"Stay at the Altar, Blessings Will Come"
"But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John"-Luke 1:13
It had been about four-hundred years since the ink had dried from Malachi's pen. It had been that long since the voice of a true prophet had been heard in the streets. There was no open vision; no verbal instruction from Jehovah: the heavens were brass. The priests had corrupted themselves, their traditions had paralyzed God's people. There was a spiritual famine, and to make matters worse, it was during the ministration of a wicked king: "in the days of Herod." If there had ever been a time win which God's people should be discouraged and name their children "Ichabod", this was the time. But even in the midst of discouraging circumstances there remained a faithful few who had not deserted the altar. Among those was a faithful husband and wife named Zacharias and Elisabeth.
Zacharias means "Jehovah has remembered" and Elisabeth means "God is my oath". They were both of priestly lineage, but at this point in their ministry they seemed to be forgotten of God: they had no child. How many times Zacharias and Elisabeth had petitioned Jehovah for a child God only knows. But even though the times were dark, their seasons were dull, and their prayers were seemingly unanswered, we find a testimony that has thwarted the designs of Satan time and time again: they had not deserted the altar of God.
According to the inspired record of their lives, "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless"-Luke 1:6. Here is a special blessing couched within two words: "BOTH RIGHTEOUS". The husband and wife were both believers. This is a great blessing. Zacharias and Elisabeth agreed upon the oracles of God and lived accordingly. In their house there was one God and one altar. If this is you case, rejoice, and use it to its fullest benefit. It is at the altar of God that your children will receive their greatest and most lasting blessings. If you have the opportunity to worship with your spouse and your family and you are not taking advantage of this opportunity, blessings are flying over your head.
Elisabeth and Zacharias were busy in God's temple: they were "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord". This reflects and active posture in God's house which is always the safest and the most blessed. And even though our best efforts are in vain without God's blessings, we must agree with Spurgeon who said, "the order of Cromwell is appropriate for service at the altar of God: 'Trust in God, and keep your powder dry."
Would we not all agree that God's altar deserves as much devotion and attention as any secular activity? How meticulous we can be in our secular pursuits while we set a lower standard in God's house. Solomon wrote, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is not work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest"-Ecc. 9:10. Surely, Solomon's eye was upon the temple as he penned these words. Pastor, deacon, song leader, member, be diligent in God's house. You serve a noble King who deserves our best efforts. Slothfulness does not become "kings and priests".
The altar has always been a place of blessing. Faithful Abraham was always building an altar. Wherever he sojourned, he would erect an altar for worship and sacrifice. Abraham built altars, Isaac built altars, Joseph built altars. Where you find the patriarchs, you find them erecting altars to worship the Lord.
Our story concludes with triumphant joy surrounding the altar of God. Zacharias fades from our view with prophetic blessing pouring fourth from his lips as he beholds his new born son: John the Baptist. The last scene we have of Elisabeth is one that every expectant mother anticipates: the naming of her child: "he shall be called John." God reserves his best blessings for the faithful. He has ordained that they shall unfold around the altar of God. In prosperity, in famine, in darkness, in adversity, whatever the circumstances may be, do not desert the altar of God. Lord, help us to be faithful in the midst of a dark world!
Come to worship with us at HARMONY PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace. Services begin at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday morning. Phone 501-337-1115.
by His Grace,
Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor.