Monday, February 2, 2015

Losing a child

Some time last year around mid July, a group from our church went to a neighbouring country for a 2-day retreat. I helped to organise the retreat, assisted by the many dedicated and wonderful fellow leaders in the church.

Before I went on the retreat, my wife and I found out that she is pregnant with our second child. Our first child was 12 years old then. We had been praying for a second child for many years. And we were delighted that the Lord has given us the breakthrough. I could not wait to share the good news with my friends and families. We plan to share with our closest friends once we clear the 8-week mark.

We had a wonderful time at the retreat. And it went really well. I shared a room with a fellow brother.

Our second visit to the gynaecologist took place just 2-3 days after the retreat. To our great amazement and dismay, the doctor shared with us that the foetus has stopped growing. The doctor did a hormone test for my wife. A pregnant person has her hormone level doubled everyday. So if my wife's hormone level isn't increasing, it confirms that it is not going well. We went back on the first Thursday after the retreat. It was confirmed that my wife's hormone has dropped. We were offered a procedure to remove the foetus. We asked if the body could reject the foetus on its own. We were told that it is possible. But there is no telling when it would happen. And when it happens there could be a lot of pain and a great deal of blood loss, which may result in an emergency. And the rejection may not be clean. But we decided to still let the body does its thing, as we were trusting for God to revive the child.

When we left the doctor's office we were ok. Our mood was solemn but we have discussed that whatever the outcome, we were going to a nice place that we both like to have something to eat. I did not feel like meeting anyone. I just wanted to leave the hospital with my wife quietly. And lo and behold, I bumped into a church friend J. J and his wife have been believing for a baby for many years. And they found out that his wife is pregnant after the retreat for his group, which happened just before my retreat. It is indeed a wonderful blessing from the Lord! But at that moment there was a stark contrast between us. Like me, he also helped to organize the retreat for his group. But unlike me, he was radiant and happy. And I was caught in my worst. We exchanged some quick hellos and he was surprised to see me, as he did not know that my wife was pregnant. He asked why was I in the hospital and I told him it is a routine checkup. And I did a quick exit.

That night I went to conduct an after action review for the retreat that I helped to organise and my fellow leaders and I had a good time. They had no idea what happened to me earlier in the day. My wife, as always, is a strong support for my serving the Lord. She had not needed me by her side (and miss the after action review with the leaders ) as we had planned it that way.

That weekend, I decided to bring my wife and my daughter to the neighbouring country for our own retreat. Amazingly, the hotel gave us the exact same room as the one I stayed in one week before during the retreat. As the hotel has many rooms, it cannot be a coincidence. It is as if the Lord wanted us to know that He is in control. We had a good time. On Sunday, early in the morning, my wife called out to me. We had lost our child. I helped her and she was ok. There was no pain. We both went back to sleep. And we spent the rest of Sunday shopping, eating well and we went back home.

I shared our loss with many close church friends. I understand Job's story very well. And I know tragic incidents that happen in our lives work to persuade us that God is not good to us. They wear us down. Bend our will. Cause us to give up and finally say with our mouth that God is not a good God. I know too well not to allow that to happen. Frankly, there were many moments that my mind could have wandered into darker places. Like when the doctor told us we lost the child, and when I bumped into a fellow friend J who was in stark contrast to me. Some people may question why would it happen after a faithful serving at the retreat. I know well enough not to ask those questions, which are irrelevant to the goodness of God. I did not let my mind wander into the darker places. When I cannot see clearly, I take out my bottomline belief - which is that that God is a good God. That statement stands alone on its own. No matter what our circumstances are. It will not fail us. To me it is like this - if the Lord died for me when I was a sinner on the way to hell, why would I think that a pile of rubbish that appears at my front door is His doing just because He went away for a while? Because Jesus has given me His life to save me, it is too late to tell me He will pile troubles at my door. He is not like that.

We continue to serve the Lord. And we thank Him that the process of the body rejecting the foetus works very well for us. It was very good timing. There was no pain. It did not cause us any inconvenience. And when our doctor checked my wife again, it was clean and the doctor did not need to do any follow up procedure on my wife. And this is what we hoped for. And at about the time we lost our child that Sunday morning, a sister in the church received the word from the Lord that says "He is with me". The sister later shared with us the word, not knowing what had happened to us. And thus we know that it is a boy. We had always thought that it is a boy. We thank the Lord that my child is with Him. And that He has blessed us with a boy. We will see our child one day. I like a song sang by Watermark called "Glory Baby". The lyrics talks about losing a child and saying that heaven is all that the child will ever know, and that Jesus will hold the child before the parents do. I take great comfort in knowing that. And I am thankful to the Lord for blessing us with the child and looking after our child, who is also His child.

