Rebuilding the Altar
Jeshua . . . joined his fellow priests . . . in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses (v.2).
Each New Year promises the opportunity to start afresh—the prospect of a new beginning. The Israelites had been a rebellious and disobedient people. After 70 years of exile, they were allowed to return home to Judea. They were also given the necessary help and resources to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1). They could start afresh with God. But howdo you start afresh with Him?
Their first step was not to rebuild the temple. Instead, they chose to rebuild the altar (vv.2-3). The altar was the place where God met with His people (exodus 29:42- 43). It was impossible for sinful people to have fellowship with the Holy God. So burnt offerings had to be sacrificed to God as atonement for sins: “the Lord will accept [the animal’s] death in your place to purify you, making you right with Him” (Leviticus 1:3).
These burnt offerings pointed to God’s perfect once-for-all sacrifice for sins—Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:12). The altar was the place of repentance and renewal, cleansing and acceptance by God. His people rebuilt the altar at the onset of their work, for they first needed to get right with God!
Three times we’re told that they sacrificed burnt offerings “as instructed in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 3:2), “as prescribed by the Lord” (v.5). Their new beginning was characterized and evidenced by their obedience to God’s Word.
God graciously offers you the opportunity of a fresh start with Him. But you must return from “Babylon” and come to the cross of Calvary—the altar where Jesus was sacrificed to atone for your sins. That’s the starting point of new beginnings.
How is your altar broken? To begin afresh with God, receive forgiveness of sin and acceptance from Him (1 John 1:9).