22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. 25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. 26 Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’
Earlier in Exodus chapter 20, God gave Moses/Israel the Ten Commandments. However, the people were so frightened of God, they did not want Him to reveal to them the rest of the law. Therefore, the people desired that Moses to go up the mount alone, hear what God said and then return to them to let them know. Today, Jesus is our intermediary; however, in Moses’ day they did not have Jesus and by sending Moses alone to the mountain, they established the model of people having an intermediary between God and His people; the people then would receive instruction from the intermediary (eventually known as a priest).
As long as the priest was truly in touch with God, this was a good and effective model; however, if the priest was not able to hear from God, the model failed, and the people suffered the consequences.
Unfortunately, though we have Jesus as our intermediary our structure of today’s church can unintentionally or intentionally subvert this intent and require us to go through a priest or minister. Though the option is certainly available, today it should never be a requirement.
This month’s message will provide some history and explanation about the Law of the Altar from Old Testament times and then show how it is relevant today.
In this message I use the words congregational and corporate. For this message, they can be considered synonymous.
There is a part of the Bible sometimes called “the Book of the Covenant.” It runs from Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 22:16 (some say Exodus 24:8). It is in this section of the Bible where God reveals first how He expects to be treated and second how Israelites are to treat each other. The reality is the Israelites (or us) can never treat each other properly if we do not treat God in a worthy manner.
Those who do not know God cannot worship Him; they can try or imitate worship, but it will be ineffective and an emotional release at best. Those without a relationship are also less likely to treat others as God would like.
God wants to be worshipped; as I said above, our redemption is what makes it possible for us to truly worship Him. There are many people in the world, some who are nice and kind and others who are not. However, even if they believe in God, none of these people can worship God properly until they develop a relationship with Him. The Altar, simply put, is a place of sacrifice where we worship Him.
So, what is the big deal about worship? It is amazing to me how many people cannot answer this question. In addition, they frequently do not understand worship or the relationship of worship to the altar or the importance of it as a part of our relationship with God.
First of all, we must understand just as these verses teach, God expected and continues to expect us to worship Him and no others (people or anything). False gods come in many forms including music, musicians, celebrities, athletes and the list goes on and on. God is unseen and untouchable, but gods of the world can almost always be seen and touched. Contrary to what the world may believe, just because we cannot see God does not mean He does not exist. Deuteronomy 29:18 says this about us and false gods, “so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood;”
Worshipping our God is by far the most stirring activity in which we can participate; whether we are young or old, a new or seasoned Christian, worship is an incredible experience. It is an interactive experience ignited and bolstered by the Holy Spirit, who is engaged with our individual spirits.
To clarify, let me review what worship is. As Christians, we frequently fall into the trap of assuming worship is music that we use to honor God. While music is an integral part of worship, it is only one of the many facets that make up worship.
Worship starts with an attitude of reverence. While many can sing God’s praises, He will only receive it when one is humbled before Him. Isaiah 29:13 [NIV] says, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship [KJV Fear of me] of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
In order to fully worship Him, we must fall down before Him and while this can be a physical action, it can also be a mental or emotional one. We should practice worshiping God at all times; however, we would be quite useless to Him if we are constantly on the ground; therefore, reserve the physical ‘falling’ before Him for the appropriate places and times and live humbly at all times.
One of the earliest examples of worship can be found in Genesis 22 when Abraham is taking Isaac up Mount Mariah to sacrifice him. You will find as you read that chapter, that Abraham is worshiping God throughout the chapter. Having gathered what he needed for a sacrifice, he and Isaac went to the mountain and erected an altar. Abraham bound Isaac, and following God’s expectation laid his heart and soul on that altar as he surrendered all he had to God.
Keep in mind, as Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, he was also surrendering God’s promises about the future, the promises that were associated with the future of the world concerning Abraham’s descendants. This was and continues to be one of the greatest acts of worship one can have – surrender all you are and all you plan to be on the altar.
