My Heart an Altar

On Monday, I wrote about Cain and his unacceptable offering to God.

Most likely, Cain brought his offering to a family-constructed altar, but bore some sort of sin attitude.

Today, as I read about Abraham, I note that when the Lord called him to leave Haran and “go to the land I will show you,” (Genesis 12: 1) Abraham did not hesitate to obey.

In Canaan, the Lord appeared to Abraham, so he built an altar to worship.

The idea of an altar seems a bit strange to us westerners. In the Old Testament writings, why did so many people build altars?

I did some searches on google and brought up this information:

Altars are structures that help a person focus his prayer, devotion and worship. It is also a place for sacrifice.

In those early days of the Hebrews, a neglected altar was a sure sign of a back-slidden people.

As Christians we no longer need a physical altar.

Because God now resides within us.

My heart is God’s altar.

It is there, in the seat of my personality, my deepest emotions, my greatest yearnings, my intellectual wrestlings, my sincere questions, that God meets me.

I do not need to bring a burnt offering, or a grain offering, a fellowship offering, a sin offering, or a guilt offering.

Because Jesus Christ supplied the only sacrifice that I need.

The only thing I need bring Him is my broken, contrite heart.

I like to imagine what the altar in my heart looks like.

At times, it is constructed with rough stones, piled one on top of another, straining upward to some unfathomable and incomprehensible space in heaven.

At times, God meets me in a palace of crystal, where my altar rests, swathed in gem-like hues, swirling and dancing—set in motion by my worship—then bending, as though through a prism to blend into new heavenly colors no tongue can describe.

Then, at other times, my altar neither strains upward, nor resides in a splendid house.

Not lofty. It is fleshy and intimate.

It is the place where human words express their most impassioned complaints, hurl accusations, issue ultimatums, plead,  demand explanations, offer deals…

And finally…surrender.

(Is this the altar Abraham would have described when God called him to sacrifice Issac? )

Perhaps this last altar is the most glorious.

“Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love, one holy passion filling all my frame: the baptism of the heaven descended dove—my heart an altar and Thy love the flame.”

( from from Spirit of God, Descend upon my Heart: Croly/Atkinson)

 

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