Fire & Glory: The Journey of the Altar & the Cross

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Christ—as it was written and recorded by the physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage begins with the twenty-fourth verse of the twenty-second chapter and continues through to the twenty-second verse of the twenty-third chapter. “The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be xamined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and un condemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was freeborn. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him” (Acts 22:24-29).

 

            “On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he l posed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priest and all their council to appear,  and brought Paul down, and set before them” (Acts 22:30). 

 

            “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and command east me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle” (Acts 23:1-10).

 

            “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.  Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. And when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young men unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young men unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me? And he said, The jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me” (Acts 23:11-22).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the response of the Jews—and not only the Jews but also of many of the religious and political leaders—to the defense of the apostle Paul. As you come to the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will encounter the tremendous reality of the apostle Paul standing before the Jews after being granted permission to speak for himself. In order to truly understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it is necessary to turn your attention to the words which are found in the final portion of the twenty-first chapter—specifically beginning with the twenty-seventh verse. Much of the opening verses of the twenty-first chapter describe the apostle Paul making his way unto the city of Jerusalem—this even after certain prophesied that his journey unto Jerusalem would indeed result in bondage and affliction as the Jews would indeed seize him. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the twenty-first chapter you will find that after the apostle departed from Miletus and meeting with the elders of the Ephesian church he and his companions would depart and come with a straight course to Coos and the day following unto Rhodes and then onto Patar. Luke goes on to write how upon finding a ship sailing over unto Phoenicia they went abroad and set forth continuing on their journey. After discovering Cyprus they left it on the left hand and sailed into Syria having landed at Tyre for the ship was able to unlade her burden there. Upon finding disciples there in Tyre the apostle Paul and his companions would tarry seven days. Here in Tyre the disciples and brethren would declare unto the apostle Paul—through the Spirit—that he ought not go up to Jerusalem. When the apostle Paul had accomplished those days they would depart and go on their way and were brought on their way by the disciples and brethren together with their wives and children until they were brought out of the city.

 

            I am absolutely convinced that in order to truly understand the context surrounding the apostle Paul journeying unto the city of Jerusalem it’s necessary to understand that which the apostle Paul himself recognized and understood concerning this journey for Scripture reveals how the apostle Paul went bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem. With this being said the apostle Paul testified unto the e leaders of the Ephesian church in Ephesus that he did not know what awaited him as he journeyed unto the city of Jerusalem—save only that bonds and afflictions abode and awaited him. The apostle Paul was used to, was groomed, was molded by and even came to expect suffering, affliction, resistance, persecution and opposition in the cities whereunto  he and his companions came. The apostle Paul had come to expect and even anticipate suffering and affliction in whatever cities he would come unto. The apostle Paul knew that his life would not be absent trials, troubles and tribulation in the cities whereunto he traveled and knew that coming unto such cities would indeed bring great affliction, great trouble, great tribulation and more. The apostle Paul would indeed preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto the Jews first and then unto the Gentiles. Ultimately the apostle Paul knew that the Lord Jesus had called and sent him unto the Gentiles, however, he would indeed journey unto various cities, regions, towns, villages and the like teaching and preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words which the apostle Paul spoke and declared unto the Ephesian elders concerning his departure from them and how he knew he would never see their face after that particular day. The apostle Paul knew that Jerusalem was a crucial and pivotal time and juncture in his life and that by journeying unto Jerusalem the apostle Paul would indeed face tremendous suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book beginning with the eighteenth verse:

 

            “And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asian, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, severing the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how it kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with. Joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to get testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watching, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no mans’ silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:18-35).

 

            Pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for that which we find here calls and draws our attention to the understanding which the apostle Paul had concerning his departure from Asia and subsequent journey unto the city of Jerusalem. Scripture reveals how the apostle Paul declared unto the elders of the Ephesian church his going bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem not knowing the things that would befall him there. The apostle Paul did not know the things which would befall him there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, however, the one thing the apostle did know was that the Holy Ghost witnessed and testified unto him that bonds and afflictions abode and awaited him. The apostle Paul knew that bonds and afflictions were waiting for him, however, he would go on to declare that none of those things moved him, neither counted he his life dear unto himself that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the understanding the apostle Paul had concerning his journey unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew and understood that he must needs journey unto the city of Jerusalem and even that he would go bound unto the city of Jerusalem by the spirit. With this being said the apostle Paul did not know what would befall and what awaited him in the city of Jerusalem—save that the Holy Ghost bore witness that bonds and afflictions abode him. This is something which is incredibly significant for the apostle Paul knew that his journey unto Jerusalem would indeed include and involve both bonds and afflictions which would come upon him . The apostle Paul knew by and through the Spirit that his coming unto the city of Jerusalem would indeed result in bonds and afflictions, however, he would and could not know the full extent of that which he would face there in that city.

