woman kneeling at altar

Early one morning, I was thinking and praying about random stuff and the thought of "altars" came to mind.

I thought of it throughout the day and decided to look up "altars" and see what significance they really had in the lives of OT Christians.

I had a basic concept of what an alter was/is: It's a place of remembrance, a place that is built to remind those who built it of a particular work or event that has occurred. Namely for the OT faithful, altars were built to help them to not forget what God had done for them.

Altars were mainly built for sacrifice though.

From my Bible commentary, altars were built of rough stones and earth and often remained in place for years as continual reminders of God's protection and promises. The commentary also states that Abram built altars for two reasons: 

  1. Prayer and Worship
  2. Reminders of God's promise to bless him

Continuing the commentary, Abram needed these altars to remember that God was the center of his life.

Abram came to worship God at these altars, as a reminder of God's goodness, grace and His Power.

You and I both worship at altars as well. Yes...you do, and if you're honest about it, you will admit it.

We all have our altars that we worship at, even offer sacrifices too.

Sacrifices?

I'll explain in a minute.

Before I do, let me list some of the altars that I have seen in my life and in the lives of others:

  • Money (the love of...)
  • Lust
  • Power
  • Acceptance
  • Relationships
  • Vanity (looking good for the wrong reasons)
  • A good job
  • Health
  • Protection
  • Security
  • Revenge
  • Justice
  • Unforgiveness
  • Self-righteousness
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Sex
  • Pride
  • Prejudice

You probably noticed that I mentioned good things in that list: security, protection, justice and health.

All good things in and of themselves, right?

I also listed the obvious ones like sex (both marital & extra-marital), money and pride.

If anything, I hope this list gives you the impression that we can make anything into an altar (another form of idolatry).

We can make anything into an altar. Click to Tweet

I have my own altar of insecurity.

I still visit my altar of insecurity where I sacrifice my peace of mind and "worship" my own sense of self-preservation.

Keeping things within my grasp is my modus operandi. Nice & safe. Considering the concept of an "altar," I realize that I have them, and even more revealing is that I am no different from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here is a distinction I would like to point out:

  • At a man's altar, he sacrifices God's desires for his life, in order to get his own.
  • At God's altar, man sacrifices himself (crucifying the “old man,” living sacrifice in Romans 12:1-2) in order to receive God's blessings.

See the relationship?

Each time we visit our own altars of remembrance and sacrifice, be it of past relationships, people who really make us mad, or even a genuine need/desire, we magnify the object more than we magnify God.

We desire the gift more than the Gift-giver, the creation more than the creator.

We trade in our peace of mind for the bile of disappointment, the salt-water of unforgiveness and the stink of our own failures.

At a man's altar, he sacrifices God's desires for his life to get his own. At God's altar, man sacrifices himself. Click to Tweet

God instructed the OT faithful, at various times, to build altars of remembrance to Himself.

We Christians have no physical altars, but we have plenty of emotional/mental ones.

Next time you approach your altar of [insert your altar here], remember that you are going to sacrifice God's desires for your life today, for your own.

I'll leave you these final thoughts from Deuteronomy regarding altars and obedience.

12:4 Stay clear of those places—don't let what went on there contaminate the worship of God, your God. 5-7 Instead find the site that God, your God, will choose and mark it with his name as a common center for all the tribes of Israel. Assemble there. Bring to that place your Absolution-Offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and Tribute-Offerings, your Vow-Offerings, your Freewill-Offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. Feast there in the Presence ofGod, your God. Celebrate everything that you and your families have accomplished under the blessing of God, your God.

11:18-21 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you.Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you'll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.

Comments or questions? Leave 'em below...

Author: Jon Atchison