Summary: Our relationship with God should be the most important relationship that we have. When we place that relationship as Priority One, there are effects that should be seen in our lives. This message demonstrates what those effects are.
We know that certain ones who were living in Babylon after Cyrus came to reign were touched by God to leave Babylon and go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city that had been torn down seventy years before by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. God had prophesied of this over two hundred years before it ever happened and even prophesied the name of the king that would let them return (Cyrus). Now the seventy years has gone by and these men have returned to the ruins of the city of Zion. These men had been charged by Cyrus to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and especially the Temple. More importantly, I believe these men heard from God on what they needed to do. God had shaken them and woke them up from the sleep of Babylon to go and fulfill His will. They were not content to stay in Babylon like the vast multitude of the Jews for they had been touched by God. My prayer for this church is for men and women that are willing and hungry to be touched by God. God needs to raise us up, to shake us to awaken us, for like these Jews, we have a great destiny to fulfill in the plan of God.
What I want you to see here in Ezra 3, is that after they arrived sometime in late September, before they begin to rebuild the city, and even before they begin to rebuild the Temple, they first rebuilt the altar of God. The Bible says in verse one, that they gathered together as one man to Jerusalem where they rebuilt the altar of God. I believe that they were prepared to seek the face of God. They did not come with their own agendas, they did not come to see who would have the most power or the most prestige, they did not come to get their own way, but they came to rebuild the altar of God. Now altars in the Old Testament are somewhat interesting. You know that patriarchs built altars of stone, usually just by gathering stones out of a field and piling them together. Instructions are given for building these altars in Exodus 20:24-25 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. In Exodus 27, the command was given for building the altar that was to be used in the tabernacle. It was to be made of shittim wood covered with bronze. It was to be five cubits long by five broad and three high. The four corners were to have horns of one piece with it. A network of bronze was to reach halfway up the altar to a ledge. In some way that is defined only by reference to what was shown to Moses in the Mount the altar was to be hollow with planks, and it was to be equipped with rings and staves for facility of transport so it could be carried by the Levites. When Solomon built the Temple, according to 2 Ch 4:1, the altar was enlarged to twenty cubits by twenty by ten. However, under Solomon’s reign, idolatry was brought back into the kingdom and in the Temple, idols were set up in the kingdom. We find that in 2 Kings 16:10, that king Ahaz went to Damascus and saw an idol altar that he liked so much that he copied down the design and went back to Jerusalem and redesigned the altar of the Lord. Remember that God had given Moses the design for the altar but now Ahaz seeks to improve (?) it by re-fashioning it like a pagan altar. As Jerusalem and Judah continues in their downfall away from God, we find that later on, the altar of God had to share space with idol altars. 2 Chronicles 33:4 (Manasseh) Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar in the destruction of Jerusalem, destroys the altar. Note the progression, or better said, the de-gression. First the altar according to God’s plan, with God being the Lord. Then the methods of outside influences begin to reshape the altar of God, and then, the altar of God is made to share space with idol altars, and then, finally the altar is totally removed. What a great warning to the church. God will not share His space with anything else. What a great warning to us individually as well. Where is our heart concerning our relationship with God?