PUT FIRST THING FIRST
“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.
Even 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!
Ezra 3:1-3 – NKJV
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.
The Scripture clearly records that the people gave themselves first to building 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.
What a wise people!
What a wise choice!
Despite the enormity and variety of works to be done in the fallen Jerusalem, the first exiles from Babylon set as their highest priority the building 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!
In today’s busy world when there is always a variety of works and needs to attend to everyday and all are competing for your immediate attention at the same time, you must be wise, determined, and disciplined to always put the first thing first, just like those wise Jews.
As a New Covenant believer, 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 desire, or demand burnt offerings or sacrifices from any worshipper.
The Scripture amply attests to this truth.
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Hebrews 10:1-7 – NKJV
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 time daily or regularly for the purpose of uninterrupted and deep 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, necessary, and beneficial in today’s busy and noisy world to cultivate the habit of setting aside or scheduling a definite time daily to prayerfully, patiently, and diligently read, study, and meditate in God’s Word and to commune with God in prayer without any distraction.
This certainly requires discipline, determination, and dedication (Acts 2:42-47)!
Altar also implies sacrificing.
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The Old Testament worshippers offered animals daily or regularly on the altar as burnt offerings to God. But unlike the Old Testament worshippers, the New Testament worshippers are expected to present or offer themselves to God as a living sacrifice.
Therefore, 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 power or force could stop them from accomplishing successfully all other tasks and projects.
Although their adversaries devised and employed diverse strategies to manipulate, frighten, discourage, weaken and stop them, yet they failed woefully.
Moreover, God blessed and favoured them on all sides to the extent 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 putting first thing first – spending quality time in the early hours of the day in God’s Word and prayer.
Beloved, if you would esteem and set above everything else spending quality time in God’s Word and prayer daily as your highest priority and pursuit this New Year, you will have your strength renewed daily to confront and overcome every challenge, trial, battle, or adversary that may come your way this New Year.
Isaiah 40:30-31 – NKJV
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.
King David never lost any battle in life because he esteemed and set seeking God and spending quality time daily in God’s presence as his highest priority and pursuit in life.
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David states, “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 aptly expresses his highest priority and pursuit in life in his Psalms.
Psalms 42:1-2 – NKJV
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?
Psalms 63:1-3 – NKJV
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.
Beloved, it is wisdom for you also to make it your highest priority and pursuit in life to always seek God first by spending quality time in God’s Word and prayer early every day before you set out to attend to the day’s works or 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 that Christ has won for you over the day’s challenges or battles.
Therefore, starting from this first day of this New Year, you must resolve in your heart to always put first thing first (your relationship with God and daily communion 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).
Beloved, firmly set your mind daily this New Year 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 despite 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 above everyone and everything else.
Proverbs 8:34-35 – NKJV
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.
Matthew 6:31-34 – NKJV
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
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 above anyone or anything else by spending quality time in Your Word and in prayer early every day of this New Year. My Dear Holy Spirit, help and strengthen me to do this daily, in Jesus’ name. Amen.