Read: “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7
When we read the Bible, we are reading about God’s love for us - from creation, to the birth and death of Christ, to the promise that He will return one day and set everything right. There is so much we can discover when we spend time in God’s word. But, if we’re honest, there are also some parts of the Bible that can be...well, a little confusing. Take for instance the idea of the altar. If you didn’t grow up in church, you might be wondering what an altar even is. And, even if you did grow up in church, you probably just thought of the altar as the location at the front of the church.
But, when we understand the purpose and significance of the altars that we read about in the Old Testament, we can learn what true sacrificial worship to God looks like. This week, Jeff Clark began talking about Abram, meaning “high father,” who was later renamed Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude.” (In the Bible, God often changed people’s names to signify a new identity in Him.) Genesis 12 tells us that Abram built two altars to God. Up until that point, Abram was only the second person in the Bible to build an altar to God. (The first was Noah, once he and his family were able to leave the ark. See Genesis 8.)
Altars were more than just a location - they represented a place of personal sacrifice and wholehearted worship. In the Old Testament, the life of something innocent (an animal like a cow, goat or ram) had to be given as a substitute for the guilty party, and the innocent’s blood spilled in order for sinful man to commune with God. When Abram built his altar to God and sacrificed his livestock, he was submitting his whole being and something of great personal value in order to approach the Lord and call on His name in worship and prayer. With the bloodshed of Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice to redeem us from our sin and reconcile us to God, we no longer have to make an offering on an altar anymore to approach God. However, we can still learn from Abram (or Abraham). How much of yourself and what of personal value are you willing to surrender when you come to God?
Do: What have you been holding on to that is keeping you from a deeper walk with God? Is it past shame? Guilt? Pride? Take a few minutes right now and ask God to help you surrender whatever it is that you’ve been holding on to. It really helps to share your commitment with a trusted friend, who can encourage you to surrender it daily.