Time to repair the altar and begin praying
BY REV. KAGAN YOUNG
I hope and pray you all are doing well! Last week I was able to attend and be part of revival over in North Carolina. We are truly in need for God to move in our churches all across the country with revival. As I was sharing a message with this church, God allowed me to preach on the topic, “Repairing the Altar.” If there is anything we need to be working on in our lives and in the church in general, it would be our prayer lives. I can assure you that we all could admit we need to be praying more than we ever have. I would like to share this message with you today.
One of the most well known prophets in the Old Testament that we read about was Elijah. According to the Books of Kings in the Bible, Elijah was not only a prophet but a miracle worker who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab. Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is my God.” That name alone should show that this man was truly a man who was about the work of the Lord.
1 Kings 18 gives us a story of the power of prayer and the altar of the Lord. After Israel had gone more than three years without rain as a judgment for their idolatry, the prophet Elijah confronts the evil king Ahab and challenges him to a contest. This contest would reveal whose God was the true God. King Ahab was to have all Israel gather at Mt. Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of the false god Baal and the 400 prophets of the false goddess Asherah. On Mt. Carmel, Elijah said to the people of Israel in 1 Kings 18:21 “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” Elijah then challenged the prophets of Baal to prepare a bull as an offering for their god and Elijah would do the same but with this stipulation. The prophets of Baal could light no fire on their altar. The God who answered with fire from the sky would be considered the true God (1 Kings 18:22–25). The people agreed that this was a good plan, and the prophets of Baal went first. These prophets cried out and danced around their altar from morning till noon with no answer from Baal. Elijah began to mock them, saying in 1 Kings 18:27 “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” 1 Kings 18:29 states “And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”
Could you imagine the silence that filled the mountain top that day? The god who many looked upon and worshiped failed to do what many thought it could do, that is, consume this sacrifice on the altar with fire. Elijah then called the people to him and says the most important words anyone could hear, even today: “And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down” (1 Kings 18:30). He used twelve stones and dug a trench around the altar. He then placed wood on the altar and laid the cut pieces of the bull on it. Elijah then had the people pour the altar with twelve large barrels of water. Remember, it had not rained on the earth in some time which caused the land to suffer with a vas drought. The water soaked the sacrifice and the wood and filled the trench (1 Kings 18:30–35).
Once the sacrifice was ready, Elijah prayed, “And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.” “Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.” “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:35-38).
Then God did what Baal could never do: the fire of the LORD fell from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and also dried up the water in the trench. This miracle that was performed that day on Mt. Carmel was an answer to the prayer of Elijah because of the faith that he had in the living sure God! The power of prayer should never be underestimated because we serve the God that made the heavens and the earth! The key in this story started by Elijah preparing the altars that were broken down. The altar that was built on Mt. Carmel use to be a place where God’s people gathered to offer up sacrifices to him and him alone. As the people of God were facing adversity with King Ahab forcing them to bow to Baal, the altar of God destroyed. No longer was God receiving the sacrifices of his people. We must never allow the altar of God to be torn down or misused.
The word in Hebrew for altar is mizabach, meaning “a place of slaughter.” This is the place of slaughter which your old life is put to death in exchange for a new life in Jesus! The sacrifice that was placed on the altar during this time is called a “Burnt Offering.” A Burnt offering comes from the Hebrew word ha’olah, which also means a stairway or ladder. It is the sacrificial offering that was a stairway to heaven. Jesus is our sacrificial lamb who is our stairway to heaven! We need to rebuild the altar of Prayer. Over the years we have seen our nation slide into the gutter of gross immorality. We have a generation to save but how can we help if our altars of prayer are broken down or misused? God was seeking to turn the hearts of His people back to Himself. He used a time of drought to get their attention and then, through His prophet, performed a dramatic miracle right before their eyes. No one who witnessed that event doubted that the Lord was God and that Baal was a powerless god that could never exist. The repentance of the Israelites was soon followed by God’s provision of rain. James 5:16 states that, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”.
As God’s people, we must begin to repair the altar of the Lord and get back to using it. The altar was really never intended for God to use but for us! We must teach our kids to pray and set an example in front of them so they can see the need to build an altar as well. If I could give you any advice today, I would suggest to find a place of an altar that you can go to and spend some time with God in prayer. Our lives as Christians depend on this time with God and I believe it is a vital part of being a child of God. I challenge us all today to repair your altar. Seek the Lord like never before and trust that he will bring us through the troubles we all are facing every day.
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
(Rev. Kagan Young is pastor of Crab Orchard Free Will Baptist Church in Spruce Pine, N.C.)