The Beauty of an Altar

This year I am reading through the Bible and taking notes on things that jump out at me. The theme that is jumping off the page at me right now is altars. The first time an altar is spoken of in the Bible is in Genesis 8:20 “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” Noah obeyed God and built the ark. God remembered Noah. He caused the winds to blow over the Earth and the waters to recede. When Noah left the ark, he immediately built an altar and made a sacrifice to God. God was pleased with the aroma. God then made His promise to never again curse the ground and destroy all living things. Here was a divine interaction.

Throughout Genesis, Abram, Isaac and Jacob built many altars to the Lord. Often the altar was built after the Lord had appeared to, spoken to, or protected His child. The altar was a place where the divine and humanity interacted; a place of communion, sacrifice, divine exchange and worship. Particular places were named in honor of what God had accomplished there.  There was a keen awareness of the smallest acts of God and His intervention and concern in the lives of those who put their trust in Him. I noticed, too, that God actively responded to altar activity. He smelled the aroma and it pleased Him. God sealed promises and made covenants with His people after they built an altar. This altar building speaks to the priorities of these men of God. They wasted no time in erecting an altar and offering sacrifice and praise to God for all He had done. They gave God glory and honored Him. It deeply moves me to read about these altars, these markers of peace which commemorate an encounter with the Most High. It speaks of humility, love, dependence and a true heart of thankfulness.

Thinking about altars and the way our forefathers commemorated God’s acts of love, kindness, mercy and generosity started me thinking about whether I am creating altars of my own for all that He has done in my life. What would that look like?

I have some thoughts on that. One altar might look like giving God glory and recognition when something is accomplished or an obstacle is overcome. It reminds me of my battle with breast cancer. It is God alone who healed me. He directed my path to the doctors I needed, to the treatments that worked and He alone gave me the courage and strength to fight every day during my almost 2 years of treatment. I give glory and praise to Him for healing me and allowing me the honor of sharing my story with others.  He takes every single thing that touches our lives so seriously.  It brings me peace to know that everything that touches me or my family is first filtered through hands of love.

Another altar might look like a true physical structure. In my garden, I love to decorate with rocks and stones and other natural things. I could build an altar commemorating His love, protection and divine guidance over me and my family. A memorial of all He has brought us through; an altar of praise and thankfulness that we can physically see and touch.

A prayer journal might be another altar that records the prayers I have sent heavenward and the answers He has given. Not every answer will be one that I want or understand. Not every answer will turn out the way I think it should, but the journal will be a record of the human and divine exchange that took place when I humbled myself and cried out for His help. What a reminder it would be of all He has done! I imagine seeing a beautiful theme of redemption, love and tender care as I look back on all that I turned over to Him and all that He did with it. He is a good, good Father.

I wonder if living a life sharply attuned to the Father’s heart could be an altar? I wonder if seeing others as He sees them and treating each other with forgiveness, tender mercy and compassion would be a pleasing aroma to Him? I wonder if being grateful for each day and thanking Him for His breath in our lungs would be a beautiful memorial to all He has done for us and through us; all that He has yet to do? I wonder if asking Him to use us for His glory would so please Him, that He would make covenant promises to us and speak declarations of love, purpose and blessings over us? I wonder if He would take our seemingly mundane lives and show us parts of the tapestry He is weaving and how the ordinary is transformed into the extraordinary, if only we would expectantly look, watch and listen?

I would love to hear your thoughts about how you create altars to God. We have so much that we can learn from each other!

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