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.