God has a kind of all or nothing attitude and Abraham understood this. This can be seen in Revelation 3:15-16, ““I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
He provides us the example of what worship must consist of so it will be acceptable to God. Worship costs something – fortunately for us, the cost was paid by Jesus, so our act of worship includes giving back to God what in reality is already His. As you enter into worship, always surrender all you have, all you are, and all you will be to God; re-commit your surrender of everything, including your family, friends, job, church, money, and everything else. Don’t just say it, mean it!
Never forget that while we always worship in church, you do not have to be in church to worship. When you are in church, your part of corporate worship must include YOU INDIVIDUALLY WORSHIPING GOD. Worship begins with the opening of the service and continues until the last person leaves. It includes the music, announcements, preaching/teaching, communion, and any other items that occur during the service.
John 4:21-24 says,
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Christians should strive to always worship; 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Imagine a stream flowing constantly from the top of the mountain all the way to the sea. This is the way we should perceive worship; It starts at the top of the mountain and continues to the sea becoming larger and stronger as it flows. We are created to worship God, and He is the motivation within us to actively perform worship.
We saw the instruction in John 4:23-24 (see verses above) to worship in spirit and truth. The following is a breakdown of Spirit and Truth.
Worship in Spirit
There are three aspects to spiritual worship.
1. Salvation: To worship God in Spirit requires a person to be saved-otherwise their efforts to worship cannot reach God. Even with salvation we cannot worship God on our own, we need the Holy Spirit to orchestrate this within us because according to 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”
2. Transformation: The second part of spiritual worship comes from Romans 12:1-2 which says:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
God’s expectation for us is to change our focus from the world to God—without this, we cannot achieve the spiritual worship God desires from us.
3. Pure Heart: We must possess a pure heart. Remember in 2nd Samuel when King David could not worship because he felt such great guilt over his relationship with Bathsheba? He overcame this by confessing his sin and repenting. Only then could he successfully worship God again. Psalm 51:10-11 is a prayer asking God’s assistance to this very thing:
Create in me a clean heart [NIV says “pure heart”], O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Worship in Truth
The other part of John 4:24 is to worship in “Truth.” Worshiping in truth requires us to understand the Bible and how it, the word, and Jesus the Son, are truth. We cannot adequately worship God if the truth (word and Holy Spirit) are not active in us. This is of course what happens to us at salvation; however, we must continue to press into the things of God to fully grasp the truth part.
A significant part of this is an integrity issues that many Christians miss. You cannot be a different person in the world than you are in church. If you find yourself having a dishonest behavior outside the church, you cannot worship in truth in or outside the church. Be careful now, if you immediately allowed your thoughts to gravitate towards thinking of your behavior as illegal or not, you missed the point. Dishonesty is not always illegal. You need to allow the Holy Spirit to help you weed out any behaviors or attitudes that are dishonest. Once again, if you cannot do this, God will not receive your worship.
Lay it all at the altar once and for all. Let God have His way with you, so you can please Him. It may not happen instantly, however, it will happen and to worship Him, you need to let Him identify and correct issues and flaws that may continue to dwell in you.
What Does Worship Look Like?
While worshiping in a congregational setting, some approach the front of the church, utilizing it as an altar while others are able to remain in their seats. Some may take flags and banners and wave them as a part of their worship. Others may stand while others may sit or kneel. Some worship actively while others do so passively. Try to remember that worship is more of an internal thing and that the external demonstrations represent what the Holy Spirit is doing inside of people-and it isn’t the same for everyone.
I have a tendency to be a bit of a Thomas and need to be shown what is and is not of God ‘differently’ than others may experience. During some revival services many years ago, God was trying to get my attention and I saw what was happening in others. I did not want to copy anybody but insisted that if the things others in ministry were doing was of God, I must not do as they do but God needs to do this differently in me.
What was happening is people felt the power of God in such a way they were getting very hot, even sweating and as they touched others, the power was being transferred to the other people. God got my attention by making me cold, while others were hot. I would get so cold that my fingernails would turn purple and I would at time shiver. To finally prove to me it was Him, I was ministering at the altar one Sunday and was freezing but as I laid hands on this woman, she screamed and pushed my hands away; then she said loudly, “you were burning me.”
