ALTARS


Reading the Genesis accounts of the Israelite patriarchs, I became intrigued by their altar-building: At various places we find records stating Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob "built an altar", and most of those altars were built after God did something significant their lives. God gives a promise, or do something special, and the patriarchs' response is to build an altar. Only once does God give the instruction to build an altar -- to Jacob -- and in this case his response to God's provision was long overdue. In fact, he forgot his own promise...
 
The significant thing about building an altar is that it was a deliberate pre-planned action in response to God's actions. We might not be sure about the patriarchs' understanding and practice of sacrifice, but it is clear that this was, to them, the ultimate response to God promises and actions. They made a decision to respond, put in the labour of building a proper altar that could bear the weight of fire and sacrifice, and only then brought their sacrifice.
 
In my life I have experienced a few events of major significance -- not necessarily spectacular things accompanied by divine fireworks, but they changed the course of my life dramatically. Reading about the patriarchs' altars I started thinking about my response to these moves of God in my life, and I was ashamed. Far too often it was just "Thank you, Lord, let's carry on"; no deliberation, no planning of a proper response, just charging ahead without pausing to think. No wonder that it often took months, or even years, before I would realise the significance of an event or word from God!
 
We don't build altars these days, but a proper, well-weighted, properly-planned will-based response to God's action in my life seems to be even more necessary than in Abraham's day: In our fast use-and-discard culture I need to stop and examine, and then respond properly, or I might miss the heart of what God is doing in my life.
 
I'm not a stonemason, but I'm starting to build altars...
 
 

 

 
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