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Altar Builders

Genesis 22:6-9 (NKJV)
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. 9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.

They built them from stones, blocks and wood. Sometimes they pile the material together roughly.  Sometimes they measure carefully and lay everything out in precision.  Sometimes they are left in the raw state.  Sometimes they cover them with bronze, silver or even gold.  Twenty-five hundred years ago, they were built out in the open air, in valleys, beside river beds or on mountain tops.  Today, they are elaborate works of art or architecture crafted to be center showpieces in ornate cathedrals. 

I am talking about altars.  Many nominal Christians have a mental image of an altar as a place where mysterious religious rituals take place.  Communion wine and wafers are served there.  Prayers are intoned at the altar.  It seems far above and beyond the reach of the common layperson.  

Others of us know that the altar is the place where our relationship with God achieves its reality.  The altar is where I knelt to find the Lord.  The altar is where I found repentance and forgiveness.  The altar is where I received spiritual blessings.  The altar is where I consecrated myself to God.  The altar is where my heavenly vision was made clear.  The altar is where my soul was galvanized into action.  The altar is where the best things in life happened to me.  

Every Bible patriarch built an altar.  Noah, having been spared along with his wife, his three sons and their wives from the global devastation of the flood, the flood that wiped out all the known civilization of the world, emerged from the ark.  What was the first thing Noah did?  He built an altar.  From that humble construction, he blessed the God wo saved him from the fate of the world.  

Abraham obeyed the call of God to leave Haran and sojourn in a new land.  God’s covenant provided that wherever Abraham went and as far as his eye could see, that land would become his.  Abraham immediately built an altar to honor the Lord.  By the same token, you should note that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, never built an altar.  He chose the well-watered plains of Jordan to dwell in, and simply took his family there with no recognition that God was the provider.  In fact, there was never an altar associated with the name of Lot in the Bible.  

Elijah, the flamboyant prophet who was the scourge of King Ahab, put the power of the Lord on display upon the altar.  After he goaded the false prophets of Baal into calling upon their god, a vast exercise in futility, Elijah commanded the servant to build an altar.  They piled stones, one upon another.  They poured twelve barrels of water on the sacrifice.  At the simple prayer of Elijah, the true God of heaven visited the altar by sending fire upon the sacrifice.  The altar of Elijah became the symbol of God’s power. 

How Do You Build an Altar?

 There is a very revealing passage found in Exodus 20:22-26 (KJV) 22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” 

The altars of pagan nations were elaborate, ostentatious works of art.  They did not speak of humility, but pride.  They did not bring glory to God; instead, they glorified man.  In fact, tribes, cities and even nations competed with each other to see who could build the most grandiose altar and temple.  Then, many heathen nations had temple prostitutes and they went through ceremonies that exalted the flesh rather than honoring the holiness of God. 

This is not what God wanted.  “Build my altar out of earth.  If you do make it out of stone, don’t carve it, chisel it, or shape it into something beautiful.  And don’t glorify your flesh in worship to me.”  In other words, don’t make your sacrifice to God all about you—make it about HIM!  Don’t make it about the beautiful altar you can build with your hands—make it about the sacrifice you are willing to give to God! 

Today, altars are usually housed in a temple.  I’ve been blessed to see some of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world: Notre Dame in Paris, St. Paul’s basilica and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  The cathedral in Strasbourg, France is the most elaborate structure I’ve ever seen.  But today, not much worship goes on in most of these temples.  They attract tourists who are interested in Gothic architecture and a storied past.

The bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Ghost.  Do not buy into the popular view that your temple has to reflect the world’s idea of beauty or fashionable.  The bible says to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, not the beauty of Hollywood.  The more you try to make yourself pleasing to the world, the less you make yourself pleasing to God. 

Do you know what God loves?  He loves the simple, spontaneous free-flowing worship that comes out of our hearts.  He is not looking for pomp and ceremony; he is looking for genuine commitment to Him.  I was at Senior High camp down at Buckeye Lake this week.  The tabernacle is a converted skating rink built a hundred years ago.  No one would ever mistake it for a cathedral.  People don’t come here to see architecture.  It’s not about the building—it’s about what happens inside the building!  I saw three hundred young people shouting, running, jumping praising God and giving Him glory!  I saw young people speaking in tongues, worshipping, consecrating their lives to God! 

The Purpose of an Altar

An altar is built as a memorial.  The builder can go back and offer another sacrifice at the altar, and thereby relive the great event that it was built to commemorate.  When the priests of Israel built the altar in honor of their crossing miraculously over into Canaan, they were telling generations present and future, something great happened here.  Never, ever forget what happened to us as a people and a nation in this place.  Never ever forget that it was the hand of God that brought it about. 

An altar means that something with great personal meaning to the life of an individual happened at a certain place.  Jacob had a powerful dream about a ladder ascending up from earth to heaven as he was on the road to flee from his brother, Esau.  On this ladder, he saw angels going up and down.  He awakened and built an altar to the Lord, saying, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.”  He built the altar out of one stone, the same one he used as a pillow when he saw his dream.  