God did just what I asked. While others responded the same to my touch that they received from other ministers (heat), I was freezing. This still happens to this day and I know it is God.
God does not minister in and through all people the same and it does not mean any are more spiritually mature, it is just what He does to get our attention and do a work in and through us.
With that said, there are a few rules of etiquette one should follow when worshiping congregationally.
Do not worry about what other people are thinking/saying as you worship. If they are focused on you, they are probably not focusing on God and not worshiping.
Respect the particular churches rules concerning worship. (e.g. do not stand and prophesy in a church that does not believe the Gifts of the Spirit are active today.) You will cause a disturbance that God has not ordained.
Because everyone has not arrived at the same spiritual level as you concerning worship, try not to disturb them so they don’t run away and miss God in any given service. However, do not resist the Holy Spirit concerning how you are to worship at any time. Always follow His lead – as long as you know His voice, you will be ok.
If an usher or other church leader asks you to be quiet or return to your seat, do not resist or be offended. Do what they say, there is generally a reason and all will be well in the long run, as long as you do not hold a grudge.
Worship can be very quiet or very noisy. It can have people running around the sanctuary or quietly lying on the floor. There is no set standard for what worship should look like, only a standard for how you prepare for it (see the previous section). Worship in a congregational setting may change from service to service – this is not a bad thing, just the way God wants it. NOTE: You may also find this to be the case in your personal worship.
Nothing should happen during corporate worship that is contrary to the Bible; however, some things may occur that cannot be found in the Bible. It is these things that can irritate some folks. When those things are not of God and just emotional outbursts of some sort, the leadership should quietly handle the situation. However, groans, tongues and other noises can be Biblically sound expressions and it should be up to the pastor or his designees to help ensure only those things motivated by the Holy Spirit are allowed to continue.
NOTE: NO PART OF WORSHIP, CORPORATE OR INDIVIDUAL, MAY CONFLICT IN ANY WAY WITH THE BIBLE.
Corporate worship may include music, with or without singing, reading the Bible, preaching the word, prophesy, expressions in tongues, moaning, dancing, waving flags, hands raised, clapping or any number of other actions. Again, it is up to the pastor and his leadership to bring order if they believe someone has missed God in their worship.
There are those who will try to copy others and while it may not be distracting, it may inhibit their ability to learn to hear from God themselves. On the other hand, it can also help break down barriers that prevent the person from actually hearing God and then stepping out. Everyone should be introspective concerning what they are doing and listen for direction and correction from the Holy Spirit, church leadership, or others who are a little further along.
In the introduction, I started out with Exodus 20:22-26 which is called the, “Law of the Altar.” We discussed verses 22-23 earlier when looking at the problems with gods other than God; now, I would like to address verses 24-26 where God defines for us what an altar is to look like (and shy).
24 An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. 25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. 26 Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’
The Greek word “thusiasterion” is the word commonly translated as altar (New Testament and also in the Sepptuagint/Greek Old Testament). The word is defined, “a place to sacrifice.” Historically we understand that altars are a structure for sacrifices.
Orchestrated by God, Jewish tradition dictates that altars were used to sacrifice animals and for the burning of incense. Heathens also used altars which were generally much higher than those God wanted and though they were used for animal sacrifices they were also frequently used to sacrifice humans including women, children and babies. To reach the higher altars, one’s nether regions might be exposed, and this is why God expected a lower altar (no steps necessary) as described in verse 26 above. In most places in the Bible where it refers to ‘high places’, this is what it is referring to; an altar not sanctioned by God.
Something many have not considered is that the cross on which Jesus was crucified was an altar. It was not an altar that met the criteria for the Jews but reflected a high place as used by the pagans. It was also made of wood, not stone or earth and tools had been used in its manufacture. All of these are contrary to the verses above proving it was made according to pagan, rather than God’s expectations.
