Summary: It is at the altar of prayer that we find the power of God.
Back to the Altar
Text: Joshua 8:30-35
1. Illustration: A heart-broken little girl began to kneel and pour out her heart to God in the altar at her local church. She did not know what to say. As she wept speechless, she began to remember what her Father had told her, "God knows your needs even before you pray, and he can answer when you don’t even know what to ask." So she began to say her alphabet. A concerned adult from that church knelt beside her and heard her sobbing and saying her ABC’s and inquired what exactly she was trying to do. The little girl told this caring adult, "I’m praying to God from my heart." But the adult answered, "It sounds to me more like your are saying the alphabet!"
"Yes," she said, "But God knows more about what I need than I do, and he can take all these letters and arrange them in just the right way to hear and answer my prayers!"
2. There is one place where:
a. You will always be welcome
b. You will always be heard
c. You will always feel accepted
d. You will always find answers
e. And that place is at the altar
3. The altar is so important because:
a. The altar brings us back to the Lord
b. The altar brings us back to the center
c. The altar brings us back to the Word
4. Read Joshua 8:30-35
Proposition: It is at the altar of prayer that we find the power of God.
Transition: First, we find that...
I. The Altar Brings Us Back to the Lord (30-32)
A. Joshua Built An Altar
1. Again, as I have been stressing from the very beginning, taking the land was more spiritual than physical.
2. Therefore, as Joshua and the people began to possess more of the land, it was time to give credit where credit was due.
3. In verse 30 it says "Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal."
a. Nothing is more prominent as a biblical image for worship and religious allegiance than the altar.
b. It is no exaggeration to say that the most visible sign of one’s devotion to the true God in the worship of the old covenant is the building of altars or traveling to them for acts of sacrifice or offering.
c. This word occurs ca. 401x in the OT, and refers primarily to the structure upon which a sacrifice or some other offering is offered up to the God (New International Dict of OT Theology & Exegesis. Pradis CD-ROM).
4. Typically, in the OT, altars are built as a direct result of an encounter with the living God.
a. Abraham built an altar after his encounter with the Lord, and so did his son Jacob.
b. There is a direct correlation between the altar and the promise of possessing the land, and this is the reason that Joshua built this altar on Mount Ebal.
5. Notice also the specific nature of the altar. Verse 31 tells us that "He followed the commands that Moses the LORD’s servant had written in the Book of Instruction: “Make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools.”
a. The altar was to be built out of uncut stones so it would not be profaned.
b. This would prevent the people from worshiping altars like idols, or worshiping the craftsmanship of the workers rather than the great works of God.
—Life Application Bible Notes
c. This was not to be an altar like the ones that the pagans built to worship false gods.
d. There is only one true God, and He is to be worshiped in a way that is unique and holy.
B. Go To the Altar
1. Illustration: Johnny Cash! Known internationally as the great country folk singer of all time, he broke all attendance records at the London Palladium. Cash found that his rise to stardom brought more than fame and fortune. It brought problems. While he was rising professionally and more and more Gold Records were added to his collection, in his personal life, things became worse. Show business pressures soon drove him to take "pep pills," and soon he became addicted to Amphetamine. His first arrest came in 1965, when he was caught with more than 1,000 pills in his pockets. From 200 lbs. he went down to 140 lbs. in weight. Side effects from drugs caused him a severe car accident—he broke his nose and knocked out four teeth. He was going steadily downhill. Then on May 9, 1971, Johnny Cash sat in a pew of a small church in his home town. The pastor finished his sermon and appealed to the congregation to come to the front to "make things right" with God. Johnny Cash stood up and walked a few steps to the wooden altar. God put his hand on Johnny Cash...—Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations