Altered at the Altar by Heather Marsten

Monday, January 14, 2008

Altered at the Altar by Heather

One day in the shower, I was thinking about how our bodies are the Temple of God and somehow ended up thinking about altars. God then put in my mind lots of altar/alter words. Altered states of consciousness, alter ego, altercation, alter (change), so I went to the dictionary to see about other altar words, and there were many. Altar words ending in “ar” all relate to God and sacrifice. The “er” words imply change of some sort. So I figured we come to the ALTAR to ALTER – and this led me to a Bible study on altars.

The Hebrew word for Altar is 4196 in Strong’s MIZBEACH, which is a raised place where a sacrifice is made. From the dawn of history man has sacrificed at an altar. Abel brought his sacrifice to God in Genesis 4:4. It comes from a Hebrew word, Strong’s 2076, ZABACH which means to slaughter, sacrifice. ZABACH is one of the most important terms in the Old Testament, occurring at least 630 times. The blood from the sacrifice was poured around the altar. Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’  The sacrifice was important to God because it foretold about Jesus, giving the ancients a picture of the Wonderful Promise God was going to give us, true atonement for our sins. The ancients would learn that blood could only cover sins not remove them, but Jesus completely paid for our sins. As we study altars, we will see that satan imitates God in forming altars too and he tempts us to worship idols and other gods. We need to watch what altar we worship at and that takes true discernment for sometimes our fleshly altars are not so apparent.

I have been struck by the fact that the first altars were made from natural materials – rocks and dirt. It made me realize that in a way we have come full circle. God formed us from the dust of the ground, breathed life into us and we started worshipping and fellowshipping with God. Man walked and talked with God and was covered in the Glory of God, no need for clothes or any covering but God’s glory. After the fall, man began building altars outside ourselves to cover our sins and bring us back into fellowship with God, but the blood of animals could not fully cover man’s sins. These altars, which started out as dirt and rocks have become more and more elaborate. To the point where the ceremony and pomp connected with the altars detracted from the original purpose of them. At the right time, Jesus came down and sacrificed Himself for our salvation and we have been brought to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, we have become the Temple of God, and our altar is now the altar of our heart. God worked out creation to restore us to Himself, and yet we are still worshipping at other altars. Fortunately God’s Spirit dwells in us and He remembers that we are dust Psalm 103:14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Adam and Eve were given clear instructions by God for the care of His Garden. Perry Stone, in a recent publication compared the Garden of Eden to the Holy of Holies in the Temple. He pointed out that God gave Adam and Eve dominion in the Garden. They gave it away to the enemy, making a choice to worship at the altar of pride and becoming more like God, and it took God 4,000 years to set in motion restoration through Jesus Christ.

For Eve, to want to be more like God seems like such a spiritual motive, wanting to be like the One whom we worship, but when she went about to achieve this end through disobedience, the lie behind the motive was exposed. She was not worshipping God, but rather seeking to elevate herself to the level of God. Sometimes the things we do at the altar and bring to the altar have hidden motives. We have to be careful when we worship that we are truly worshipping God in Spirit and in truth, with less of our egos, and more of Him.

The first mention of the word altar was in Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  The first thing Noah did when he left the ark was to build an altar to worship God. And from that time on Israelites built many altars to God. We read about the altars that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Samuel built. We hear about the Temple of Jerusalem, and Ezekiel. Many others made altars to sacrifice to God. Unfortunately there are also altars mentioned in the Bible that are not dedicated to God, but rather to idols and pagan gods. And the Israelites were often lax at pulling down those altars when they came back to God after a period of rebellion. They often left those altars in the high places – where over time idol worship again flourished. Whenever we do not pull down the strongholds (altars of self) in our life, they have a way of coming back to power.

Initially altars were made of pounded earth: Exodus 20:22-26 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. You shall not make anything to be with Me – gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. 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.  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. Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’  Strong’s mentions that the word for tool is 2179 (EREB) – which is a cutting instrument, knife, or sword, it is an implement that can be used in war. And it is also the same word for the tool used in circumcision and for a barber’s razor. Remember when King David wanted to build a Temple, God did not permit it because David had too much blood on his hands. God did not want an implement that could be used for death to be used for the altar which represented life. He wanted death to be solely associated with the sacrifice for sins, for it is our sins that bring death. And it is the sacrifice of Jesus which gives us the promise of life.

Why do you think God wanted the altar to be made of natural materials?

  1. God wants to draw attention to the sacrifice for sin, not to the construction of the altar.
  2. The farther people get away from a real relationship with God, the grander the altar is and the more grandiose the ceremonies. Priests and Levites used the altars and the ceremonies to create a sense of awe, taking away from the focus onto God. Even today the ceremonies in many churches are more about the Pastor and the people than the focus on God.
  3. The heart of faith is that the focus is on the sacrifice, which is strictly the work of God’s hands (from the pounded earth to the animals or plants that were presented, man cannot bring anything of himself to the altar). We can’t create our own salvation by works. It is a gift of God, and all points to God and Jesus.

On Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses specific instructions about the construction of the altar. After God freed the Israelites from slavery to Egypt, God begins to show Moses about the Law and the Ark of the Testimony and what is to be offered for the Sanctuary. This begins in Exodus 25 and continues on into Leviticus. When I first read through the Bible I felt it was rather repetitious, for God would tell Moses the instruction. Moses would order the building of whatever God told him and then say I built the ark and the dimensions were…. It seemed to me that all Moses would have had to say was, “I built this according to God’s instructions.” But now I know it was so important God’s instructions were carried out to the letter, because each and every element in the tabernacle was a perfect picture of Jesus, from the colors used (red-blood, purple-royalty, blue-the tabernacle was of heavenly descent), to the metals used (gold-royalty, silver-redemption and atonement, and bronze strength and judgment) and the precious stones which would be put on the Ephod to represent God’s precious children, the tribes of the Israelites. God detailed how many posts would be needed, the materials to be used, where each piece of temple furniture was to be placed, the construction of the oils and incense. No detail was too small for God to cover – why, because He was showing the Israelites a picture of His Son.

True worship requires mans’ best, and needs to conform to God’s plan. God initiates and controls worship. The Altar of Sacrifice stood before the Holy Place, Exodus 27:1-8, You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide—the altar shall be square—and its height shall be three cubits. 2 You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 Also you shall make its pans to receive its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze; and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners.5 You shall put it under the rim of the altar beneath, that the network may be midway up the altar. 6 And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 The poles shall be put in the rings, and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to bear it. 8 You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain, so shall they make it.

Notice the details, the horns for holding the sacrifice, the fact that it is made of bronze – which is a metal of atonement for sins. God took care of what was to be done with the ashes from the sacrifice – and later will give detailed instructions for these sacrifices. One interesting thing is, God had poles made so the altar could travel with the people. It wouldn’t be until the perfect sacrifice (Jesus) that we no longer needed to carry that altar of sacrifice in the physical.

There was an altar of incense within the Holy Place, Exodus 30:1-10, “You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. 4 Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.
7 “Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. 8 And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. 10 And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.” 
and it had horns Leviticus 4:30, And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

Notice that incense was to be burned – a perpetual incense (we are to offer prayers without ceasing to God). Incense is the prayers of the saints according to Revelation. And God did not want strange incense or strange fire to be used for this. For we worship a Holy God with Holy, sanctified things – be it the tools He ordains or our sanctified selves. And our sanctification comes from God and God alone.

How the Israelites approached the Altar also details our relationship to God.

The first thing that the Israelites would see when they entered the Tabernacle Gate, through the blue, purple, and scarlet tapestry of the Eastern Gate, is a huge altar, five cubits square made of acacia wood– the Altar of Sacrifice.  It was a place for the burnt offerings for our sins and God spends much time speaking of acceptable offerings which are without spot or blemish. (Just as Jesus is an acceptable offering to God for our sins, and He was without spot and blemish) This is the place where the priests begin their consecration to prepare them to minister in the tabernacle. The priests’ lives depended on their detailed obedience to God’s instructions.

The first time a sacrifice was offered at this brazen altar, God christened the altar with fire from above. Leviticus 9:22-24. Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, 24and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

So God lit that first fire, and consumed the sacrifice – and that is the fire that was to be maintained. We too have the fire of the Holy Spirit within us, and our first Love for God which is not to go out. We need to keep feeding this and maintain that. This fire was to not go out 6:12-13. And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out. This is a reminder that we always need covering for our sins (until Jesus) and it was also the fire used at the altar of incense. The priest would light the incense (prayers of the saints) with the fire of sacrifice. The next place we would encounter when we entered the tabernacle was the brazen laver – where the priests would wash their hands and feet. It was covered with the bronze of the mirrors of women. The first act of cleaning (the blood sacrifice was initiated by God), the second act was initiated by them – they had to choose to wash their hands and feet. In order to serve in the Temple, they had to be thoroughly cleansed, and every time they went to the brazen altar they had to pass by the altar of sacrifice. Because the brazen altar was made of mirrors, it is a pretty expression of dying to self, for he would see his reflection as he cleansed himself. We have to look at ourselves clearly to see how we have sinned, to examine ourselves and wash ourselves with the water of the Word.

