Summary: Part 6 in Elijah series - coming back to a first love, whether it be people or God. I preached this Valentine’s Day.
1 Kings 18:20-21, 30-39 – How to Fix Broken Altars
A psychologist and newspaper columnist named George Crane told once of a woman who was full of hatred toward her husband, and wanted to hurt him all she could. He counseled her to act as if she really loved her husband, to tell him how much he meant to her, to praise him for every decent trait, to be kind, considerate, and generous whenever possible. Then, when she’d fully convinced him of her undying love, she’d make her move and file for divorce. With revenge in her eyes she said, "That’s perfect, I’ll do it." Some months later the wife returned to report that all was going well. She had followed the suggested course.
“Good,” said Dr. Crane. “Now’s the time to file for divorce.” “Divorce?” the woman said indignantly. “Never. I love my husband so much!”
You know, I don’t think anybody ever plans to fall out of love. It just happens sometimes. A pull away from the things we cherish the most. Whether it’s friendships, or family, or spouses, or our walk with the Lord, there’s a downward pull that tries to distract us with things that look just as good as, or better than, the relationship we already have. Today, on Valentine’s weekend, I’d like to talk about that downward pull that tugs on us, away from our loved ones, away from our spouses, away from our God, away from our first love. Today we will look at Elijah on Mt.Carmel again, from 1 Kings 18. Let’s read v20-21 and v30-39.
Now, we find Elijah in the middle of the contest with the false prophets of Baal. And he rebuilt an altar of the Lord. Chapter 19 tells us that the people of the land tore the altars of the Lord down. Apparently this was torn down because people did not want it around. Why not? What did it mean? What did an altar of the Lord stand for?
Noah built the first altar to the Lord. Just having survived the flood, Noah was grateful, and he sacrificed a burnt offering to god. Ever since that time, people have built altars. Altars were places of prayer, places of assembly. Altars were considered safe from your enemies. Altars were built out of thankfulness, and altars were often built to commemorate special events in the lives of God’s people. But by and large, the main and most important reason people built altars was for sacrifice. They were meant to be a place, set apart for God, to spill the blood of an innocent animal. It was through blood that people were made right with God – Hebrews 9:22 – “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” So, an altar represented being in a right relationship with God.
Therefore, for Elijah to rebuild a broken altar, that symbolized coming back to God. Being right with Him again. Getting forgiveness for wandering away, and then re-committing in a fresh new way to live for God. It wasn’t always about getting back to Him after the people had wandered. It was about maintaining that relationship.
We have what we call an altar in this church. Other churches call it different things. When it was brought back into use in churches 200 years ago, the originator, evangelist Charles Finney, called it the “anxious” bench or the “mourner’s” bench. It was where people could reconnect with the God who had made them.