 

            If there is one thing I find to be absolutely tremendous when you take the time to think about it it’s how the apostle Paul would indeed declare unto the elders of the Ephesian church that he went bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul would testify and declare unto them how he did not know what would befall him there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem—save only that the Holy Spirit bore witness that bonds and afflictions abode him. What we must needs recognize is that the apostle Paul saw through a glass darkly and although he saw a partial picture of what awaited him there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem he did not see the full picture. The apostle Paul was used to bonds, to chains, to afflictions, to prison, to suffering, to persecution, to the resistance and opposition of the Jews. The apostle Paul was used to journeying unto various cities, towns, villages and regions preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus and as a result would indeed experience tremendous persecution—both at the hands of the Jews as well as at the hands of the Jews. What makes this all the more interesting is the apostle Paul would indeed journey unto the city of Jerusalem not knowing what would befall him there, however, he would indeed recall and remember the various struggles, temptations, trials, troubles, afflictions, bonds, opposition and resistance he had experienced in the previous places whereunto he had traveled. In all reality I would dare say the apostle Paul was one who was no longer surprised by suffering nor was he one who was taken back when afflictions, when suffering, when tribulation arose against him in his life for from the very beginning of his walk and journey with the Lord Jesus he knew that he must suffer great things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter as well as the words which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:

 

            “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy> if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

 

            “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strength, settle you To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:1-11).

 

            “I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not fare the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a. night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. IN Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).

 

            “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will nto glory, but in mine infirmities. For through I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth; but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chief east apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-13).

 

            The words which we find in these passages of Scripture are absolutely and incredibly necessary when thinking about the journey the apostle Paul would indeed take unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Peter encouraged and admonished those saints which were scattered and suffering to be not surprised nor alarmed at the fiery trial which was come upon them as though some strange thing happened unto them. The apostle Peter was seeking to encourage and admonish those saints which were scattered and suffering to not be taken back, alarmed and surprised by the suffering which would indeed befall them and would essentially speak unto them as those who recognized, understood and expected sufferings to come unto and upon them. If there is one person who was never surprised nor caught off guard by suffering and affliction it was the apostle Paul. It was the apostle who would declare that if he must needs glory he would glory of the things which concern his infirmities. What’s more is the apostle Paul would go on to declare that he would boast in his infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon him. Not only this but the apostle Paul would write and declare how he took pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses and the like for Christ’s sake. This is something we must needs understand for not only was the apostle Paul not surprised by any manner of suffering and affliction that came upon and befell him but he also learned to be content in weakness. The apostle Paul had learned and perhaps even to expect weakness within his life and to be in a constant state where he would indeed need the strength and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            As I sit here thinking about and considering the words which are found in these passages of Scripture I can’t help but think about how they are directly connected to the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. The apostle Paul knew that he would go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem not knowing what would befall or come upon him there. The only thing the apostle Paul knew was that the Holy Ghost witnessed that bonds and afflictions abode and awaited him. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the words which he spoke in exhortation to the saints which were in Antioch for it would be unto them he would declare that they must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. Not only this but I would dare say the apostle Paul was well aware of the words which the Lord Jesus had spoken when he declared that in this world we would have many trials and troubles but not to fear for He had overcome the world. In addition to this the apostle Paul would also write unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith that all who are godly would suffer for righteousness’ sake and for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ and how he would appear unto the apostle Paul declaring that His grace was sufficient for the apostle and that his strength was made perfect in his weakness. Although the apostle Paul would glory in his infirmities he recognized that it was in weakness—earthly and natural weakness—that the strength of Christ and His grace would be made manifest and available unto him.

