Summary: Looking at Abraham’s life we see that everywhere he went he built altars. We will look at what this ’building of altars’ represents and the various different places we must build altars.
*True worship takes place in the context of obedience to God (Genesis 12:1-5) - not merely a feeling or a form. For Abraham it 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.
*Wherever Abraham went he built altars to the Lord God where he would worship Him (Genesis 12:7,8; 13:18).
Now, we have an altar (Hebrews 13:10) which is in Christ! Through His blood we have access at any time to Him.
*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).
(2) THE THREE ALTARS OF ABRAHAM:
(i) ALTAR OF PERSONAL CONSECRATION - Genesis 12:6-7
Shechem - ’the shoulder - place to carry burdens’ - is between two mountains, Mount Ebal (Barren) and Mount Gerazim (Fruitful). The jews used to proclaim God’s blessings for obedience on Mount Gerazim and curses for disobedience on Mount Ebal. As we build this altar the Lord will bear our burdens and keep us from the barren, cursed life to live a fruitful, blessed one.
This altar is.....
*The place of a personal encounter with God (Genesis 12:7) who teaches us His ways. (Moreh = ’an archer’, ’teacher’ or ’the early rain’).
Every day we must set aside time to come to our personal altar where we read His word, worship Him in song and pray.Here we will encounter Him afresh and He will teach us His ways.
If we don’t have such a time we must build it now!
Jacob buried idols at the foot of this tree by the altar as did the people under the guidance of Joshua (who also erected a stone of covenant here).
As we come daily to our personal altars before the Lord, He will reveal ’idols’ in our life that need to be buried. These are things we have place before God and may be our personal interests (television, computer, sports etc..) or even other people who we idolize. In these quiet moments at the altar with God we can bury these idols and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
*Place of the well-spring of true worship (John 4:12, 21-23.
This altar was the same place that Jacob later built a well which existed in Jesus’ time. Indeed it was here that Jesus said we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! We will find this personal altar to be a place of great personal refreshing.
(ii) ALTAR OF FAMILY WORSHIP (Physical & Spiritual) - Genesis 12:8 and 13:3-4.
This altar was built between Bethel (’House of God’) and Ai (’Ruins’) - worshipping Him and calling on His name in His House will keep our lives from ruin. We need to worship together in our own families and in the family of God (The Church) - Hebrews 10:25.
*This is not possible if first altar is not in place!
If we don’t have an altar of personal worship we will not be able to really join in worship as a congregation. Some people do not enter into the anointed worship at Church because they have not learnt to worship alone with God or with their own family. They may blame the worship team or the instruments or the acoustics, but they really must blame themselves for not having built their altar of personal worship.
*When famine came Abraham lost trust in God and forsook Bethel (House of God) - he went to Egypt (The World) and almost came to ruin (Genesis 12:10-20) - Only when he returned to the altar at Bethel was he back on track (Genesis 13:1-4).
Sometimes when famine comes (hard and lean times in our Christian walk) we can seek to trust other sources than God. That’s what Abraham did! Instead of remaining at the altar and trusting in God he fled to Egypt (which represents the world). When he finally came back he had to return to the same altar and once again call upon the Lord. You can read about all the trouble he got into and the lie he told as he went on this little de-tour. The beautiful thing is that God did not cast him off but graciously received him again as he humbled himself before this altar of family worship.
(iii) ALTAR OF MINISTRY WORSHIP - Genesis 13:18
Mamre = ’firmness’ . Hebron = ’alliance’.
Hebron is significant as it marked the official start of David’s ministry as King in Israel. This is the altar of Worship in the context of our God-given ministry.