The Necessity of the Altar
by Buddy Maynard
(Panama City, FL)
Psalms 26:6 I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD:
Websters dictionary ---
AL'TAR, n. L. altare, probably from the same root as altus, high.
1. A mount; a table or elevated place, on which sacrifices where anciently offered to some deity. Altars were originally made of turf, afterwards of stone, wood or horn; some were round, others square, others triangular. They differed also in height, but all faced the east. The principal altars of the Jews were, the altar of incense, of burnt-offerings, and of shewbread; all of shittim wood, and covered with gold or brass.
2. In modern churches, the communion table; and, figuratively, a church; a place of worship.
3. In scripture, Christ is called the altar of Christians, he being the atoning sacrifice for sin.
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat, who serve tabernacles. Heb. 13.
Various references to the altar --
Genesis 8:20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Exodus 29:44 And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office.
Leviticus 1:1-13 – Something always was killed and died at the altars and offered to God.
Types of offerings were Sin offerings, Trespass offerings, meat offerings, free-will offerings, burnt offerings (consecrations, sanctifications, sacrifice of peace offerings), wave offerings, heave offerings, altars of witness – agreement (Josh 22),
Within the church the central position is occupied by the altar. It stands in the most prominent place, and to this there is attached a great meaning. The altar, or communion table, stands there to remind us that there can be no true worship without sacrifice, and that sacrifice is the central fact of worship, and should be of our lives. Our true object then in entering the House of God is not to hear a sermon--the pulpit ought not to occupy the central and dominating position--it is to offer unto God the sacrifices of praise and acceptable worship.
"Come into His courts and bring an offering with you" (Ps. 96:8) does not refer merely to material things. The chief offering is the offering of ourselves unto God, and without this no other form of offering, however splendid, will make it acceptable unto Him.
It will be noticed, also, that our offerings--those which we give for the support of the ministry and of the church--when received, are placed upon the altar. And they are placed there to remind us that they are an acknowledgment that our possessions are His. If one could read the history of each coin given in God's House, it would be found how many beautiful acts of sacrifice they represent.
The altar is there, too, to remind us that no life can be lived in the Spirit of Christ which is not sacrificial. Christ sacrificed Himself for us (Eph. 5:2). We must "lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).
1.Jehovahshalom – peace of the Lord – The Altar of Conversion
Judges 6:24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
Hebrews 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Romans 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
2.Elelohe-Israel – God, the God of Israel – Altar of Consecration
Genesis 33:20 And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.
Isaiah 6:6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
3.Bethel – house of God - Altar of Calling
Genesis 12:7-8 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
Genesis 13:4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
4. El-bethel: God of the House of God – Altar of Confession
Genesis 35:7 And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.
This altar was first built by Abram, and this occurrence came after Jacob had come by Bethel on his way to his Uncle Laban, but did not build an altar, but a pillow to sleep. He was commanded to return to Bethel when he left Laban many years later, but turned aside to Shechem and Succoth where he lost his daughter to the world – Gen. 34, and he gets right with God here in Gen. 35, and finally gets back to Bethel and builds the altar…but finds “the God of the house of God.”
Future years of neglect to Bethel - the House of God is noticed throughout scripture where men defiled this altar.
Bethel --- 1 Kings 13:1----- And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.
2 Kings 23:15-17 Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
Amos 3:14 That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.
The promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 was demonstrated at the Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston, Texas on February 26, 1995. The congregation began their evening service at 6:30 p.m. expecting a routine worship service. During the invitation, a young girl walked the aisle, confessed her sin, sought the Lord's forgiveness, and sought encouragement from the church.
After her response to God, other members started coming forward and confessing their sins. Around 9:00 p.m., some members relieved a couple working in the nursery so the workers could experience what God was doing. That couple went to the altar and asked for prayer. Their son had run away four months before because he wanted the freedom to live his life as he desired.
While this church was praying, that young man was at Mardi Gras in Galveston. He felt God telling him to go home. He made the ninety-minute drive home, only to find a dark house. He wondered why his parents would still be at church, but he drove to the church anyway.
A deacon recognized him at the door and pointed him to his parents, who were still kneeling at the altar. The son tapped them on the shoulder. In a tearful embrace he told of his desire to come home and recommit his life to Christ. What if that young girl had not been obedient to repent of her sins? That worship service may have just lasted the usual hour rather than going until 11:00 p.m., and one family might still be distant from each other and the Lord.
5.Jehovahnissi: the Lord is my banner – Altar of Commitment/Consistency
Exodus 17:15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi:
6.Ed – witness – Altar of Communion/Communication
Joshua 22:34 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.
The following illustration is by T. David Sustar:
Tears were streaming from the evangelist's eyes as the Spirit of God directed him toward three young men on the back row. The message that night had been on the "The Horrors of Hell." The man of God had made a passionate plea, attempting to rescue any soul bound for that awful place.
As he approached the trio, he was about to ask them to please come to the Lord and confess their sins. Before he could utter a word, one of them smirked and said, "Huh, preacher, how far is it to hell, anyway?" The other two laughed and they all turned and exited quickly from the church.
The evangelist told me he heard the squeal of the tires as they pulled out on the highway and sped away. His broken heart followed them as far as possible, hoping they would return. Others, however, did respond and a number of people were praying around the altar.
The prayer was soon interrupted by a state trooper's knock on the front door of the church. His question paralyzed the congregation. "Do any of you know three young men?" and he went on to describe what they were wearing. The people responded that they did and wondered aloud why he asked.
The officer sadly unfolded the story. Just two and one-half miles down the road, at the big bend, their car had left the road and split in half around a large oak tree. The people hurried to their cars. When they arrived, they found three dead bodies lying beside the road. It was two and one-half miles to hell for those young men!
I suppose that none of us realize how close death is to us. It stalks our every step and waits around every corner. God's Word says it would be thus, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). In reality, I suppose we're all just one breath away from judgment. At any moment, we could meet all the facts of our life, which will dictate where we spend eternity.
Isn't it great to know that sins forgiven will allow us to stand with joy before the judge of the universe, Jesus Christ?