Where Do You Build Your Altar?


 Joshua 8:30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal ..

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Where Do You Build Your “Altar”?

An “Altar” is a place where you worship your God. An “Altar” is a place of surrender – not where God surrenders, but where WE surrender. Where do you build your “Altar”?

In Joshua Chapter 7 we saw the defeat of Israel at a place called Ai (עַי ʻAy, pronounced ah’ee). We saw Joshua on his face, torn clothing, his ministry of leadership in tatters. He was begging the Lord for an answer as to why he and Israel was defeated at Ai. Joshua actually blamed the Lord for the defeat.

Joshua 7:7 … Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

Why did God’s people fail at Ai? They triumphed at Jericho, but were soundly beaten at Ai. As a matter of fact,

The defeat at Ai would be the ONLY battle
God’s people would lose!

Why did they lose? Because Israel had unconfessed sin among them.

Achan took a cursed thing from Jericho.
Joshua listened to people rather than God.
Everyone UNDERESTIMATED the enemy, and
OVERESTIMATED their own power.

They built their altars in the wrong place!

Where Is Your Altar Built?

When Israel was defeated at Ai – the only defeat recorded in the Book of Joshua – it was because of OVERESTIMATION of their power and UNDERESTIMATION of the enemy. Joshua sent spies to Ai, who came back and told him:

Joshua 7:3 … Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.

Israel took the much larger and much more fortified Jericho without the loss of even one life. If WE can storm Jericho and take it with no loss IMAGINE what we can do at Ai. Beloved, when it becomes more about US than it is about the LORD then it is not long before we are chased about by the lost.

Never UNDERestimate the power of the enemy!
Never UNDERestimate the power of the devil!
Never OVERestimate your own abilities!
We have no power outside of Christ our Lord.

We are told over and over in Scripture that we MUST rely on the power of God our Savior. Jesus told us:

John 15:3-5 … Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

We have no power apart from God our Savior. The day that I was saved – the day that ANYONE is saved – is the day that we understood this basic principle. Before I was saved I worried about what others would say. I judged myself by myself and by others around me. But the day that I came to Christ I stopped worrying about what other people thought. I stopped worrying about peer pressure. I walked that aisle. I didn’t care who saw me, or what they thought of me. I just knew that I was a sinner, doomed to hellfire for all eternity. I knew that I was lost. But I wanted to be saved. I came surrendering my all to Jesus.

If you are saved by faith in Christ, you did exactly the same thing. But over time we forget. We forget that the Bible does not say:

I can do ALL THINGS, but
Philippians 4:13 I can do ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST
which strengtheneth me.

Apart from God our Savior we are nothing – we must not forget this. When Israel went against Ai the first time they took only 3000 warriors with them – and it was an epic FAIL. Sin was in the camp. God’s people overestimated themselves and underestimated the enemy – and people died because of it. What did God tell Israel?

Joshua 8:1-2 the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take ALL the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land: 2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king …

God’s people consecrated themselves. They confessed their sins before God. They were honest with their Lord. They put away the cursed thing, and relied totally on the Lord. God said “take ALL the people”. It will take ALL. It will take ALL who are committed to the cause of Christ. We must ALL work together, trusting in the Lord.

Let GOD do the leading, and WE the following.

When Jesus was on the face of this earth how did He battle satan and the forces of evil?

Jesus said “it is written”.
People do not like “it is written”.
Today everyone prefers “I think” over “it is written”.

We have great technology. We have advanced in technology to where hospitals and doctors can extend life beyond whatever it used to be. We have computerized things like “Alexa” that turns on and off our lights, our radios, our things. We have search engines and a world wide internet. We are covered up with knowledge. Human knowledge. People walk around staring at their phones, tapping on screens. We know so much. Yet we know so little. We desperately need God.

There are two very misunderstood passages in the Scripture. They are:

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Many of the prosperity preachers we see on television quote the Proverbs text and talk about God making you visionary. These texts have nothing to do with that.

These texts tell us the importance of knowing
and applying the Word of God.

When Joshua went to Jericho following the Word of God exactly that mighty city fell. But when Joshua and the children of Israel followed their own word rather than God’s Word they suffered great defeat.

God’s people are destroyed when they lack the Word of God. Those who are visionless are those who do not hear
and do the Word of God.

Hearing God’s direction and doing what God said – hearing His promise – things would be different the next time Israel went to Ai. Listening to God and His direction Joshua did things differently this time. We read:

Joshua 8:3-7 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor, and sent them away by night. 4 And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready: 5 And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them, 6 (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them. 7 Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand.

When the word of man was in control about 3000 were taken to Ai – and were chased away. But now – listening to God – Joshua does things differently. He sent 30,000 men out by night to hide behind the city – on the non-gated side. Joshua and his troops would storm Ai like they did before. This time, however, when the troops of Ai came out to attack, Joshua and his force would cut tail and run.

Joshua 8:15-19 … And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. 17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel. 18 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. 19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.

Oh Beloved, when God is in control His people are triumphant! When God’s people hear and do God’s Word, it is THEN the blessings of God come upon us.

Are Your Possessions Your Altar?

