Pastor Choi challenges the congregation to join in Family Prayer Altar Challenge for the next five weeks (30 days except Sundays). Taking the example of Gideon, he explains that God requires us to do two things before we go out into the world and make a difference. Those two things are: Remove the idols in your life and build an altar to God (worship).
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Family Prayer Altar
Judges 6:1-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 The hand of Midian prevailed over Israel; and because of Midian the Israelites provided for themselves hiding places in the mountains, caves and strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites put in seed, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the land, as far as the neighborhood of Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they and their livestock would come up, and they would even bring their tents, as thick as locusts; neither they nor their camels could be counted; so they wasted the land as they came in. 6 Thus Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian; and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.
7 When the Israelites cried to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites; and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt, and brought you out of the house of slavery; 9 and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians, and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you, and gave you their land; 10 and I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not given heed to my voice.”
11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon answered him, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.” 15 He responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” 17 Then he said to him, “If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18 Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay until you return.”
19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. 20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, “Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.
25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, in proper order; then take the second bull, and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the sacred pole that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten of his servants, and did as the Lord had told him; but because he was too afraid of his family and the townspeople to do it by day, he did it by night.
28 When the townspeople rose early in the morning, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the sacred pole beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 So they said to one another, “Who has done this?” After searching and inquiring, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.” 30 Then the townspeople said to Joash, “Bring out your son, so that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Baal and cut down the sacred pole beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who were arrayed against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you defend his cause? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been pulled down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he pulled down his altar.
Every one of us wants to make a difference in the world. God says, “That’s wonderful, My child, go for it, but I want you to do things in proper order. Do these things before you go out and start making a difference.”
We may ask, “What things?” God says, “Remove the idols, worship Me, and change the world.” That’s what I see in today’s story. That’s the proper order of making a difference in the world. Let me explain how I got that inspiration.
One day God’s angel appeared to Gideon and commissioned him to deliver his people from the enemies. God said to him that He was with them. Gideon said that if it were so, why did God’s people still suffer? The LORD replied: because you guys abandoned Me. Because you worship foreign gods instead: “I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not given heed to my voice” (v. 10).
Please notice here that God didn’t send Gideon right away into the battlefield to deliver Israel.
He required two things of him before changing the world. What were they? They were: remove the idols in your own house, worship Me, then go out and rescue My people.
Remember what I said last Sunday? The revelation of God to His people always prompts them to build an altar to Him. The same thing happened again here. God appeared to Gideon, and Gideon built an altar to the LORD.
Something unusual in this picture, though. Gideon built an altar twice to the LORD in one day. Nowhere in the Bible was a man ever asked by God to build an altar twice a day. But Gideon was. In fact, he was the first and the last one who ever built twice an altar to the same God in one day. It seems as if his first altar wasn’t good enough.
Think why God asked Gideon to build another altar after the first one in the same day. Here’s why: because, right next to God’s altar that Gideon built, Baal’s altar was still standing and competing for Gideon’s loyalty. It is like you dating your girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend is accompanying your date wherever you go. You wish him to go away!
When it comes down to worship, our God doesn’t like competition. He deserves and demands an exclusive loyalty from us to Him alone, not to any other gods/not to anybody else or anything else. Even though Gideon built a genuine altar to the LORD first time, when God saw the altar of Baal still standing next to it, He said, “No way. Get rid of it, Gideon!”
By the way, what was Baal? It was one of the foreign gods in the land of Canaan. It was a fertility god. It was the rain god. The meaning of the name is “lord, master, owner, or keeper.” The people of Canaan worshiped it for centuries believing that it would bring blessings. When the Israelites entered the land, God forbade them to worship Baal or any other gods in the land. Yet, the people of Israel went after them. Like the surrounding nations, they too wanted to worship this god of abundance. Like the other people, they too loved the graven and molten image of Baal over no image of Jehovah God.
Let me read verses 25 and 26 one more time: God said to Gideon,
“Pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here” (v. 25-26).
Tear down the altar of Baal and build an altar to Me, God said. Do it on top of the stronghold of the place where Baal’s altar used to be. What is a stronghold? It is a fortified place to protect people in it against attacks. A castle. A fortress. It is built mainly for defense. It provides a place of refuge (1 Samuel 23:19).
We must realize why God calls the altar of Baal a stronghold: Once an altar is built, it becomes the place of refuge. Whatever gods we build an altar to, they become our refuge and master. E.g. When you build an altar to money, it becomes your god and master. When you build an altar to the LORD, He becomes your stronghold and refuge. Gideon’s father built one to Baal and it became his idol and stronghold. God wanted Gideon to remove it, repent of his father’s sin, and re-establish the covenant with Jehovah.
Why the family prayer altar?
This morning, I am launching a challenge of a family prayer altar to re-establish our relationship with God. I urge every family in our congregation to remove their idols first and build a family altar on top of the stronghold of their idols. At this altar, we give God access to our lives. At this altar, we provide God with a stronghold and reign at our home. Our family altar is the base for God to operate in our lives. E.g. Consider an altar like the American flag. Imagine the American Flag flying at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and even in front of our church and our houses. What does it signify? It declares to everyone that America has reign over that territory and place. We agree to live under its law and order. The residents of the house where the flag is flying pledge their allegiance to America.
Same with our family prayer altar. By dedicating our family prayer altar to the LORD, we fly the flag of allegiance to God’s sovereignty over our homes. We welcome God to establish His kingdom and His stronghold in every family member’s life. We also declare to our spiritual enemies that they have no business in our homes. We ask them to look at our altar where God’s reign is firmly established; we tell them loud and clear that they are not welcome in our homes, in fact, we are at spiritual war against them. As we defend our family altar, we defend God’s reign in our homes. At the family prayer altar, we also invoke God’s help, provision, and protection.
That’s what the family prayer altar is all about.
What Are the Benefits of the Family Prayer Altar?
- Repentance and forgiveness of our sins.
- Peace and harmony in our home so that we may as a family hear the voice of God (Lydia Prince). The peace between husband and wife also trickles down to our children.
- Family dialogue replacing TV, smart phones, and other things that deprive the family of quality time.
- Train our children on behalf of our society. At the altar, the family stays strong in the Lord. Families that pray together stay together. We build up our children strong before they go out into the world. “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war and then seek to win” (Sun-Tzu). God prepared Gideon first before He sent him out to the battlefield. Likewise, God will prepare our children at the family altar before they go out into the world.
- Daily: repeated sin offerings were necessary in the temple of God. We do it every day except Sundays, because we already worship the Lord at church.
- 10 minutes max
- Demonstration with the help of Prayer Group
- Sharing. How was your day?
- Scripture (Gospel, Psalms, Proverbs) and Praise
- Prayer. Everyone participates.
- Lord’s Prayer
It is time to wake up from our spiritual slumber. God calls you and your family to the prayer altar! I am looking for 100 families. Our church has three hundred families. We can have at least 100 families who would build their family prayer altar to the LORD daily. Please sign up today and start praying for your family and for our community and society! Amen.