 

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul and how the apostle Paul knew that he was going bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul did not know what would await and befall him there save only that the Holy Ghost witnessed and testified unto him that bonds and afflictions abode him. The apostle Paul saw in part a piece of what would would befall him there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem but I am convinced the apostle Paul did not fully know nor did he fully understand that which would come upon and befall him there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. This is something we must needs recognize for I have previously written that the apostle Paul would indeed follow in the footsteps of those who had gone before him unto the city of Jerusalem. I have previously written that the apostle Paul would indeed follow in the footsteps of his Lord Jesus Christ for Jesus too knew and recognized that He needed to go up unto the city of Jerusalem. Jesus knew and understood that He needed to journey unto Jerusalem for it would be in Jerusalem where He would step into that for which He had been called and sent of the eternal Father which was in heaven. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul and how he would indeed walk in and follow the same footsteps which his Lord and Savior would himself walk in. The Lord Jesus recognized and understood that he would go bound unto the city of Jerusalem. What’s more is that the journey which the Lord Jesus Christ took unto the city of Jerusalem was one which would be symbolized in the Old Testament. It is in the Old Testament book of Genesis we read the account of Abraham and his son Isaac and how the LORD would test Abraham—and not only test Abraham but also his faith. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis beginning with the first verse:

 

            “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with t he ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the word: but where it he slams for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said,  Lay not thine hand upon he lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and in thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-Sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-Sheba” (Genesis 22:1-19).

 

            Here in this passage of Scripture we find Abraham himself making the first journey of faith, of trust and confidence unto Jerusalem—or I should say what would be the site of where Jerusalem would indeed be. It would be there in the place where Abraham would journey together with his son—unto the region of Moriah and unto a very specific mountain—Abraham would prepare to make a sacrifice before and unto the living God. The Lord would speak unto Abraham and test him concerning this and whether or not he would fully and completely obey him in all things. What we must needs recognize and understand is the site whereupon Abraham would indeed build the altar, bind his son and prepare to sacrifice him as an offering before and unto the Lord would indeed be the same place where David would build an altar and present a sacrifice before and unto the LORD to stop a plague that was ravaging the city of Jerusalem. What’s more is that it would be in that very same place where the Temple of the LORD would be build by David’s son Solomon as he would fulfill that which was in his father’s heart and build a house unto the living and eternal God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the significance of this mountain—and not only this mountain but also the journey unto the mountain and unto that region which would indeed become the city of Jerusalem. Abraham would essentially be the first to journey unto what would be Jerusalem and the place whereupon the Temple would be built and both David and his son Solomon would build an altar and offer sacrifices in that place. It would be Solomon himself who would build a temple unto the living God and in that place both the fire would fall upon the altar and consume the sacrifice and the glory would fill the Temple. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the Old Testament books of First and Second Chronicles concerning David and Solomon in the region of Moriah where Abraham their patriarch had journeyed all those centuries and generations earlier:

 

            “And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said unto the angel that destroyed It is enough, stay not thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. And David said unto God, is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground. Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD; thou shalt grant it to me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and thee wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily but it for the full price; for I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. And David build there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his word again into the sheath therefore. At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrifice there. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 21:15-30).

 

            “Then David said, This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel. And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God. And David prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the joinings; and brass in abundance without weight; also cedar trees in abundance: for the Zidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David. And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builder for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death” (1 Chronicles 22:1-5).

            “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And he began to build in the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign” (2 Chronicles 3:1-2).

 

            “Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the LORD was in fished: and Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated; and the silver, and the gold, and all the instruments, put he among the treasure of the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:1).

 

            “And it came to pass, when the priest were come out of the holy place: (For all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course: also the Levites which were the signers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons, and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is Good; for his mercy endureth forever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:11-14).

