Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Unfashioned Altar, Low to the Ground

An ancient, pagan temple -- Megiddo
"An altar of earth you shall make for Me, 
and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings 
and your peace offerings, 
your sheep and your oxen. 
In every place where I record My name I will come to you, 
and I will bless you. 
And if you make me an altar of stone, 
you shall not build it of hewn stone; 
for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. 
Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, 
that your nakedness may not be exposed on it."
~ Exodus 20:24-26

We have such a longing for our service to the Lord
to stand out as a work of art.
But He asks us to form His altar from dirt, or unfashioned stone.
It was a functional place of worship.
And its function was all about a bloody atonement.
About payment for sin, and peace at a cost.
It is not a place to be showing off our skills with a chisel.
This altar was a necessity because of a multitude of transgression.
Because our works are at enmity with His holiness,
and must be reconciled.
How wrong it would be to put our works into the altar.
But we would like them there -- distracting from the blood.
Drawing men's eyes away
from the reality of death making payment for our sins,
and toward the incredible artistry we possess --
the gifts God gave us.
We don't want earthen altars:
such dirty accommodations for worship.
Something more permanent --
a little flashier and more fashionable would please us better.
He'll allow stone, but not stone formed by us.
Just simple, earthy materials over which blood must run.
The sacrifice ought to be the central thing in our worship.
Our tools, our gifts, our expertise are a profanity to His altar.

He says He'll come and bless us
wherever He has caused His name to be remembered.
It's remembered at the altar of His sacrifice,
and not in the work of our hands.

And how we would like to build steps up to it.
Steps up to the blessings, steps to the atonement.
Stairs to climb to peace with God,
a way to ascend for the payment of sin.
Its height would hold the blood up high enough that others might not see it.
They might just see us standing a little higher than they are.
But the reality is that in climbing steps to the altar,
our nakedness is exposed.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
No man comes to the Father but by Me."
He is the sacrifice, and we cannot climb up to Him.
In our service to the Lord,
we ought to keep the blood right there at eye-level.
Visible to the lowly.
Not formed by human hands.

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