“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV).
At the end of the Jews’ seventy years exile in Babylon God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus the King of Persia to grant them liberty to return to their homeland and to rebuild their cities and God’s temple in Jerusalem. The first company of the Jews left Babylon with many gifts and possessions under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest.
There were undoubtedly many works to be done in the fallen Jerusalem. The temple had been broken down to its foundation, the wall of Jerusalem had also been broken down and its gates burned down with fire, and their cities and houses were in ruins.
Therefore, on their arrival in Jerusalem the people were faced with the question or challenge of what to put first or attend to first. Though there were many pressing works or things calling for their immediate attention, yet the people made a right choice to put first thing first. They set their priorities right!
What did they put first?
The building of the altar of God!
The people gave themselves first to the building of the altar of God because they rightly regarded or esteemed raising God’s altar the most important thing to do first. By building the altar of God first, the people were seeking God first, consecrating themselves to God first, and seeking to fellowship or commune with God first before setting out to attend to their works.
The Scripture records in Ezra 3:
1 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.
2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and 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 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. (NKJV).
What a wise people! What a wise choice!
In spite of the enormity and variety of works to be done in the fallen Jerusalem, the first exiles from Babylon set as their highest priority the rebuilding of God’s altar and ensuring that it never lacked sacrifices before embarking on other tasks. This is a vital spiritual principle that must govern the life of every believer in today’s busy world. As a believer, you must ensure you put first thing first regardless of your daily busy schedules.
However, for us today as the New Covenant believers raising altar to God is no longer an act of gathering and setting up stones at a designated place and burning animals on them as burnt offerings to God. The offering of the body of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins had marked the end of all sacrifices and offerings according to the Law. Therefore, God no longer require or accept burnt offerings or sacrifices from any worshipper.
The Scripture attests to this truth in Hebrews 10:
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come–In the volume of the book it is written of Me–To do Your will, O God.” (NKJV).
What then does building or raising an altar to God imply today?
For the New Covenant believers, building or raising an altar to God implies setting aside a definite period of time daily or regularly for the purpose of communion or fellowship with God in His Word and in prayer. It connotes waiting upon God in a consistent manner.
While believers are expected to pray always or without ceasing, yet it is wise and necessary in today’s busy and noisy world to cultivate the habit of setting aside a definite period of time daily to diligently read, study, and meditate in God’s Word without any distraction and to commune with God in prayer. This certainly requires discipline, determination, and dedication (Acts 2:42-47).
Altar also implies sacrifice. The Old Testament worshippers offered animals daily or regularly on the altar as burnt offerings to God. But, the New Testament worshippers are expected to present or offer themselves to God as a living sacrifice.
Apostle Paul admonishes: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1 NKJV).
When the Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon put God first by first rebuilding His altar and consecrating themselves to God by offering burnt offerings daily on the altar, no force could stop them from accomplishing successfully all other tasks and projects.
Although their adversaries devised and employed different strategies to manipulate, frighten, discourage, weaken and stop them, yet they failed woefully. Moreover, God blessed and favoured them on all sides and so they had much more than enough resources to rebuild the temple, the wall of Jerusalem and their cities and houses (Ezra 6:1-16).
Many believers are fainting and failing today to live a triumphant, overcoming and prosperous life in Christ and to pursue and accomplish God’s purposes for their lives simply because they have not cultivated the habit of building an altar to God – spending quality time daily to fellowship with God in the Word and commune with God in prayer.
Beloved, if you would esteem and set seeking God and spending quality time in God’s presence daily or regularly as your highest priority and pursuit this New Year, you will have your strength renewed daily or regularly to deal with and overcome every challenge, trial, battle, or adversary that may confront you this New Year.
The Scripture states in Isaiah 40:
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (NKJV).
King David never lost any battle in life because he esteemed and set seeking God and spending time in God’s presence as his highest priority and pursuit in life. David declares: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.” (Psa. 27:4 NKJV).
David further expresses his highest priority and pursuit in life in Psalms 42:
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (NKJV).
Also in Psalms 63:
1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. (NKJV).
It is wisdom for you also to make it your highest priority and pursuit in life to seek God and spend quality time with God early every day before you set out for the day’s challenges. Spending quality time in God’s Word and in prayer early in the morning will certainly prepare and empower you to appropriate, enforce and demonstrate the victory Christ has won for you over the day’s challenges or battles.
Therefore, starting from this first day of this New Year, resolve in your heart to always put first thing first (your relationship with God and daily communion or fellowship with God in His Word and prayer) regardless of the day’s works, activities, pressures, or challenges.
Above everything else this New Year, set it as your priority to spend quality time daily to behold and meditate on the glory of the Lord Jesus in the mirror of God’s Word and to pray in the Spirit. You will be amazed at how your life will be transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).
Friend, firmly set your mind daily on the Lord’s unfailing, unconditional, unending, and unceasing love, kindness and goodness towards you. You will surely experience and enjoy supernatural peace, joy and victory everyday of this New Year in spite of any storm, challenge or battle you may face this Year (Isa. 26:3, Rom. 8:6).
The Wisdom of God, the Lord Jesus, is instructing you today to set your priorities right this New Year, seeking God first and above everyone and everything else.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matt. 6:33 NKJV).
Also in Proverbs 8:
34 Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the LORD. (NKJV).
I wish you and all your loved ones a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I choose today to seek You and spend quality time with You early every day of this New Year. Dear Holy Spirit, help and strengthen me to do this daily, in Jesus’ name. Amen.