 

            “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. AND the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD was upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

 

            ALTARS! I sit here today thinking about the journey which the apostle Paul would make unto the city of Jerusalem and I can’t help but think about Jerusalem as a place of altars. From the time of Abraham Jerusalem would indeed be a place of altars as the first altar built in that place would be the altar which Abraham himself would build. That altar Abraham built would be the same altar he would lay his son whom he had bound as he prepared to slaughter him as a sacrifice and offering before and unto the living God. Of course we know the LORD God spoke unto Abraham from heaven and commanded him not to lay a hand upon the lad for He then knew that Abraham feared Him and would not withhold even his own son from Him. Scripture reveals how a sacrifice would indeed be made in that place yet it would be a sacrifice of a ram which was caught in the thicket there upon the mount. That ram would indeed be a substitute for Isaac whom Abraham originally and initially thought he was going to sacrifice before and unto the Lord. This is something we must needs recognize for the next altar which would be built in that place would be the altar which David would build at the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. David would build an altar in that place and offer a sacrifice and offering according to the word of the LORD which had been spoken unto him by Gad the seer. It would be there in that place where the LORD would answer by fire as fire would not only come down from heaven upon the altar but would also consume the sacrifice. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for there would be another altar built in this place—an altar that was not a private or personal altar but rather an altar that was corporate and communal. It would be here in this very same place Solomon would build the Temple of the LORD which would house and contain the altar of burnt offering and sacrifice. On the day the Temple was dedicated unto the living and eternal God the LORD would respond once more by sending fire from heaven as fire would come down from heaven and would consume the sacrifice and offering upon the altar. This would be in addition to the glory which would fill the Temple as a cloud of His presence and majesty would be so thick that the priest and Levites could not stand to minister and fulfil their duties.

 

            With all this being said it is absolutely necessary that we understand there were two other altars which would be built within the city of Jerusalem. Of course the most famous altar that would be built in the city of Jerusalem would indeed be that which the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God would sacrifice Himself upon. IT would be there in Jerusalem where the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God would indeed be sacrificed as He would offer Himself before and unto the Father on behalf of the sins of humanity. There in the midst of the city of Jerusalem an altar would be built—and not only would an altar be built but it would be an altar made of wood as the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God would be nailed to a cruel Roman tree by the hands of sinners. This is something we dare not need to recognize and pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to this tremendous principle of altars and what they would indeed mean for us as the disciples of the Lord Jesus. There are those who view the cross upon which Jesus died—even the cross which Jesus carried along the Via Dolorosa—as being an instrument of sacrifice, an instrument of offering and death for Him alone. There are very few men and women who recognize that while the cross was indeed a symbol of death, of sacrifice and of offering before and unto the living God it was and would also be a symbol of o discipleship. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for when we think about the cross we must recognize that Jesus didn’t necessarily die upon the cross that we wouldn’t have to but rather He died on the cross that we might indeed know how to. Lest you think this is something that is somehow incorrect I would seek to remind you of the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples which are recorded in both the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the sixteenth chapter. I would also seek to remind you of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome as well as the words which he wrote in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia:

 

            “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

 

            “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whomsoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).

 

            “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; But yield h yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14).

 

            “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether or sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the Mann of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become the servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:15-23).

 

            “..knowing that a man is not justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall not flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:16-21).

 

            It is absolutely imperative and crucial we recognize and pay close attention to the words presented in these passages of Scripture. The words and language found here in these passages bring us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth of the presence of altars within our lives—and not only the presence of altars within our lives but also the need for us to be man and women who built altars. Abraham would never carry a cross as he journeyed and sojourned within the land of promise, however, he would indeed be a man of the altar as he would build altars in different places whereunto he would journey and sojourn. With this being said I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul would write unto the saints which were at Rome and how the apostle Paul would beseech them according to the mercies of the living God to present their bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto the living God which was their reasonable service or act of worship. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that the cross is so much more than the instrument of death, of sacrifice and offering upon which our Lord died. The cross is indeed a symbol and instrument of discipleship as we have not only been called to be those who carry the cross within and throughout our lives but we have also been called to be crucified with Christ. It would be the apostle Paul who would declare that he was crucified with Christ and that it was no longer he which lived but Christ who lived in him. What’s more is that he would declare that the life which he lived in the flesh he lived by thee faith of the Son of God who loved him and gave himself for him. Moreover the apostle Paul would also write unto the saints which were at Rome concerning the need to crucify their flesh that they might yield their members unto righteousness. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second and third chapters of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi:

 

            “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in loneliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:1-13).

 

            “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but don’t, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things were behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, where to we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:7-16).

