jesus confirmed with His ministry, is the first step in altar worship. We take that step with a simple decision to put our all, our entire existence, on the altar of repentance. This decision births a brand new life in us, a Spirit-guided life.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
The explanation of this statement in the language of The Message – verses 5 and 6:
Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
This is the all-encompassing altar experience: a brand new life born of the wind that hovered over the waters at creation. It is Spirit-life breathed into us to new birth just as God breathed into Adam and gave him life.
We come to the altar as an exile out of Babylon, which is the symbol of sin in the Old Testament, with hope of a new life in the promised land. When we set the altar on its base and make the decision, we enter into the invisible Kingdom of God here on earth, sitting with Christ in heavenly places and walking with heaven in our step, to resist evil and stand against the enemy in victory, just as the letter to the Ephesians explains. [Pebbles 26,27 and 28.] A new person takes shape within us as we grow spiritually according to Kingdom principles.
What happens as we enter? We are invited to a party – a feast to celebrate our entry into provision and protection. God is a good God – He is the God of the Feast. No less than seven feasts marked the Jewish calendar to be enjoyed with abundance and cheerfulness. Seven times in one year they ceased their routine to participate joyfully in God’s supply over their lives.
Observe the Feast-of-Booths for seven days when you gather the harvest from your threshing-floor and your wine-vat. Rejoice at your festival: you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite, the foreigner, and the orphans and widows who live in your neighborhood. Celebrate the Feast to God, your God, for seven days at the place God designates. God, your God, has been blessing you in your harvest and in all your work, so make a day of it—really celebrate!
This is a commandment – be glad, be joyful. Thank Him for the blessing and celebrate – don’t stop – at least seven days.
Pebble pal, restore celebration to your life. It does not matter where you are and what life has brought you to wear you down. Make a celebration and thank God for His goodness. Make more of the Christian feasts like Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, but also – mark your own annual feasts to the Lord.
Remember: Adam’s first day was the Sabbath – a day of rest and rejoicing in God and His creation. God’s creation is good. You are His creation. You are good. Go on celebrate!
Think on blessings and miracles in your past and mark a date to celebrate the most significant of them. Journal extensively on special insights in the Word.
You might be so wrought with doubt and fear that you do not feel like merrymaking at all. Set the altar in its place. God’s response is guaranteed. He will draw near to you [James 4:8]. He is a rewarder of those who seek Him [Hebrews 11:6]. He will forgive your sins [Isaiah 1:18]. He promises multiplication:
2 Corinthians 9:10:
Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,…saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”
This is written since the days of Abraham. We can set the altar in its place because it is written.
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. [Psalm 138:2]
We are the seed of Abraham in Christ, therefore the promise is to us.
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.
The word of the altar is true today to everyone committed to worship in spirit and truth. It will always be the entrance to the tabernacle of worship to enter into the Presence of the Most High. In the next chapter of John Jesus talks about true worship. He explained to Nicodemus entry into the kingdom of God on earth and then established the foundation of worship. True worship is not dependent on a building, a church community, a ritual or liturgy. It is a personal commitment to seeking the Garden-relationship with our Father, restoring communication after Babylon. In the words of Jesus:
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
The nature of the offering on the altar is important. In Ezra 3 we read: of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering to the Lord.
It is the decision of a lifetime. It must be a freewill offering. This is the offering that will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
It is a continual burnt offering. This is the daily morning and evening sacrifice, called “the continual burnt offering” described in Exodus 29:42: This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you to speak with you. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.
This is a reason for a feast. This is the desire of our hearts – to hear His voice. There where we bring our daily freewill offering, God will speak to us. We will be sanctified by His glory.
Let us celebrate the altar, freely offer our all on it and be rewarded with the most glorious conversation of all ages!