by Callie Crafton
“We have an Altar….”
What is an altar? When I think of an altar, my mind automatically thinks of beautiful oak benches that have been sanded, stained, polished and perfectly placed in the front of our churches for a place to kneel and pray. But an altar in the Old Testament was completely opposite of today’s place of worship. I’m sure they weren’t beautifully structured or had plans drawn out to have the perfect scallops on the edges, but I imagine they were well-used, bloody and held the proof of a place of where sacrifices were laid. The Hebrew word for altar, mizbe(a)h, means a “place of slaughter or sacrifice”. Throughout the Old Testament we see where men built altars unto God as an act of surrender and worship to Him. Here are two altars I want to look at: An Altar of Surrender - Genesis 22:9-14
9 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.
10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now, I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13 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.
14 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.
Abraham was in need of pardon, guidance, comfort, strength, courage, and wisdom that only God could give. Many commentators have said that “God was wanting to see Abraham’s willingness to trust Him with his son Isaac.” An aspect of a fully surrendered life is completely trusting God. “Mary, Lazarus’ sister, expected a miracle without knowing ‘How.’ Joseph trusted God’s purpose without knowing ‘Why’ circumstances happened the way that they did. Hannah waited for God’s perfect timing without knowing ‘When.’ And Abraham followed God’s leading without knowing ‘Where’ it would take him.” – Unknown As I reflect on my years of living, I see many times where God has asked me to sacrifice something in order to see if I truly am willing to live without it. How far are you willing to go to Trust God? I believe that even before Abraham and Isaac started up the mountain, God already had the ram in place. An Altar to Remember - I Kings 18:30-39
In verses 32-34, it says “And with the stones, he (Elijah) built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces and laid him on the wood. And said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said do it a second time. And they did it a second time. And he said do it a third time and they did it a third time.”
I don’t know about you, but I can definitely relate to this. I’ve come to God many times before and said “Okay God, I have repaired the altar that was broken and I have poured out barrels of my life upon it, what’s next?” And it’s as if His tender response to me is “Go back and do it a second time and a third time.” We tend to have the mentality of “Let's just move on, and get beyond this,” but God wants us to remember what He has done. I have always enjoyed journaling and here recently I have found myself flipping through the pages of old journals and reflecting on where God has brought me from, and how He is taking me through. Peter himself journaled in his second epistle:“I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.” (2 Peter 3:1)
I know of a man who was needing to fill a ditch on his property so he started by taking a rock and placing it in that ditch every time he would go to pray. That pile of rocks turned into an over thirty-feet long and ten-feet wide ‘Altar’. I’m sure some people, not knowing the story behind it, looked at those rocks with the question of "What purpose does this serve?" Not everyone will understand the altars you have ‘built’ in your life. Some may look at your altars and say “What is this big pile of rocks all about?” But to you, it will be a place of surrender, sacrifice, and remembrance. It is my prayer for you today that as you reflect on your altars, you will be reminded of the goodness and faithfulness of our God.
“Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart, does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest and have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul”.
-Elisha A. Hoffman (1900)