We have heard of the expression, “the self-made man.” This refers to men who paddle their own canoes and chart their own courses through life, thinking they are self-sufficient within themselves. I have talked with people who referred to believers as weak people who needed a crutch to lean on. I’ve heard them boast of their sufficiency. I’ve also seen some of these people reduced to tears and despair when trouble came along and they had no one to turn to in their dark hours.
By Denzil Holman
The process of building an altar today differs from Old Testament times. The patriarchs built altars of earth or stone, and the altars in the Tabernacle were of wood covered with brass or altars made of pure gold. The altars were meeting places between God and man. God was specific in His instructions to Moses regarding the building of the altars for the Tabernacle. He gave him instructions regarding the dimensions and the material of which to build them and how not to do it. The purpose of an altar was to worship, to offer sacrifices, and to communicate with God. One of the three elements of the altar was the sacrifice. One definition of the word altar is “a place of slaughter” because it was a place where blood was shed to atone for sin. The word altar comes from the Hebrew word mizbe ‘ah or mizbeach, meaning “to slaughter for sacrifice, or to slay.”
And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon (Exodus 20:25-26).
God does not tolerate idolatry, and the heathens used tools to chisel and shape stones into idols to use in their altars. He said, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” The heathens would elevate their altars because they associated ascending higher with their efforts to get closer to heaven. They would build altars in high places. We are to humble ourselves before God, and our human efforts to get closer to heaven are forbidden.
In the New Testament church age, we don’t build altars and offer sacrifices on them. Jesus became our sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of God to take away our sins, but He is also our altar.
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle (Hebrews 13:10).
We have an altar, Jesus Christ living within our hearts. If we have obeyed the plan of salvation and are living an overcoming life, the Spirit of God resides within our souls. Our soul, inward man, and heart are all referring to the same place within us where the Spirit of God dwells. We can build an altar anytime and anywhere by calling on the Lord in prayer.
Some people are confused about the association between Old Testament altars and altars within our churches today. Many think it is necessary to come to an altar in one of our churches to repent or worship. For many years they were called “mourner’s benches” and were associated with brush arbors and tent meetings. Altar benches in churches do function as a place for sinners to kneel and for believers to come to pray, but the furniture itself is not the only place to meet God. They are sacred and dear to us because they were places where many of us met God for the first time, but the altar is not a shrine to worship. We worship the God we met there. When an altar becomes an object of worship, it is a shrine. An altar bench or area is simply a designated area in our churches where it is functional and convenient to pray and meet God. Probably in many of our churches when the church was dedicated, various pieces of furniture including the pulpit and the altar were also dedicated for the purpose intended for it in worship.
Some of us meet God in unusual places for the first time. We build altars when we need to pray wherever we are, including our home, automobile, workplace, or others too numerous to enumerate. However, most of us met the Lord in a church after we had heard the preaching of the Word. The important thing is to build an altar.