After the incident, I gave up trying to have a second child. And amazingly, my wife conceived shortly after in September, less than two months after our child went to be with the Lord. Our son will be born June 2015. Praise God! It is quite a miracle for a couple who isn't trying, and has not been able to conceive for so many years. I know the Lord has restored us. He is a God that gives us beauty instead of ashes, and oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah 61:3). He is our shield and our exceeding great reward (Genesis 15:1). He is our shield, our glory and the lifter of our heads. And those who trust in the Lord shall not be put to shame (Romans 10:11, Isaiah 28:16).

I think a reader would be able to draw many object lessons from our testimony. Remember. In our lives when everything does not seem to work, you only need to grab hold of Jesus. Never let Him go. He is and will always be our only Hope.

Every challenge in life is an opportunity to trust God and walk with Him. It is beautiful to see Him lift us out of our troubles. Walking well with the Lord takes practice. Every challenge (we did not invite them) is a lemon. But they still work in our favor when we hold on to Him. They just caused us to walk more skillfully with the Lord and enjoy more of His blessings in restoration. In heaven, we will have so many wonderful conversations with the Lord on even "lemons" :). I could picture and imagine those warm conversations I would have with my Lord, my Friend and Savior. 

Blessed is the man who makes Yahweh his trust, And doesn't respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. 
Many, Yahweh, my God, are the wonderful works which you have done, And your thoughts which are toward us. They can't be set in order to you; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. -Psalms 40:5 (WEB)

Afterthought 2:
One should not make his blog post too complicated. Thus, I am only adding this additional part of the story here. Actually, there was further challenge on the current pregnancy when it just passed the first trimester. It happened one day after church. We were still in the church vicinity. My wife went to the restroom and found that there is a large discharge of blood. She called my mobile for me to meet her immediately. It instantly reminded us of the pregnancy just prior to this that also had such symptoms. This one is even more severe. 

Would we also lose this pregnancy? Now that I have shared my glorious testimony of the Lord's restoration with my church friends, how do I prepare them to receive such news of a second failure? What would happen to their faith? And for me, it is a second hit in a short time. Would I still now believe that God is good? Or would this incident cause me to change my mind about God? 

Those thoughts came to me. Frankly, on a logical basis I know that such blood discharges could mean that the pregnancy is not going well. My wife, as always, is as cool as a cucumber. She told me to bring her home to wash up and then go to the hospital emergency. She is a remarkable woman. We did all we needed to do with much calm. And then we were at the hospital emergency room. 

The doctor scanned my wife. And told us the pregnancy is alright. We could not believe our ears. Praise God! The following week, we went back to our regular doctor. It is confirmed that not only is the pregnancy good, my child is growing above average! Praise God! The doctor could not quite explain why is there a sudden discharge. And we choose to ignore it. Over the span of 1 month, it slowly ebbed and then went away. 

If I have something to say it is this. Walking with the Lord, we are called to walk courageously. Because our God is strong and He will resolve every matter. Jesus kept saying "Don't be afraid" to the people around Him and to His disciples. And today the Lord would be saying the same to us. Don't be afraid. Because our God is mighty. Come what may, our God will settle it with His own Right hand. Be prepared. Have that resolve within us. Know this: that though circumstances may take us by surprise, they never take our God by surprise. Our God is our ready help. All the time. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Psalms 46:1 (WEB)

Haven't I commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; don't be afraid, neither be dismayed: for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9 (WEB)

If you falter in the time of trouble, Your strength is small. -Proverbs 24:10 (WEB)


Thursday, June 5, 2014

What the Lord wants for me with regards to peace

In my heart, I had wished to have an improvement in a certain area of my life. It is a material thing. I felt that if I have it, I will be more rested. And I will feel more peaceful. So I was wishing for it.

