The last piece on the altar
1 Kings 18:32-38
With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood…. “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. NIV
Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal is one of my favourite stories in the Bible. I just love his boldness, courage and faith in the Lord. He was willing to stake his very life on the faithfulness of God. He knew that this was a life or death struggle; if God did not show up, the prophets of Baal would surely slaughter him.
And how the Lord backed him up! I get excited just reading those lines: “then the fire of the Lord fell…. ”
We all want to see the fire fall, don’t we? We all want to see the power of God made manifest in our lives. We have heard about the mighty things God has done in times past, and how He worked in the lives of so many of the men and women we now admire. And surely our cry is, “God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you, and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees. Do among us what you did among them. Work among us as you worked among them” (Habakkuk 3:2 MSG).
I believe that the Lord also desires to demonstrate to us, and to the world, that He is the God who answers by fire. But before the fire can fall, we have to prepare the altar.
In the Bible, the altar was always a place of sacrifice. In 1 Kings, we see Elijah cutting a bull into pieces and putting all the pieces on the altar, and then the fire fell. I can just picture Elijah gathering all the pieces up, making sure that every piece was placed upon the altar.
Can I tell you that we, too, must put every piece upon the altar before the fire can fall?
We often tell God that we surrender all to Him, that He is the potter and we are the clay but have we put the last piece on the altar? Is there an area in our lives that we have not yielded to God?
Many times God speaks to us about a particular part of our lives – our hopes and desires, things that we love, the way we live etc. – I think you know what I am talking about, and He tells us that we need to put that piece on the altar as well. Do we hold back or do we let go? Sometimes it is a struggle, isn’t it? Especially when it involves something, or someone for that matter, that we love, that we consider very important. We make excuses for not letting go. We try and convince ourselves that it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things.
But until we are ready to put the last piece on the altar, the sacrifice is not complete and God cannot release the kind of fire that we long for.
I guess it all comes down to how much we want the fire. Is it just something that is simply nice to have or is it something that we desperately want and need? If we are desperate for the fire, we will be willing to put every last piece on the altar; we will be willing to go all the way to do whatever it takes for the fire to fall.
I remember the first time I read Gunnar Olsen’s book, Business Unlimited. I found myself envying the kind of relationship he has with the Lord and the awesome things that he has experienced in his life. But then I read that when the Lord once told him to give every last cent he had away, he did not hesitate. Overnight he became penniless but he had put the last piece on the altar, and the fire fell on his life and his ministry. He gave away all he had… and gained everything!
I don’t know about you but I am tired of mediocre Christianity that promises a lot and delivers little. I am tired of empty religion and of holding back small pieces of my life and missing out on the awesome fire of God.
Let’s put every last piece on the altar; let’s not hold back anymore…whatever that piece may be…and I know the Holy Spirit is already impressing it upon each of us …let’s put it on the altar. The fire will surely fall because He is the God who answers by fire!