I don’t know if you have picked up on this fact before from reading through Genesis, but Abraham was an altar builder. Isaac dug wells; Jacob made monuments; but Abraham built altars to worship the Lord.
Why were altars so important? If altars were so important to God in the Old Testament, then why don’t we build and worship at altars today? I’m glad you asked that question. Some of you are probably thinking, “We consider the altar to be the front of our church.” Yet, this is not really the same type of altar in which Abraham worshipped. I ask those questions to draw a parallel between the altars of the Old and the altars of the New Testament.
~ Altars Are About Worship ~
True worship takes place in the context of our obedience to God (see Genesis 12:1-5). Abraham was in the process of obeying God’s prompting to go to the land of Canaan. We cannot truly worship God unless we are in the place of obedience.
How many of you have discovered it is difficult, if not impossible, to worship God on Sundays when your living in known disobedience? The only effective way to truly worship the Lord in body, soul, and spirit is to be obedient throughout the week. It is your obedience that gives you excitement, passion, and fervor to worship the Lord. Disobedience breeds apathy, coldness of heart, neglect, and boredom in worship. It was only after Abraham became truly obedient to God that his real worship of God began.
~ Abraham Built Altars to Worship Effectively ~
Wherever Abraham went (cities, countryside & villages) he built altars to the Lord God. There he worshipped the Lord.
The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7
8Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. Genesis 12:8
Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD. Genesis 13:18
Abraham was a trailblazer. We know now that God prescribed and commanded the children of Israel to build and worship Him on altars. Abraham didn’t have all this information. He blazed a trail. He was simply a lover of God. He was just discovering the art of worshiping God on altars.
We live in the New Testament era of grace, so where are our worship altars? Are all the altars gone or are they present here today? Why ask? In order to gain forgiveness, acceptance, and access to God, altars were needed. Sacrifices were made on altars. Blood was spilled on altars. This was done that sin might be removed and the worshiper cleansed.
We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat (Hebrews 13:10) which is in Christ! Through His blood we have access any time to the throne of God. In Christ we have everything we need that “pertains to life and godliness.” So today we no longer have need of “altars” in the Old Testament sense. But we do need altars in our lives in another way.
~ The Altar Represents True Worship ~
The altar represents true worship and involves: SURRENDER, SACRIFICE, and SERVICE. Abraham would have used raw stones (not touched by man’s strength and skill) to represent a yielding to God’s strength and not trusting in his own strength. (Exodus 20:25). We cannot worship or offer God anything that is not tainted in some way by the world. Therefore we are to take things God gives us (Jesus Christ) and worship the Father. It is important that you understand this point because most people do not. They want to worship God in their own way or fashion. When God rejects them by not gracing them with His presence they are offended. It is imperative we worship God as He requires through Jesus Christ and Him alone. He is our altar. We are to approach God in and through Him. In Abraham’s life we can see the need for altar worship. It is gives a keen sense of who Jesus is and our need for Him.
Are you ready to examine the three types of altars Abraham erected and discover the deeper meaning of what it means to worship at God’s altar? I will discuss these later this week.