I believe this is common and it happens to many of us. Some may feel if you have a better car, you will have a quieter journey, a smoother ride and feel more comfortable. You will then feel more rested and more peaceful when you travel. Some may wish for a better house in a better environment so that you can rest better and be more peaceful. Some may want to have a better education. With a better education, you would be able to find a better job and that will make you feel more rested about our future. Thus brings us more peace. Some wish for millions of dollars. They think that with so much money, their future would be secured and they can rest and be peaceful with themselves. Some may feel you need to get married, then you will have peace. Some may feel you need to have a child, then you will have peace. Some may feel if you solve that marriage or family issue, then you will have peace.

Do you have such a wish in your life right now? Think. If you do then this post would be more meaningful for you. For me, I have been hoping to have "that thing" as I believe I will be more peaceful if I have it. After a long time the Lord answered. And what He said is what my Pastor has been preaching so frequently. How could I have missed it! The truth is right in front of me.

The Lord wants me to find peace in Jesus. The Lord is the primary source of our peace. He is known as the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). Though things we see around us in the world can provide a certain amount of peace, the principal source of peace is in the Lord. I then understand that if I can find peace in the Lord, I can have peace anytime, under any circumstances, right now. And the good news is that I do can find peace in the Lord! We all can. Jesus died at the cross to give us His peace.
27Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don't let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. (John 14, WEB)
Once I remember the Lord again, and realised that He is my peace, I felt so happy and so relieved. I never need to rely on getting anything as a pre-condition for peace ever again.  I can be at rest right where I am.

You don't need that quarrel to mend before you can have peace. You don't need to see healing to your physical challenge before you can have peace. You don't need your child to turn around before you can have peace. You don't need to have that financial challenge resolved before you have peace.

I believe that all of us need to meditate on what this peace means to us. What it can do for us. The greek word for peace, "eirene", also means wholeness, referring to all essential parts joining together (HELPS word-studies). As we spend time to take hold of Jesus as our peace, our outward circumstances will also improve and things in our lives will begin to come together. Isn't it better to have peace first and then see circumstances improve? Instead of having to wait for circumstances to improve before we can have that peace - we would have suffered so much. God is wise indeed to have designed it this way.

Find peace in the Lord. Jesus is your peace.

Hope this blesses you.

Shalom. Isaac.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Christian in Adversity

Recently a friend was quite unhappy. He has been thanking God everyday that his car would not break down. But well, it did. He cannot figure out why. His feeling may be that he already did all the right things. But why did the protection not work? 

I can think of two points, which are very interesting for us to look at. 

1) Thanking God everyday to some of us is like pushing a "protection" button daily. But if the protection is there, why push the button everyday? 

If I had known the protection is there I may not think about my car breaking down everyday, as I am not occupied by it. Thus, I may thank God here and there, but perhaps not everyday. And if my car breaks down I would still have no doubt my car is protected. And won't be easily thrown off. 

So the key is not what we do right to activate God's blessings. But in our own time we need to always to go back to the foundation of our belief, which is Jesus Christ dying for me at the cross. Once I am established in that, I would have no doubt I am protected. It is good for me to thank God. But I thank Him because I am grateful for what He has done, not to activate His blessings. I thank Him cos' I know His blessings are there for me. 

But no matter what, the believer is not out of God's blessings and protection. See point 2. 

2) The second point is immensely interesting. Many Christians are surprised and perplexed when they pray and see that not only did their prayer not come true, they are challenged in the exact area that they are praying for. 
Say I pray to get a promotion. But instead my boss starts to pick on me, and favors others over me. To most of is we would think that:
- our prayer did not come true. 
- God is displeased w us and is not w us. 
- we are not worthy or has done something wrong. 

It is none is the above. 

Now can you think of an incident in the bible (New Testament) where a bible character asked for something from God. But instead something very contrary happened. And the bible character stuck w God and prevailed? Try guessing for fun. And then scroll down to find out. 

Jesus told His disciples that they will get over to the other side of the lake (Mark 4:35, Matt 8:23, Luke 8:22). But a storm arose. Waves were hitting their decks. It was so bad that the whole boat was filled w water and was sinking. They were fishermen in that lake. Professionals. But they were freaked out. It must be bad! They woke The Lord and asked Him if He cares that they are perishing. Cos' it looks like they are dying and The Lord is not going to do anything. Jesus woke up, rebuked the storm by saying the direct contrary to it (peace!) and asked them why are they afraid.  Why do they have no faith? 

