Summary: Once prominent in churches. Once prominent in life. Now seldom seen in our buildings. Have they also disappeared from our life? We have been called to live an "Altared" life. Why?
Altared - Pt. 4 - The Avoided Altar
For some it was padded. For others it folded down. For some a simple rail. For others it was built in and for others it was a separate piece of furniture that often became a display location for offering plates, plastic flowers, and croquette covered tissue boxes. Many, if not all of us, have had life changing moments around an altar. The altar isn't our idea! In fact, as I mentioned last week, the concept of the altar is rooted in the heart of God, mentioned 370 different times in Scripture! The message is abundantly clear . . . God meets man at the altar.
And so we began by talking about Paul's call for us to live an altared lifestyle in Romans 12:1-2. We avoid the pain, death, blood, and time required to stop at the altar. However, Paul was very clear that if we don't lived altared we will become cultured and look more like our culture than our king.
Then we dealt with the 2nd altar occurrence in Scripture and from Noah's experience we talked about how after one of the most horrific experiences he built an altar. He teaches us to build altars even when we have gone through tough times. He teaches us that we must establish a daily altar of remembrance or we will become bitter, selfish, and complainers. So I challenged you to become like David and make a covenant that "I will remember"!
Then last week I took you to three altar encounters that Abraham had and each one was in direct response to a promise he had received from God. God is still a promise making God. He has a pinky and He isn't afraid to use it. He will swear to you! He will make and keep promises if we will learn to be silent long enough to hear what He is saying! If we don't learn to be quiet and listen, then we begin to confuse our voice for His voice! Abraham also taught us that we have to fight for our promise. The vultures of doubt and fear will try to swoop in and get us to give up on the promises that God has made. However, if you spend time at an altar and hear from God you will get a promise that is worth fighting for!
So we have talked about an altar of remembrance and an altar of promise so let's move forward to what is perhaps the most avoided altar. I don't mind remembering (although I tend to forget to do so). I love promises even with their conditions of obedience that are always attached. However, this is the altar we don't like and try to avoid. It is the altar of sacrifice.
After all this, (after all you been through you are not exempt from being tested) God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.” He said, “Take your dear son Isaac (your only son) whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.” Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll (He can only make this statement because he had first visited an altar of promise - Hebrews says His faith in the promise was so strong that he knew God could raise Isaac from the dead if He had to because God is bound by His word!) come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together. Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?” “Yes, my son.” “We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together. They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son. Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes, I’m listening.” “Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.” Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.