Altared - Pt. 5 – The Altar of Need
The concept of the altar is rooted in the heart of God, mentioned 370 different times in Scripture! The message is abundantly clear . . . God meets man at the altar.
We began by talking about Paul's call for us to live an altared lifestyle in Romans 12:1-2. We avoid the pain, death, blood, and time required to stop at the altar. However, Paul was very clear that if we don't lived altared we will become cultured and look more like our culture than our king.
Then we dealt with the 2nd altar occurrence in Scripture and from Noah's experience we talked about how after one of the most horrific experiences he built an altar. He teaches us to build altars even when we have gone through tough times. He teaches us that we must establish a daily altar of remembrance or we will become bitter, selfish, and complainers. So I challenged you to become like David and make a covenant that "I will remember"!
Then in week three I talked to you about the Altar of Promise that we saw Abraham build on three occasions. God is still a promise making God. He has a pinky and He isn't afraid to use it. He will swear to you! He will make and keep promises if we will learn to be silent long enough to hear what He is saying! We have to fight for our promise. The vultures of doubt and fear will try to swoop in and get us to give up on the promises that God has made.
Then last week we talked about the most avoided altar . . . the Altar of Sacrifice. Abraham again was our teacher. He shows us that Altars of Sacrifice expose our idols and force us to access where we have placed our hope. He is asked to bring what he loves most to God. Most of us don't mind losing what we hate. However, we must bring what we love most and sacrifice it to God. We like to substitute. It is at this altar that God discovers whether we are trustworthy. Many of us never find provision in the thickets of life because we won't pass the test at the Altar of Sacrifice.
There are so many more altars I would love to deal with like the altar that Issac (generational altar), the altar that Jacob built where he was forced to deal with his past, the corporate altars in of worship in Exodus, Gideon's altar of calling and host of others. However, I will wrap this series up this morning by talking to you about one final altar the altar of need.
I Samuel 1:3-20
Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite. Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?” So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow: Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline. It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!” Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.” Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.” “Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant. Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked. Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, “I asked God for him.”
This is a heart wrenching and heart warming account. Here is a woman who was loved and from all outward appearances had every reason to be absolutely content. However, the outward misrepresented the inward. Inwardly she was barren. She was ridiculed. Taunted. The butt of jokes. I wonder how many of us show up Sunday after Sunday and from the outward there appears to be nothing wrong, the family looks perfect, the smile seems genuine, the laugh comes off as natural but inwardly there is no life and we suffer in silence and isolation?
Hannah had a God need. Not one of those "I needs" that someone else could answer. Not an "I need" that could find resolution anywhere else. Only God could bring solution here. So she runs to the sanctuary and pours her pain out an altar. In fact, the depth of her pain impacted how long she remained at the altar. The more pain she was in the longer she stayed. We tend to run from the altar but she ran to it.
So out of this account I want to mention 2 simple things to you!
Arrangements are made in response to requests.
He knows but asks us to ask. In fact, Jesus gives us a glimpse into just how crucial this simple step really is when He said, "You have not because you ask not!"
God is aware of your need but it is abundantly clear that He often waits for a request to respond.
That is why we are instructed in:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (Boldly approach the throne)
We are told let our petitions and concerns be made known to God. Not just to facebook, twitter, or to aunt so and so but to bring God into the loop! We are reminded that Jesus has gone through everything we are going through. He understands our reality and so we have the great and underutilized privilege of getting right to Him! No middle man. No waiting line. No taking a number. Open and available access.
So why is our request even a part of the equation? Our request reveals our reliance! Who you approach first usually reveals who you trust most! Run to the bank first you trust them more than you trust God. I want you to run to the doctor but I prefer that you stop in the Great Physician's Office first.
So if we have that type of access we must make sure we approach correctly. I think we make requests on a regular basis but see no response because although we haven't failed in our request we have failed in our approach.
So if we have a God need how should we approach to get response?
We must approach the Altar of Need clear and connected.
I realize that when we are in pain we allow our perspective to become clouded. However, we are clearly taught that when we approach an altar out of need we must do so clear.
What does that mean? Response to our requests are restricted by sin and strife. I shouldn't have to give you any more proof of this than:
Psalms 66: 17-19: For I cried to him for help, with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it!
Look! Listen! God’s arm is not amputated—he can still save. God’s ears are not stopped up—he can still hear. There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.
So sin blocks requests and then strife blocks requests. That is why Jesus taught us in Matthew 5 that when we approach an altar and remember a grudge someone has against us (isn't it interesting that when you come to the altar with a need of your own God always brings other people to mind?) we should leave the altar and remove strife before coming back to the altar. Jesus drives this home again when He taught us to pray. Notice that in the model prayer there is a need made knows (give us this day our daily bread) but also strife is dealt with (forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who have trespassed against us).
So in order to see requests met we must come clear. But we must also come connected.
Her pain was misunderstood. Her pain was overlooked. Her pain was underestimated. Even by those who should have had discernment and ability to recognize the pain. We could harshly judge Eli but isn't this the perfect picture of the church? We want to wag our finger in the face of those who should have known and tell them how insensitive and uncaring they are. However, Hannah didn't do that! In fact, she enlisted the assistance of the one who had missed his assignment. Some of you are mad at the people next to you right now because you have been sitting next to them week after week and you expected that they would have sensed your pain by now and they haven't really asked how you are doing. What if the answer to your greatest need is wrapped up in the one you are angry with? Yes they missed their assignment but if you miss your alignment you will miss your answer!
Even though he first thought she was drunk there is a connection with Eli that takes place here. A touch and agree moment. There is power in the connections that take place at altars.
Bear one another's burdens! Whenever 2 or 3 agree on anything. The reason some of you are making requests and seeing no response is because you have allowed your pain to isolate you until connection is broken! Great pain needs great connection. You need to get into an altar in agreement and have someone saying "God give them what they ask!" Your answer may simply be contingent on connection. Your willingness to share the burden of your barrenness may be the only barrier to the birth of your breakthrough.
Notice she went to pray every year but miracle only took place when connection took place.
Time in altar - bring your God-need - come clear and we are going to help you with connection. Someone is going to lay hands on you and say out loud - "God give them what they asked for in their heart!" At that moment you focus on the one need you have and let a faith connection take place.