What can we learn from this? Here we see that even when Jesus walked on earth, something contrary to what He has spoken ("get over to the other side") can happen. It is amazing isn't it? Mind blowing! But this serves as an object lesson for His disciples then, and now for us. Due to us being present in a fallen world, the enemy can come to challenge us. So we need not be surprised when it happens to us too. When I pray and should something contrary happens, I know:
- God does not want me to be afraid. He is not behind the adversities to teach me a lesson. In fact, He is my help!
- my prayers are still being answered. What happens is a disruption. A distraction. Not a gauge of my blessings in Christ. The enemy has no power to remove God's blessings in my life (Romans 8:38-39)
- there is nothing wrong w me. God likes me. God is still good to me. In fact, Jesus is still in my boat and has never left. And if God is for me, who should I fear (Psalms 118:6)? 
- God wants me to exercise faith in the situation. That could be the reason why Jesus is sleeping while all the storm is happening. Cos' the moment He is wakened He spoke against the storm and calmed it. Thank God He did not awaken and invite His disciples to brave the storm together w Him. This is what many Christians believe, that God wants believers to brave the storm. If this is so, the Lord would not have stilled the storm the moment He was awakened by the disciples. To The Lord, when there is sickness and He is there, the sickness turns into health. When there is lack and He is there, there will be more than enough. When there is sadness and death and He is there, there will be celebration and life. Cos' sickness, death, sadness, defeat all does not belong w Him. 

How do we exercise our faith - our belief in Jesus' finished work? The Lord demonstrated how faith works by speaking to the storm, speak directly in the face of our difficulties. God wants me to hold my ground and speak the direct opposite to the adversities I am faced with. Jesus spoke "peace!" to the storm. So in our example, even when I prayed and my boss does not like me, I will say "I have favor w my boss, he is a great blessing to me." And God shall foul the plan of the enemy and remove the work of the enemy to give me victory in the situation. 

1 John 5:4-5 because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith. Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 

Beloved, be encouraged in The Lord. Because you believe in Jesus, you are an overcomer. A conquerer of the world around us! Hope this blesses you. 

Shalom. Isaac. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

John wavers at the Grace of God

The picture above is taken at the Sea of Galilee in Israel in Dec late last year. Israel is a wonderful place.

I was reading Matt 11:2-18. The verses talk about how John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the messiah. After Jesus answered John's disciples and they left, Jesus spoke to those around him about John. Some things Jesus say there are hard to understand.

Let's look at these verses together. This post is like a bible study of these verses. It will be good for you to read Matt 11:2-18 on your own before you continue.
2Now when John heard in prison about the deeds Christ had done, he sent his disciples to ask a question: 3“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: 5The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 6Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Matt 11, NET)
By this time, God has revealed to John that Jesus is the Messiah whom John has been sent to proclaimed (John 1:26-34), and John has publicly proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah. But why did John now doubt who Jesus is? This because John is the last of the Old Testament prophets (Malachi 3:1-5, 4:5-6). In the Old Testament God's prophets bring a message of God's wrath to God's people if they disobey. And that is what John did. See Matthew 3:10,12. Thus, when John was imprisoned, and Jesus did not rescue him, John probably started to doubt if Jesus is the Messiah. It might be also because he heard about the gracious deeds of Jesus, which were different from John's approach. Thus, John is a little shaken in his faith, and from what Jesus said in verse 6, we know that John has been offended by what the Messiah is doing. John could not agree with His methods. John's struggle is with grace, which Jesus brings on the scene. But notice how gentle Jesus is towards John. He reminded John of the Messianic miracles He was doing that only the Messiah is prophesied to do (Isaiah 35), thus confirming His gracious deeds to be genuine. And His soft rebuke to John in verse 6 sounds like a blessing instead of a scolding.

After John's disciples left, Jesus defended John. How kind is our Lord. John became a beneficiary of the grace that John sought to question.
7While they were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes? Look, those who wear fancy clothes are in the homes of kings! 9What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written:
Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.
11“I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. 
Jesus asked them if they think John is like a reed shaken by the wind, referring to the obvious fact that John has now openly shifted his position and questioned His person. Then Jesus asked if John wears fancy clothes, perhaps asking if they think John is frivolous and not to be taken seriously. But stating the first point (reed shaken) and the second point together (wear fancy clothes), and refuting the second point, it has the effect to the hearer that Jesus is refuting both points. But yet Jesus never explicitly refute the first point. Jesus did not want the people to see less of John. This is the wisdom and gentleness of our Lord.

