Monday, September 01, 2008


Did your mother make you eat your vegetables? When my husband and I started dating, the only vegetables he ate were corn and salad. Actually, he considered potatoes a vegetable, which I suppose technically, they are. However, I came from a family in which something green graced the table at every meal – except breakfast. And green jell-o didn’t count. Green leafy, green crunchy or green smooshy. We always ate our vegetables. So I grew into the habit of eating my vegetables first, get it out of the way before I feasted on the really good part of the meal. I could skarf down brussel sprouts and spinach if I knew steak and macaroni and cheese was next. When Roy and I had children of our own, our first daughter was raised according to my heritage. Her infant tummy was introduced to strained peas before she ever tasted the delicacy of mashed peaches. Something peculiar occurred. To this day, she actually likes vegetables better than fruit! When our second child came along, we decided to experiment (Sorry, Em, that happened a lot). We introduced fruit before veggies. Sure enough. To this day, our second born would rather snack on peaches than suffer through peas, while Trina craves asparagus and cringes at pineapple. Sometimes in our spiritual lives, we’re called to start with the vegetables of sacrifice and end with the sweet blessing of God’s felt presence. Sometimes our taste grows accustomed to the rigorous vegetables of spiritual discipline, and we forget to enjoy the sweet blessing of His presence. The remnant of Israel ate a lot of spiritual spinach…

Ezra 3:1-3 – “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices” (emphasis added)
  • We can always find something to keep us from worshiping God, some excuse to interrupt our quiet time. For the Israelites, 1) the seventh month meant plowing and sowing of seed in order to eat in the spring. 2) They had just gotten settled in their new homes. 3) Building a new place of worship was an overwhelming task, especially in a new land where 4) the current residents were hostile to newcomers. All these excuses could have kept them from building their altar to the LORD. But it didn’t.

Ezra 3:4-6 – “Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred feasts of the LORD, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the LORD. On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, though the foundation of the LORD's temple had not yet been laid.”

  • They built the altar of sacrifice before they experienced the Temple of God’s presence. Sometimes we spend many hours in God’s Word or in prayer without any goosebumps, without any brilliant revelations. But spending time on that altar of sacrifice is necessary preparation to experience His presence. But don’t misunderstand. It’s not a bargaining chip. God doesn’t come because we spend a certain number of hours reading the Bible or praying. We may feel those dry times for any number of reasons. But we feel the sweetness of His presence in a completely different – more spectacular – way, when we’ve faithfully prepared our hearts on the altar of worship beforehand.

Lord, I’d like to have a whole plateful of Your presence all the time. I don’t particularly enjoy the dry spiritual vegetables of hard-to-interpret Scripture and uninspiring prayer times. Remind me that it’s not about what I enjoy. It’s about my sacrifice of worship to You. Let me set my mind and heart on You alone – and then be awed by Your presence, when it comes.

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