Wednesday, January 20, 2010
This is a picture of an altar, built by the Temple Mount Institute, as a replica of the altar God commanded Moses to build on Mount Ebal, overlooking Shechem:
I guess the uniqueness of this command from God was the fact that He wanted "unhewn stones." This meant that no metal tools could be used in its construction. I came across this recently and have been reading a lot about the Temple Mount Institute's desire to start the sacrificial system up again in Israel.
Fast forward to our study of Abraham. The concept of sacrifice didn't start with the law and as a matter of fact, it didn't start with Abraham either. Culturally, sacrifices to pagan gods were common far before the story of Abraham and Isaac happened. We looked at the first sacrifice ever made and in actuality, it was made by God to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness. The killing of the innocent to cover the guilty was exampled by God and then commanded to be imitated by mankind. Cain and Abel knew they were to bring sacrifices to the Lord, so we see the concept of offering a gift to God clearly within the first generation of humans to live on the earth.
Why did the pagan communities sacrifice? I am sure there are a list of reasons but the most obvious one was as an act of worship and appeasement to their god. When Abraham took Isaac up onto Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son to the Lord, he told his servants he was going to worship. Worship and sacrifice are intrinsically linked. It's a heart condition that causes an action. Perhaps I should say faith, worship and sacrifice are intrinsically linked.
But by the time the Old Testament closes out with the book of Malachi, the sacrificial offerings of the children of Israel were no longer out of worship but out of duty. Their hearts were not behind their actions and God called them out. The whole book is the accusation of the Lord upon the wayward children. I wanted to quote a verse here but I can't limit myself to one verse, so do me a favor - grab your Bible and read through Malachi. It is shocking, sad and scary. Here, look at this for an example:
"If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name," says the Lord of hosts, "then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart." (Mal. 2:2)
Not only does He describe what they are doing but He threatens them as well. I can't help but see the church in general in the book of Malachi. We have become so accustomed to our traditions that the meanings behind our practices are becoming lost. Why do we pray for our food at mealtime? Why do we sing before the sermon on Sunday? Why do we tithe or even take communion? Why do we "spend time in the Word"? Are these truly acts of worship or are they acts of duty?
Abraham exampled true worship for us this week. He set aside his feelings and by faith, obeyed the command of God, offering the very best, the most precious and the most costly possession he had. We cannot help but pause and wonder what we withhold from God. But go one step further - what we give to God, is it truly our very best and do we do it out of a heart to bring honor to the Lord, to truly worship Him?
Read that question again and slowly this time.
I am convicted this week to offer my very best, to set aside my will to worship the Lord, to examine what I lay on the altar to God, to dwell on the call to be a living sacrifice. When I went to bed last night, I thanked the Lord for proving Abraham in such a dramatic and public way. It is encouraging to me that man can truly walk by faith and worship deeply in a way that pleases the Lord.