An Altar Within Our Heart

Exodus 20:24 “Build for me an altar made of earth, and offer your sacrifices to me—your burnt offerings and peace offerings, your sheep and goats, and your cattle. Build my altar wherever I cause my name to be remembered, and I will come to you and bless you.”

Exodus 20:24

God commanded Israel to build an altar in an act of worship and as a place to connect with Himself. People sacrificed animals at altars and also presented offerings to the Lord. So, do we need altars today and if so what is the purpose? If you look at churches today, you certainly won’t see any place to sacrifice animals or people having grain and other offerings for the Lord at the front of the church. So what should we think and how can we act based on these very strong decrees from God? 

God Wants to Connect With You

God was very clear with Israel that He wanted altars to Him all throughout the land before the Temple of the Lord was built in Jerusalem. This would be a constant reminder for the people of Israel about the goodness that God has done for them. God also wanted to give the people a visual reminder that He is the true God worthy of their worship. How is this going to help people today? By bringing our hearts to the altar (this metaphorical representation of the place to connect with God) we are able to allow God to bring the blessing that He has planned for us in every area of our life. Jesus has become our final sacrifice by dying on the cross so that we don’t actually have to have a real altar. Please don’t build a real altar or your friends and family will think you are a little weird…Rather, as we go to the office or school, make a connection with God just like the ancient people would do when they approached the altar. Let’s approach God as if we are coming to an altar when we engage or think about our family. Social life, hobbies, education, and every area can be a place where we can see the goodness of God and cause us to take action in worship.

God does have blessings for you and me, but if our actions are stopping us from receiving His blessing, we can’t receive it! Yes, our actions, or lack of actions, may lead to us forfeiting amazing things that the Spirit has in store for us. God wants us to bring our sins for cleansing and healing. He wants us to praise Him and worship Him when we are successful with thankful hearts. These are the things we lay before God on the altar, both positive and negative. If we are hurt and angry from family relationships, approach God with that pain and lay it down before Him, just like they would do at the altar. In our club or social gathering, place the peace offering on the altar to restore relationships.

The Altar is For God, Not For Us

So, why should the altar be made of earth? God wants us to keep our focus on Him, not what is around us. Regardless if you achieve your business sales, God doesn’t want the sale to be the altar. If your children get first prize or last prize, God doesn’t want your child to be the altar. He doesn’t want us to wait until we get what we want before we praise and worship Him. Through the Holy Spirit and His gifting in your life, blessings come. It is our honor to give God glory no matter what happens. In our life, we will have good seasons and tough seasons. We need to keep our altar made of earth to humble us in times of blessing and strengthen us in times of challenge.

Let’s go back one verse and see what God explicitly tells Israel not to do.

Exodus 20:23 “Remember, you must not make any idols of silver or gold to rival me.“

It was tempting for the Israelites to adorn the altar with golden idols or decorations. For Israel, all their neighbors had gods that the people could see in the form of idols. For the people of Israel, it must have been tough to trust in the one true God who has no image! Yet God knew that an idol couldn’t come close to His greatness and eventually the people would turn their focus away from God. Even if their hearts were right and the people just wanted to honor God, He knew that eventually there would be problems if the people took their eyes off Himself.

What does this mean for us? It is easy for us to want the success of our work or family status to be the evidence of God in our life. Who wouldn’t want people to recognize God through our life? However, it becomes all too easy to shift our thinking away from the Giver to the gift. Once the gift becomes the most important thing, our trust gets put into the gold and silver in front of our eyes. Feeling depressed if your sales slump is natural, but it shouldn’t remove our value. Having problems within our family is never good, but it shouldn’t reduce our calling. It is our privilege to show the world the character and heart of God even when things are difficult. As our neighbors put their trust in money, talent, or skill, we know that God can accomplish anything even as we are lacking.

Jesus Is Our Priceless Altar Within Our Hearts

Jesus is far more precious than rubies and diamonds and nothing can come close to the forgiveness that is offered to us from the cross. The world makes an altar to success. The world makes an altar to money and fame. We are called to honor God, and only God, even if He blesses us like Solomon. Even if we become rich and powerful, those things do not take center stage and they do not define our life. For if we have riches and lose them, we still are infinitely blessed by God and still have every reason in the world to praise Him.

Hebrews 9:11-12 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

Since Jesus has shed His blood for us, we are His holy temple. This means that no matter what we face, nothing can separate us from Jesus. We have the right to bring everything to Jesus on the altar no matter where we are in our life. Take your pains and give it to Jesus. Take your offense, your disappointment, your resentment and give it to Jesus. Live free. 

Bible References

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.

23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

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