"And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. 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" (Gen. 12:6-7).
The foregoing passage records one reason why Abraham has been called the "father of the faithful." We see that the Lord had made a promise to Abraham, both in this passage, and in verses 1-3 of this same chapter. Upon receiving these promises, Abraham immediately "builded an altar unto the Lord." This expresses Abraham's confidence that the Lord would do exactly as He had promised. An altar was necessary to worship God in Abraham's day. We are not to worship God with a physical altar with its animal sacrifices today, but the principles which governed the worship of Abraham should regulate our worship to God even now.
It is interesting to note that his altar was built entirely to honor God. It was not constructed for self-glorification. Any works that he did, were works of God (Romans 4:14). In contrast to this, we may note the rearing of a structure in Genesis 11, namely, the tower of Babel. This tower was built so the builders could make a name for themselves (Gen. 11:4). It was not to glorify God, and for this reason their work was brought to naught, and they were scattered abroad over the face of the earth. There are too many builders like this around today. Even among our brethren, we find those trying "to make a name." They do this at the expense of magnifying God's name. They want elaborate and ornate buildings to compete with the sects. They are not satisfied with a modest, yet satisfactory meeting place without "all the trimmings." These things tend to magnify the builders, and entirely too much stress is placed on the material and physical. Thus, any work undertaken is to be for God's glory, and not to exalt the builder. Such was the purpose of Abraham's altar.
The altar of Abraham expressed his desire to acknowledge the divine guidance of his past life. He appreciated and found great joy under God's guiding hand. He gladly obeyed the Lord's commands. It has been said "where Abraham had his tent, there God had His altar." In how many congregations today is the "altar" in need of repair? In how many homes does it need to be rebuilt? In how many . homes has it never even been erected? The means whereby we may serve the Lord acceptably ought to be the first concern of every congregation, every family and every Christian. Do we really appreciate the Lord's influence in our lives as Abraham did? God has revealed himself to us through His word. We need to diligently, constantly and prayerfully study it. We can show our gratitude to God in this way.
Abraham's altar expressed dependence upon God. It was used to offer sacrifices upon. Abraham believed in atonement. Too many folks today evidently have no confidence in our atonement. We read in Gen. 15:9, that Abraham's offering was designated by God, and was complied with by Abraham. We read in Genesis 22:1-13 the supreme sacrifice in the life of Abraham. He depended upon God to the extent that his only son of promise was about to be slain. Yet he never wavered. He knew he was nearer to God by his sacrifices. By our sacrifice, Christ on Calvary, we can some closer to God. In fact, Christ is the only way in which God can be approached (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). His atoning blood cleanses us (I John 1:7). Let us depend upon this atonement that was sacrificed on the altar of'the cross, just as. Abraham had confidence in his sacrifices.
Abraham's altar expressed his readiness to consecrate himself entirely to God. An altar that failed to express this would be mockery and blasphemy. To show consecration to God's cause does not require a great outward show of reverence. God is not flattered by such hypocritical acts. Such was the attitude of some Pharisees in Jesus' day (Matt. 6:1-7). He demands a spiritual service - one that shows inner, complete and absolute consecration and total commitment. Too many people want to "consecrate" themselves to God based upon conditions which they themselves institute. In order for our devotion to be acceptable, it must be unconditional and absolute.
Finally we see that Abraham's altar expressed his faith in the fulfillment of God's promises. Why would he sacrifice to God and worship Him if he had no confidence in God's ability to carry out His predictions? The Lord had promised to make of him a great nation. He had been promised a son in his old age. He had been the recipient of the land promise. Abraham was willing to leave the future part of these promises to God. The same Lord that made these great promises to Abraham, has made promises to us. He has promised a better land than that which Abraham's posterity received. We have the promise of eternal life (I John 2:25). Do we have Abraham's confidence in God that this promise will be carried out? If so, what are we doing to show our faith in that promise? Abraham did something. Do our actions indicate absolute faith that God is able to deliver as promised?
In this great man of God, we find a good example of what our worship ought to mean and what it should express. Friend, if your "altar" is broken down, build it up. If you are lacking one, construct one. All that is needed is obedience to God's will, and then "worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:34, pp. 11-12