The Lord then went on to affirm John further, confirming him not only to be a prophet that is prophesied in Malachi 3, but to be someone who is the greatest among anyone who is born of women. The word "no one has arisen" has the perfect tense. Which would mean since the time of John, there will never be anyone born of women that is greater than John. Even now.

From there, the Lord begins to reveal about His Ministry in a powerful way. The Lord says that anyone who is born into the Kingdom of heaven is greater than John. Isn't it amazing? And that is the Lord's ministry - to get people to be born again into the Kingdom of heaven  (John 3:5-6).
12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it. 13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John appeared. 14And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is to come. 15The one who has ears had better listen!
The Lord's ministry is powerful, yet it is not obvious. John's ministry of repentance and water baptism can be seen by all. But Jesus bringing grace may appear weak and lacking in power. But actually Jesus' ministry of grace is a lot more powerful as it gets people saved into the Kingdom of Heaven. Something the Law and the Prophets can never do. What is unseen is powerful than what is seen. Jesus is now putting things in the correct perspective for His audience. This grace that He brought is actually a secret that at that time nobody could know because the prophecies of the old testament ends at John (verse 13), and will begin at the end when Elijah himself will appear with Moses (Revelation 11:3) (verse 14). John himself is Elijah because he comes in the spirit of Elijah. The 2000 years of the age of grace for gentile believers has not been prophesied in the bible. It is a mystery (Ephesians 3:5), that gentiles could be saved and be partakers of the promises of the Messiah, like the Jews are. This is the reason why in Nazareth when the Lord read from the book of Isaiah 61 (Luke 4:18), He stopped at "acceptable year of the Lord" and did not continue with the next verse which speaks about Judgement. That will come 2000 years later in His second return.

All these are profound mysteries. Which is why the Lord asked those with ears to listen (verse 15).

In fact, verse 12 shows how powerful the Lord's ministry is. Verse 12 is hard to understand. And it should have been written like this:
12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence  advances forcefully (reference 1), and forceful people people guided by God to act with positive assertiveness (reference 2) lay hold of it. 
 The tense for "advances forcefully" is present tense. Which is mean it is always true, even now. It only appears one more time in the New Testament in Luke 16:16:
16“The law and the prophets were in force until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it.
The word "urged to" is the same word as "advances forcefully", and it is also in present tense.  You can see from Luke 16:16 that it is a sister verse to Matt 11:12.

The word "lay hold" in verse 12 is also in the present tense. Combining verse 12 and Luke 16:16, we see that since John's days when Jesus came onto the scene and start to preach the gospel, God's kingdom has been advancing in a strong way, with people continually entering in a mighty way without stopping.

Praise God for His gospel! Many people took verse 12 to say that we need to work hard to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is wrong. As there is no mention of the people being able to contribute positively to this process - it is purely the work of God. The proof? The succeeding verses, where Jesus berated the people of His generation. There is no strength to be found. So the victory could not have come from their contribution, but the power of the gospel of Christ.
16“To what should I compare this generation? They are like children (little children, infants) sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another (others of a different type) (reference 3) ,
17‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance;
we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
How should we see verse 16 to 19? Verse 17 directly relates to verse 18 due to the word "For" in the beginning of verse 18. The Lord is saying that the people of His generation are like little children, who call out openly to people who are not like them (John and Jesus, or in general, the minsters of God). John's ministry is an Old Testament ministry and it is a serious one, yet the people wanted to ask John to be celebratory. Jesus on the other hand, ushers in an era of grace and He is celebratory, yet the people wanted Him to be sad. And in both cases John and Jesus are criticised.

This is a major point. The people should have flowed with God. Yet they prefer to have their own vain imaginations of God and want God's ministers and plan to conform to their imaginations and fancy. This will never work. We will need to conform to God's work based on His Word. And not the other way around. In fact Jesus is so adamant about this, that He went on to curse Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum in verse 20 which is out of our scope here.