 

            The words which we find here call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the presence—and not only the presence but also the need for altars within our lives. The more we think about the reality and manifestation of the cross within our lives the more we must needs acknowledge that the cross is indeed an altar. What’s more is that not only is the cross an altar but the cross invites us to make our lives a continual altar whereby we present our bodies and our lives as a living sacrifice unto the living God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that the cross is an invitation to continually build an altar within our lives as we continually sacrifice and offer ourselves before and unto the living God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful reality of the need for altars as we have indeed and have in fact been called to be men and women who devote ourselves to being men and women of altars. Abraham was a man who built an altar in the various places he sojourned and journeyed in the midst of the land of Canaan and we must needs recognize that we ourselves have indeed been called to be men and women who move and operate in the same manner within our lives. Jesus declared that anyone who does not take up their cross and follow Him is not worthy of Him and this brings us face to face with the tremendous reality that we have indeed and have in fact been called to be men and women of the altar and the cross.

 

The more I think about the journey of the apostle Paul unto the city of Jerusalem the more I am convinced that his journey was in and of itself an altar as he would not only carry within him the marks of his Lord and Savior in his flesh but would also present his body as a living sacrifice which was holy and acceptable in the sight of the Lord. This was something which the apostle Paul would indeed write and speak about in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints when he spoke about having treasures in these earthen vessels. If there is one thing we must needs recognize it’s that each and every one of us has this treasure in earthen vessels—this glory that is present within each and every one of us. Regardless of what age, sex or race we are there is this treasure which is found in earthen vessels—a treasure that can only be released through the process of being broken. More often than not it is through suffering, through affliction, through persecution, through trials and tribulation this treasure is indeed drawn out of us. We would like to think that this treasure found within our earthen vessels can be brought forth without and apart from suffering, affliction and persecution, however, the truth of the matter is that this just isn’t true. More often than not the Lord Jesus can and will allow us to experience and walk through suffering, through pain, through hurt, through wounds, through bruises, through scars, through affliction, through persecution and the like. We as the saints of God and disciples of Christ have indeed been called to be those who carry our cross daily and who not only carry our cross daily but also die daily. We must needs understand that more often than not the only way to extract the treasure that is buried deep within us is through suffering and affliction. It is suffering and affliction that cracks open the vessels and produces the breaking and allows that which is contained within to come forth. There is a great need for us as the saints of God and disciples of Jesus to recognize this and how absolutely necessary it is for us to not only deny ourselves and take up our cross daily but also crucify ourselves and our flesh on a daily basis. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:

 

            “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).

 

            “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in desperate; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about int eh body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in your body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; k bowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through t he thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction,, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).

 

            As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to what we read in the twenty-first, twenty-second and twenty-third chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. There were those in Tyre who would say to Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem while the prophet Agabus would come from Judaea and prophesy unto the apostle Paul that the Jews would bind the man who owned the garment in his hands and deliver them into the hands of the Gentiles. Important to note about this is that when those in the house of Philip the evangelist heard this they besought the apostle Paul to go up to Jerusalem. The apostle Paul would respond unto them by asking them what they meant by weeping and breaking his heart for he was not only ready to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul viewed his life as not being dear unto himself and was willing to offer and sacrifice it for the sake of the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The more you read these words the more you will read that precisely what was told unto the apostle Paul concerning his being bound by the Jews in Jerusalem would indeed take place. The apostle Paul would be bound by the Jews after they would incite a mob in the midst of the city against him. What we read and find in these passages of Scripture call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul coming unto Jerusalem and the city itself being an altar for him whereupon he would prepare to offer himself as a living sacrifice unto the living God. Interesting to note is that while the apostle Paul was in Jerusalem the Lord Himself would appear unto him and encourage him to not lose heart for as He testified concerning him there in Jerusalem so also he would testify in the city of Rome as well. The journey unto Jerusalem would indeed be a catalyst whereby the apostle Paul would ultimately be sent forth unto the city of Rome where he would spend two plus years teaching and preaching the Lord Jesus. That which would begin in Jerusalem would ultimately lead to and bring the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus unto the city of Rome itself. What would begin with the teaching and preaching of John the Baptist would indeed culminate and lead to the apostle Paul journeying unto the city of Rome and preaching and proclaiming the word and name of the Lord Jesus.

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