More food for thought; the word altar is only used a few times in the New Testament. This is because Christ’s death overturned the law associated with the Old Testament Temple and Altar. The reason for the change can best be defined from Romans 12:1 which I used in the section titled “Worship in the Spirit” above [page 6]. When Paul tells us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, though he does not use the word altar, he infers it [a sacrifice is performed on an altar and he tells us to present ourselves as a sacrifice]. Beginning with the sacrifice of Jesus, the altar became an unseen spiritual element which is in us from the moment of our salvation experience.
Because the altar is in us, we can access it at any time which is what makes it possible to worship throughout the day. With this in mind you may better be able to understand why so many can worship standing or sitting in their seats. However, this understanding should never diminish the fact that many, myself included, feel the presence of God more thoroughly when at the front of the sanctuary than at the back. When the Holy Spirit is moving during a service, the front of the church can enhance one’s altar experience-though the altar is in us, there is something special about being close to the front.
Many modern-day Christians still refer to the front of the sanctuary as the altar because of the events that occur here. Many are better able to sacrifice the stuff in their lives that needs to be gone in the sanctuary and more specifically the front (for the reasons explained above) and therefore, it is not wrong to consider this an altar.
These altar experiences are wonderful and should never be discouraged. Some of the altar experiences that may occur include:
Confession and forgiveness
Sacrifice including repentance
Change; physical, mental, and spiritual transformation
Consecration; aka Closeness to God
Receiving direction from God including prophetic words
Always remember, we can approach the altar, there is an altar, we are the altar. Because of this, through our testimony (actions and words), God will allow others to come to us to learn about Him. They too will lay down their lives at the altar and receive salvation. Set aside your personal agendas and become an altar that the world will desire to approach.
Remember in Exodus 20:22-26 (see introduction) how God defined what the altar is to be made of? It is to be made of earth or stone and the stone must not have been carved by human tools, so it will not be defiled. God’s altar is simple. So, it is also in us today; it is an altar built through the sacrifice of Jesus and the relationship we have with Jesus today. No rocks, no earth, no complications, just the love of the Father for us.
Confess your sins, repent of your sins, and surrender all you have to God on His altar in you and you will be able to worship Him, and He will be better able to use you to help complete His mission. Maranatha.
Pun-ishment – Driving
You must have a driving ambition to buy a new car; while it is difficult when you can’t a-Ford one, hang in there and eventually you will Triumph. While Bugs Bunny drives, he listens to car-tunes; then again, he is quite animated. Most bunnies don’t have cars and must rely on rabbit transit.
Even cars are getting hi-tech but I got rid of my driving app because it kept crashing. When someone stole my catalytic converter, I was fuming but I didn’t call the police because it was exhausting. Later my car failed inspection because it couldn’t stop -give me a brake.
Did you know former race car drivers have checkered pasts? Eventually they write an auto-biography about it.
Auto mechanics must focus on their work or lose their bearings. Do you know what mechanics and dietitians have in common? Both are concerned with carbs. The electrician drove a volts-wagon. When the soldier parked his company car in the driveway his wife said, tanks a lot.
The Bible talks about cars – the first time was when Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden and later where it says they were all in one Accord. Don’t you think if you live in a Tudor house, you should drive a two-door car? A little known fact: a white carnation is a country with only white cars. Then again, slow traffic lights leave drivers seeing red.
I heard Hyundai and Keurig had plans to develop a hy-brewed. Speaking of hybrids, one kid told his mom he was going to make her a car out of macaroni. She laughed at the time, but you should have seen her face when he drove pasta.
I know its kind of weird, but apparently when I drive my snoring upsets the passengers. Another driver told his passengers he could no longer use the tunnel because he suffers from carpool tunnel syndrome. One guy was washing his car with his son. The boy said, “dad, can’t you use a sponge?”
While driving to a costume party, a judge dressed as a convict was arrested. That evening the policeman learned, never book a judge by his cover.
Wrecks are nothing to joke about, but I will anyway: One guy crashed trying to beat the light, guess it was his day of wreckoning. Speaking of wrecks, when four cars collide do they make a wreck-tangle? The police said the students who were injured in a collision were on a crash course. His guitar was destroyed in the accident; must have been a Fender bender. A red and a blue car crashed on the highway leaving the occupants marooned. One body shop comes highly wreck a mended.