“We Have An Altar”


Hebrews 4:16 - Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Let us begin by describing what an altar is: An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. It was usually a raised platform with a flat surface. There are over four hundred references to altars in the Bible. The word altar is first used in Genesis 8:20 when Noah built an altar to the Lord after leaving the ark. However, the idea was present as early as Genesis 4:3–4 when Cain and Abel brought their sacrifices to the Lord. They most likely presented their offerings on some type of altar, even though the word altar is not used in that passage. An altar always represented a place of consecration. Before God gave His Law to Moses, men made altars wherever they were out of whatever material was available. An altar was often built to commemorate an encounter with God that had a profound impact upon someone. Abram (Genesis 12:7), Isaac (Genesis 26:24–25), Jacob (Genesis 35:3), David (1 Chronicles 21:26), and Gideon (Judges 6:24) all built altars and worshiped after having a unique encounter with God. An altar usually represented a person’s desire to consecrate himself fully to the Lord. God had worked in a person’s life in such a way that the person desired to create something tangible to memorialize it.

Sometimes God Himself commanded that an altar be built after He had delivered someone in a miraculous way (Deuteronomy 27:4–7; Exodus 30:1). Such an altar would be a memorial to help future generations remember the mighty works of the Lord. Because atonement is God’s work, the Law specified that an altar made of stones must be made with natural, uncut stones, “for you will defile it if you use a tool on it” (Exodus 20:25).

In the broadest sense, an altar is merely a designated place where a person consecrates himself to someone or something. Many church buildings have “altars” for prayer, communion, weddings, and other sacred purposes. Some Christians create their own “altars” for personal worship as visible reminders of Romans 12:1, which says to “present yourself as a living sacrifice.”

Every human heart has an invisible altar where the war between the flesh and the spirit rages. When we surrender areas of our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit, we are in effect laying that area on the altar before God. It can help to visualize Abraham’s altar where he offered his son Isaac to the Lord (Genesis 22:9). We can ask the Lord what areas of our lives He is requiring that we offer to Him. We can symbolically lay that on the altar and let go. We don’t need a flat-topped surface; we can surrender our lives to God on the altar of our hearts at any time.

Every human heart has an invisible altar where the war between the flesh and the spirit rages. When we surrender areas of our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit, we are in effect laying that area on the altar before God. It can help to visualize Abraham’s altar where he offered his son Isaac to the Lord (Genesis 22:9). We can ask the Lord what areas of our lives He is requiring that we offer to Him. We can symbolically lay that on the altar and let go. We don’t need a flat-topped surface; we can surrender our lives to God on the altar of our hearts at any time.

Under the Law, the priests were often allowed to eat portions of the animals that they offered up. However, this was not true of the Day of Atonement. On that day, the animals were burned outside the camp of Israel and no one could eat of them (Lev. 16; Heb. 13:11).

As the Day of Atonement demonstrates, not only did these animal sacrifices not affect the cleansing of the conscience, there were also times when the meat could not be enjoyed at all even though it did not benefit those who ate of it (Lord’s Supper). However, this is not true of the new covenant. For we can eat from Christ’s altar while those who normally offered the animal sacrifices could not because they did not know Christ (v. 10).

Today, many still cannot eat from this altar because they do not know Jesus. But by faith, we who are believers can partake of the salvation Jesus offers and receive His benefits.

When we feed at the altar of Christ we are supplied with the grace and strength that we need to persevere in the race of faith. By His Word and presence, He guarantees and completes our salvation.

PRAYER: Gracious Father, we thank you for Your offer of Grace and Mercy on this Lord’s Day. May we approach Your Throne of Grace with repentance and petitions for forgiveness for our sins against You. May You bless the bread (body of Christ) and the cup (blood of Christ), as we partake in remembrance of the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. AMEN!

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