Let's Build An Altar
Contributed by Norm Beckett on Aug 14, 2001 (message contributor)
Summary: Let’s make a space for ourselves as well as a place for God, to mark the realisation of God’s very presence and the recognition of God’s voice.
LET’S BUILD AN ALTAR
“Abram built an altar there to the Lord” (Genesis 12: 8).
Abram was asked of God to leave behind all that he had known, his country, his relatives and his home (Genesis 12: 1). Abram was asked by God to become a immigrant and a nomad. There are many who have left behind their homeland and homes, but what is different about Abram is that he is seventy five years of age when he starts out for his new homeland. Caanan proved the place where God wanted Abram to settle, a new land. Once Abram arrived in Caanan, he travelled through the land. The Scripture makes a note - “At the time the Caananites were still living in the land” (v. 7). Abram was the foreigner or stranger in the land, but he knew it was the land of promise. Caanan was not yet his possession, but it would be! As Abram travelled through the land he must have thought, how is God going to make this land his, for Caanan was a harsh and unwelcoming place. However, it is God who comes to Abram and reassures him, “This is the country that I am going to give to your descendants” (v. 7).
To this stranger and nomad God appeared! God’s very presence was realised and God’s voice was recognised. These are two important elements in the spiritual journey - to know God is present and his voice heard. God does not leave us wandering or wondering in life, he appears and speaks. Abram responded to the divine presence and pronouncement in a particular way. He got up and gathered some stones and built an altar to the Lord. They were rough stones that he piled one on top of another. Thus, Abram marked this occasion of confirmation on his journey by a ‘religious act’. For Abram the act of building the altar was a sign of surrender to the will and purpose of God. Abram was moving on with God. Interestingly, we find as Abram moved on with God he builds other altars and worships God (v. 8). Repeatedly, Abraham pitches his tent and builds an altar. He makes ‘space’ for himself, but also makes a ‘place’ for God.
Abram’s response to God’s presence and voice is something that we should take notice of for ourselves as we journey with God. When God’s presence is felt, when his voice is heard, we should mark the occasion by surrender and worship. So often we sense God has come to us and we do not mark it with significance and meaning. So often we hear God’s voice, but we fail to acknowledge it. God comes to Abram and Abram moves toward God in a visible and tangible manner. Indeed, after Abram moves toward God in an act of surrender and devotion he is able to move on in his journey with God into the unknown (v.9).
Abram’s story shows us the importance of continually acknowledging what God is doing in our lives. That is what God desires - a ready response. In our day and age we might not go out and gather up rough stones to build an altar. But, there is an altar here. A place where we can surrender and worship God.
Has God been leading you? Has God been blessing you? Has God shown you new ‘things’? How do you respond to God’s presence and direction in your life? Abram gives us a clue! Let’s mark the occasion with an act of worship, and in a very real sense we are buil[ding] an altar to the Lord. A persual of the biblical texts reveals that the men of God often built altars to commemorate God dealings with them.
We have built an altar of rough stones tonight. I invite you to come and worship God for all that he is doing in your life.
Abram having built an altar returned to the place where he had built the altar and worshipped God again at that place. Just may be it’s been a long time since someone has acknowledged God by coming again to the altar, remembering the times God has been good to you.
The erected altar becomes a holy place for us.