Ezra 3:1-7

Psalm 107, 111

The (Long) Road Back Part 3

The Altar of Prayer

Whether we are talking about changing our lifestyle by resolving to take care of our body by eating right,  starting an exercise program, recovery from an addictive lifestyle, or resolving to grow in our relationship with the Lord,  nothing is going to happen until we are willing to change, and willing to step out. Previously we spoke of the importance of the Word of God in our lives. However, knowing the Word of God and putting it into practice are two different things.

In our reading of Ezra the people have rebuilt the altar at the Temple site in Jerusalem and started to offer sacrifices. The altar was the place where the people met with God, giving thanks for His provision, seeking forgiveness when they got off track, and seeking God’s direction. We need God’s direction for our lives on a daily basis. Abraham was an altar builder. It seemed like everywhere he went he built an altar except when he wandered from God like the time he went to Egypt because there was a famine in the land. That didn’t go so well. Wandering from God never goes well.

The altar represents prayer. Along with knowing the Word of God we also need to be a people of prayer. But, do we think to pray when things get tough or do we run to Egypt (a type of the world) like Abraham in Genesis 13? The people who built the altar in Ezra 3, faced a very common fear, peer pressure. They were afraid of what the neighbors might think or do, but they overcame that fear when they followed through with building the altar and worshiping God at the altar.  Let’s not kid ourselves. Peer pressure affects people of all ages. When we attempt to change our lifestyle we are going to have to sacrifice peer pressure on the altar if we are going to be successful.

In Psalm 107 there are four different paths in life that people typically take that do not end well. Each of these paths or lifestyles, have their own set of peer pressure. Verses 4-9 describe the desire for security and stability. Although the word promises these things they are elusive. Only God can provide true security and stability. When thinking of security and stability Matthew 5:6 and 11:28-30 come to mind.

In Psalm 107:10-16 we read that God is able to deliver those who are imprisoned. These can be those caught up in an addictive lifestyle or those who are depressed or burdened with regrets from past behaviors or injustices. God has principles of healing that we can put into practice that can deliver us from that which holds us captive. We will be looking at these in future studies.

In verses 17-22 we see that a foolish lifestyle can be extremely harmful.  In the Bible, fools and foolish behaviors range from a carefree naivety to a hard heart that believes there is no God. We read that this path leads to death, but when one cries out to God, He will answer and deliver. A common phrase we hear in the world that exemplifies carefree foolishness is, “follow your heart.” Really, how many times has that worked out? Jeremiah 17:9-11 comes into play here and speaks to the fourth path.

In verses 23-32 we read of those who are caught up in the idea that wealth and success and stability is the key to life. However, when the unforeseen storms of life come, success and stability can quickly be swept away.

In all these examples, which are general overviews of the common paths in life people can take, there is one common theme. At the end of the path, the people came to the end of themselves. There in distress they built an altar of prayer and cried out to the Lord. To those who seek God He will be found by them. Only God is truly able to take us from the wrong path in life and set us on a firm footing. Matthew 7:7-27

God is able to do what we cannot do as we read in the last ten verses of Psalm 107. He can make a way when there is no way, but we must learn to trust His Word to us and seek His direction for our lives. If we will do this not only will our Prayer Altar be a place of crying out and sacrifice, but it will be a place of celebration, thanksgiving, and praise!

Verse 43 of Psalm 107 and verse 10 of Psalm 111 describe the willing attitude we need if we really want the security and stability in our life that can only come from God.

May God bless your journey!

Pastor Dave