Friday, February 1, 2013
Where is your altar?
Exodus 30 “Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. 2 It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high[a]—its horns of one piece with it. 3 Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it. 4 Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding—two on each of the opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. 5 Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you. 7 “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. 8 He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come. 9 Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering[b] for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.”
Exodus 32:2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
Moses is upon the mountain with God where he is receiving instruction regarding the way in which God's people, the Israelites are to live their lives and worship him. One of the most significant items is the altar. This is the very place where God is going to meet with mankind. God gives the details of how this altar is to be built and what is to happen on this altar and how it will be a place of atonement -- a place where God and his people will be "at one" for generations to come. This is a very holy place where heaven and earth literally meet.
While Moses was on the mountain meeting with God and receiving instruction regarding the altar the people down below literally went wild. They couldn't wait for Moses' return and they wanted to begin worshiping something. They talked Moses' brother Aaron into creating a golden calf that they could worship. Not only did they build a calf, but they built an altar before it so that they could sacrifice to this god -- made of human hands -- and thank it for bringing them out of Egypt! They sacrificed offerings on the altar and brought offerings. Afterward -- they simply went crazy indulging in all kinds of behavior that God would find deplorable.
In both of these passages we find an altar -- one that is a holy place, a place of intimacy before God and the other, one of wild behavior. One was birthed out of a love and intimacy with the Father, the other out of selfishness and a desire to feed self interest. Each of us build our own altars in life. We will either choose to have an altar of intimacy with God, or we will choose to build an altar of self-centeredness. The world and the enemy are encouraging us to "have it all!" Society is bombarding us with ideas that are completely contrary to God and is trying to tell us that it's all okay. Why should we serve a God with such restrictions?
If we were honest with ourselves we are surrounded by people who feel as entitled as the Israelites. They felt entitled to do whatever they wanted -- there was no sense of responsibility or gratitude to the God who had provided for them. They wanted to do what they wanted to do and they were willing to make up their own rules to do just that!
We must choose whom we will serve. Today we will come beside an altar and it will either be one that is dedicated to intimacy with God, or one that is dedicated to ourselves.
Lord, my heart's desire is to place my altar beside the springs of your cool water and allow you to lead and guide me in all things. Amen.