That's it :). So as you can see, the Lord's word is so impregnated with His Truths. In these short 17 verses, we see

1) Why John wavered
2) How the Lord protected John's public opinion and corrected John ever so gently
3) How the Lord put His own ministry into proper perspective, showing how powerful His gospel is, that men since then has been continuously being added to the Kingdom of God in a powerful way
4) And how we should conform to the pattern of God, and not imagine God to be in a certain way in our mind and expect Him to conform to our expectations. This is why knowing the Word of God is so important.

Hope this post helps you see God's Word in a better way. I wrote it for me to see Him in a better way.

Shalom. God bless you richly.

1. 971 biázō – properly, to use power to forcibly seize, laying hold of something with positive aggressiveness971 /biázō ("to advance forcefully") is only used twice in the NT (both times positively). ()

2. Cognate: 973 biastḗs – positive assertiveness; used of the believer living in faith ("God's inworked persuasions") guiding and empowering them to act forcefully – i.e. "fired up" by God to act by Hisrevelation. It is used only in Mt 11:12. See 971 (biazō). ()

3. 2087 héteros – another (of a different kind). 2087 /héteros ("another but distinct in kind") stands in contrast to 243 /állos ("another of the same kind"). 2087 /héteros ("another of a different quality") emphasizes it is qualitatively different from its counterpart (comparison). ()

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why the altar to God cannot be made of cut stones

In the old testament, people built makeshift altars or pillars to the Lord at places that God has shown kindness to them. Sacrifices are made at the altar to God as a worship to Him. The altar also serves to mark the place where God has shown kindness to them. Because God is faithful, altars mark a permanent place where God will always remember His kindness to men, and respond to them there. In Genesis 28 and 35, you can read about the pillar Jacob built for the Lord in Bethel, and how the Lord remember the place where He has shown kindness to Jacob, and continue to show him kindness there. Noah, Abraham, Isaac all made altars to the Lord in this manner.

Actually the Lord gave instructions in the bible on how the altar to Him is to be built. It is found in Exodus 20. This shall be our anchor chapter in this writing:
24You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you. 25If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it. 26Neither shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.' (Exodus, 20:24-26, WEB)
Before verse 24 in Exodus 20, God gave the 10 commandments and the people were very afraid. And God immediately taught the people through Moses in verse 24 about building the altar and how sacrifices to Him can be made on it. The animal sacrifices speak of Jesus' work at the cross. I believe God know men will fail and the only way out is Jesus' coming to die for men's sins at the cross. This is how Exodus 20 ends. In Exodus 21, God immediately speaks about the slave in the master's house, which is a picture of Jesus being sent to be nailed at the cross because our Lord loves His Master (God) and His wife (the church, who is the bride of Christ) and chose to be pierced and remain as our High Priest in human form forever. 

So we see that God's heart is in redemption through His Son. But do you know that Jesus is hidden in verse 25 as well? In verse 25, God says that if an altar of stone is to be made (this is different from the altar of earth mentioned in verse 24), it shall not be made from stones cut by hand, because once we cut the stone, we would have polluted or defiled it. The word "polluted" means "pierced" in Hebrew. It is the same word used in the messianic verse of Isaiah 53:5:
5But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53, WEB)
The stones in Exodus 20:25 that are used to make the altar to God represents Jesus our Rock. He can only be pierced by God, and certainly not by us. That's why for the altar we use stones that are naturally cut (by God). When Elijah built the altar to God at Mount Carmel (1Kings 18) against the prophets of Baal, he built a stone altar to the Lord using twelve stones, one for each tribe of Israel. When God answered his prayer with fire from the heavens, all the stones were consumed. Both the stones and the animal sacrifices speak about Jesus' work at the cross.  

Wow. When I learnt this about the stone altar for God, it educated me about the way we should come to God. My standing before God is in Christ. And God wanted me to bring Jesus to Him when I worship Him. I do not stand before God on my own. In verse 26 it says we should not go up to the altar by steps. This means there is no level of attainment when it comes to getting closer to God. We are all the same. No one can say that he is on a high level with God using steps that he has cut (achieved) for himself. As believers we come to God on level ground and we all get to bring Jesus to God to remind Him of the perfection of His Son's work. And thus be blessed and accepted by Almighty God our Father. Only His Son's work can satisfy His heart and His righteous requirements. 

Beloved, knowing this, 
16Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need.

Praise the Lord! Shalom.