“... the altar of the Lord ... was in ruins,” (1 Kings 18:30)
The altar, of course, speaks of sacrifice, of self-denial. Contextually, God’s people, of the northern kingdom of Israel, had abandoned the worship of Yahweh, their God, and ‘indulged themselves’ in hedonistically inclined idolatry with the prophets of Baal and Asherah. The situation was desperate! The need of the hour was for a manifestation of a God who answered by fire.
In these early years of the 21st century, few clear-thinking, Bible-believing, Christians would deny the great spiritual needs around the world. In so many areas, not least our own nation, the situation is desperate. The need of the hour is for a supernatural encounter, a spiritual revival.
Now then, if the supreme need of the hour is revival, why is revival not coming? Has God ceased to be interested in the souls of men? Of course not! My dear friends - the reason, perhaps, revival is not coming is because our altars are broken. We remain, in some areas of our lives (at least), un-surrendered.
In John chapter 12 there is a fascinating (and searching) passage of Scripture where some Greeks came to Philip (Jesus’ disciple) with the request: “Sir… we would like to see Jesus.” (verse 21). However, no-where in that passage do we read that they were granted their wish. On the contrary, we read that: “Jesus left and hid himself from them.” (verse 36). Interestingly, between the request of the Greeks and Jesus’ departure there is, recorded, Jesus’ amazing statement, as he predicts His death: “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (verse 24). Perhaps these Greeks didn’t ‘see Jesus’ as they asked because they were not prepared to ‘become like Jesus in His death’ and deny themselves.
I have quoted before the words of the Scottish Theologian and Preacher, James Denney (1856 - 1917): “The Kingdom of God is not for the well-meaning, it’s for the desperate.” And the desperate: Deny themselves and take-up their cross.
Prolific holiness writer, Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917), penned: “It is comparatively easy to lead people to a cross, but a cross that leaves them un-crucified.”
Jim Elliot (the missionary martyr at the hands of the Auca Indians in Ecuador), whilst reflecting upon the words of Psalm 104:4 - [He makes] His ministers a flame of fire, wrote while a student at Wheaton College: "Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this my soul - short life? In me there dwells the spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him.”
For the sake of our desperate nation, our desperate world, shall we join together and prayerfully echo the words of Charles Wesley: “O thou who camest from above. The pure celestial fire to impart. Kindle a flame of sacred love. On the mean altar of my heart!”
There remains “a sore famine in the land.” (1 Kings 18:2 - AV) The situation is desperate! The pertinent, though somewhat, uncomfortable question - is my altar, is your altar… is it in ruins?