When Israel went to take Jericho God told them to take nothing from the city. If it was not taken into God’s treasury, then it was to be destroyed by fire. Achan took something from Jericho, and brought a curse upon the people. God told Israel:

Joshua 7:13 … There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Israel was to take NOTHING from Jericho. However, when they attacked Ai God said:

Joshua 8:2 .. thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves

Why could God’s people take the goods from Ai but not from Jericho? Because the Word of the Lord said so. There is a very plain lesson in this for us all to see. The things that we have are a blessing that God has given us. Everything we have belongs to God. We ourselves belong to God. God spoke through the Prophet Ezekiel saying:

Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezekiel 18:20-24 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. 21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? 24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

Everything I have and everything
I hold is but temporal.
My only Permanent Possession is God My Father.

Psalm 119:57-64 Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words. 58 I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.

Joshua and Israel did according to God’s Word – and were blessed to take Ai without the loss of even one life.

  • Oh Beloved, do not make an idol of your possessions.
  • Oh my Beloved, do not make an idol of your children, your wife, your husband, your kin.
  • Oh my Beloved, make your altar upon the Word of God.
  • Oh my Beloved, do not worship THINGS, for THINGS cannot save you.

A rich young ruler came to Jesus in Mark 10:17 asking “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus told that young man “sell what you have, give the money to the poor, take up your Cross and follow Me” (Mark 10:21). That young man went away sorrowful because possessions were his god. He loved not Jesus, but STUFF. You cannot enter Heaven through that narrow door carrying stuff in your arms (Matthew 7:13-14). Think about it.

When Zacchaeus was saved Jesus did not tell him to “sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow Me”. Why? Because when Zacchaeus was saved he said in

Luke 19:8 … Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Jesus was to Zacchaeus “Lord”. Zacchaeus was no longer worshiping at the altar of STUFF, but worshiped God and the Jesus Who saved him.

Jesus never told Joseph of Arimathaea to “sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Me”. Why? Because Joseph did not have an altar built of STUFF. Joseph loved the Lord Jesus. He proved it by going to get Jesus’ body from the Cross on the day our Master died (John 19:38-42).

If you put STUFF up as an altar you will not be blessed of God. If you make your FAMILY first place in front of God you will not be blessed. Joshua never failed again because he made God’s Word first. Not just at Ai, but everywhere he went.

Joshua Built An Altar

Joshua 8:30 … Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal,

The battle over, Joshua builds an altar “unto the Lord God”. The altar was built according to the Word of the Lord:

Joshua 8:31 … as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.

As it is written”. The altar is built the way that God said build it. Joshua obeyed the Word of God. He did what God said do. God spoke through Moses before that great man died and passed on leadership to Joshua:

Deuteronomy 27:4-8 … it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaister them with plaister. 5 And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. 6 Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord thy God: 7 And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God. 8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.

In Deuteronomy 27:10-13 God said that after the altar was built of unhewn stone that some of the people were to stand on mount Gerizim to bless the people, and the rest were to stand upon mount Ebal to curse. I do not have time to go into detail on this right now. But the “blessings and cursings” are found in Deuteronomy 27-28. What God was having the people do in a very graphic way was to show that they would be blessed when they followed God, but cursed when they disobeyed God. These two mountains would illustrate:

You get a MOUNTAIN OF BLESSING (Gerizim) when you obey God.
You get a MOUNTAIN OF CURSING (Ebal) when you disobey God.

Joshua built an altar. Where did he build the altar? Joshua built the altar on Mount Ebal – the mountain of cursing. Cursed be the one who disobeys the Word of God (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). Cursed be the person who disobeys the Law of God. Cursed be the person who is not perfect in his or her walk before God. When we break God’s Law we fall under the curse of God. How then are we to be blessed of God?

Look where the altar is built.
It is built on Mount Ebal.
The altar is built on the Mountain of our curse.
The Cross is built on Calvary!

Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal – the mountain of cursing – because that is where we needed that altar. Jesus Christ died on Calvary. Jesus Christ took the judgment for my sins and for yours. The Scripture declares:

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 … we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For {God} hath made {Christ} to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

The curse was on Ebal – the curse was on Calvary. It is in the loving mercy of God that Christ’s Blood was shed for us. Jesus “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). When Joshua built that altar on Ebal it had none of the cunning work of man’s hand. The altar was of natural, uncut stone. Man found rock and carried it to that place. We do nothing to earn or deserve our salvation. The animal slain on that altar was an innocent, just as Jesus was innocent. The Blood spilled on that altar was like that of Christ’s. His Blood was shed for me, and shed for you. He is our “peace offering”. Because of that Altar on Calvary – Ebal –

Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Oh Blessed Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for sending Him to die for us. Our sins, like mountains, stood between us and You. But You have given Christ to us to redeem us. In Christ we have redemption through His Blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). In Christ we have a Savior Who came that we might have life, life more abundantly (John 10:10). How often have we fallen short of bringing glory to You? How often have we taken the cursed thing to our breast, hiding it from You rather than repenting. Oh Lord, we deserve judgment. Oh Father, we deserve death and damnation. But thank You, dear Jesus, that You took what WE deserve upon Yourself. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).

If you have made a commitment to follow Jesus this day, while we stand to sing our invitation will you come forward and grab my hand? I will pray with you. If you would like to join the fellowship of this Church you must give your heart to Christ, and commit to follow Him in baptism if you have not already done so. Come, stand by me. I will pray with you, and for you. Give your all to Jesus this very day. Do not waste His glorious sacrifice – He gave Himself for you all! May God touch your heart by His Word.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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