An altar is built as a symbol of a place of sacrifice.  I hope that word registers on your heart today.  Sacrifice.  My salvation cost me something.  This does not mean that I am saved by works, but it does mean that I must forsake my own inventions, my own will, my own preferences to embrace the Gospel.  In 2 Samuel, 24:24, King David had been offered, free of charge, a place to sacrifice to the Lord.  “And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”  No one will be greatly used of God until they have built an altar.  If you want the approval and blessing of God in your life, you must sacrifice those things that have great meaning to your flesh, your ego, your pleasure, your power in this world.  The altar is where you establish an entirely new set of priorities for life.

This church is looking toward the future.  We anticipate a great move of God at the tent revival next month.  We are expecting great things from God.  But God is not interested in blessing anything that brings glory to us.  Before we receive anything from Him, we have to build an altar.  The altar we build must not be the usual handclapping, standing, raising hands and saying memorized words to God.  God is looking for some meaningful sacrifices.  Bring your goals, your dreams, your desires to the altar.  Remember, God never demands something from you without giving something back to you of greater value!  Give Him your life and He will give you back a life much better.  Give Him your dreams and He will replace it with a dream that far exceeds your own imagination!  Give Him your desires, and He will create in you a new heart—a heart that desires righteousness, holiness and peace.

An altar is where we continually make an offering unto the Lord.  This was seen in the Bible as a symbolic sense as well.  In the Old Testament, the priests sent up sweet incense to the Lord from the altars.  In the New Testament, this corresponds to our praise and worship that we express to God, and the good things we do for people.  “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:14-15 (KJV).  Praise must flow heavenward from our hearts. 

The altar is where I worship the Lord.  Church attendance, maintaining a holy lifestyle, a commitment to truth.  The altar represents the way I worship the Lord.  Jesus told us emphatically, that “…the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (KJV)  Today, we build an altar to the Lord by becoming a living, walking, talking memorial of Him.  By sacrificing ourselves for Him, by turning our lives into a continual offering to Him.

Something happens when you build your altar.  When you take the elements of your life, your body, your soul and spirit, your mind and strength and build an altar to God, you testify to all who see you.  This is what the Apostle Paul did.  Paul said, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16 (KJV)  Not only that, but you, yourself, your body, mind and soul becomes a witness to the world of the power of God.  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (KJV) 

Let me take you back to the altar of Elijah.  He placed the sacrifice on the altar.  He poured water on the sacrifice.  He prayed.  That was the extent of his human ability and power.  It was up to God to send the fire.  That ought to sound familiar to Pentecostals!  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4 (KJV)

Something else happens at the altar.  This is where you honor and glorify God.  I worship by my tongue.  I worship by physical motions.  I worship through my tithes and offerings.  I worship by my commitments to God.  I worship by living a holy, consecrated life for God.  All these things are not incidentals.  They are not meaningless, liturgical rituals.  They are real-life components of my sincere worship to my God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Lasts, it is at the altar that God makes his comenants.  He made a covenant with Noah.  He preserved Isaac for Abraham.  He blessed Jacob and revived him at the altar.  He sent fie on Elijah’s altar.  He required the families of Israel to meet Him at the altar with sin offereings, and when they did, He kept his covenant to forgive their sins.  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

God will do the same for you if you build an altar.  It must be an altar of sacrifice, of worship, of thanksgiving.  Do not demand great things from God unless you are prepared to sacrifice great things for God.  The fire does not fall on a barren altar, a selfish life, the pursuit of personal pleasure or a monument built to our own greatness.  The fire falls on the sacrifice. 

There is one more fact about the altar of Elijah that I want to share with you today.  His altar was not a new altar.  It had been there before, but the false prophets of Baal, along with the neglect of the people of Israel had broken it down.

1 Kings 18:29-30 (KJV) 29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. 30 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.

If you have never built an altar for God in your life, you need to build it now.  If you once had an altar, but you allowed it to be broken down, now is the time for you to repair it.  If all you have are the remnants of a past consecrated life, if you are trying to survive on past memories of your experience with God, you need to repair your altar. He’s not asking for you to do anything elaborate.  Just bring yourself, your earth and stones, and start to rebuild that which you once had.  It will be good to feel the fire once again.


The Altar (Ray Boltz)

The service is nearing an end
The choir is singing “Just As I Am”
And now as the old song is played
People at the altar
Are kneeling down to pray
Some are finding mercy
Forgiveness for their sin
Some are fighting battles
And they’re struggling to win
The time has come
To give them to the Lord
That’s what the altar is for

That’s what this altar is for
You don’t have to carry
Those burdens anymore
There’s a light in the darkness
There’s a love that’s true
And Jesus is waiting
He is waiting here for you
Go quickly now
Before they close the door
That’s what the altar is for

A father is praying with his son
A mother kneels beside them
Thanking God they’ve come
An old man
Is standing there in tears
Giving up a part of him
That he’s held back for years
Hearts are being broken
Lives are being changed
And those who call upon Him
Will never be the same
The time has come
To give in to the Lord
That’s what this altar is for

Go quickly now
Before they close the door
And you can give your burdens
To the Lord
That’s what this altar is for



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Reader Comments (1)

just want to appreciate you for this - thanking God for your sharing - God truly used you in giving me this message.
Love and Peace be yours

January 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterH L Willis

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