In the Holy Place, which is separated from the outer court by a curtain, we come upon three tools, the golden lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. Again each of these represents something about Jesus. But I am only going to focus on the altar of incense.

No strange fire was to be used to offer incense (which represents the prayers of the saints) which was positioned before the veil to the Holy of Holies. It was made of Gold. Even in the New Testament we see a priest ministering at the Altar of incense Luke 1:5-10 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense..
The elements that composed the incense were costly Exodus 30-34-38 And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. 38 Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”, and it shows us that fragrant worship is costly, not hindered by others, puts us in a right relationship with God. Notice that the incense was beaten – as was our Lord. It was not to be used indiscriminately, but for the purpose it was made for. We got to smell the incense on our trip to Israel and Noa who spoke with us told us that when the incense was burned the fragrance went throughout all of Jerusalem and the brides would walk in the city and pick up the fragrance, which was so sweet that they did not need perfume when they got married.

I want to show you a hard lesson in holiness, how we have to truly examine ourselves and keep ourselves pure and unprofaned as we approach God. It also shows how easily we can move from pure worship to idol worship and end up worshipping at the wrong altar. Aaron had two sons, Nadab and Abihu, Leviticus 10:1-11 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me  I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people   I must be glorified.’”  So Aaron held his peace.4 Then Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.” 5 So they went near and carried them by their tunics out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron, and to Elemazar and Ithamar, his sons, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled. 7 You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

Then we come to the most important altar, within the Holy of Holies, beyond the veil. Exodus 25:10-22

“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. 13 And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. 15 The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.
17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

This was the most important altar for it showed that God wanted to meet with the people at the Mercy Seat, and it was the place where the High Priest, once a year would offer sacrifice at the Passover for the sins of the people. Just as Jesus offered sacrifice for our sins. Notice how important it was to God that we obey Him exactly – Exodus 25:9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

While the Ark was representative of God, it was not to be worshipped. And the Israelites committed a huge sin of mistaking the Ark for Whom the Ark represented. The Israelites were in battle with the Philistines, and the people were defeated. They decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the battle – but God had not instructed them to do this. The two sons of Eli the High Priest, brought the ark there and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. There was major defeat and Eli and his sons were all killed. God loved the Israelites so much that He arranged for the Ark to be returned, and the Ark was brought back to Israel. 1 Samuel 5 – tells us about how, when the Philistines put the Ark in the house of the pagan god dagon, dagon falls over. No pagan god can stand in the presence of the Lord. God inflicts the Philistines with tumors (hemroids). The people return the ark using milk cows separated from their young ones, and the cows still bring the ark to the Israelites. Unfortunately, the Israelites 1 Samuel 6:15 The Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on a large stone. Then the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices the same day to the Lord.  But the people did not just meet God at the Mercy Seat, as God wanted, they opened up the ark to look inside (what’s inside – the tablets with the law, Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna) Because they looked inside God did not meet them with mercy, but with the law. 1 Samuel 6:19-20 Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. And the men of Beth Shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the holy LORD God? And to whom shall it go up from us.” There was greater respect for God in this. But we are still doing that today, wanting to meet God with works and righteousness at the point of the law, instead of His mercy and grace.

This is the biggest picture of Jesus that God has provided us, and He wanted to make sure that not one thing was changed. And God would also teach the Children of Israel how he wanted the altar to be moved from place to place. At one point, David planned to move the Ark of the Testimony to Jerusalem and did not do it according to God’s plan, and this came with deadly consequences. 1 Chronicles 13:1-12 Then David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. 2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems(seemed right to them in the flesh)  good to you, and if it is of the LORD our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us; 3and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul.” 4 Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.5 So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor in Egypt to as far as the entrance of Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjath Jearim. 6 And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, to Kirjath Jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the LORD, who dwells between the cherubim, where His name is proclaimed. 7 So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. 8 Then David and all Israel played musicbefore God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.(sounded good – a real parade and showy performance) 9 And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. 11 And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. 12David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?”

They made many mistakes in moving the Ark, they put it on a wagon when God had ordained it was to be carried on shoulders. The cart was showy, not worshipful. They also used instruments that required men’s skill to play, not worship to God. Much pride was used in this, and when Uzza put his hand out to steady the ark, he was not one permitted to touch the ark, so he took far too much liberty and pride in that gesture. Upon further research David realized that the ark had to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites, and when David obeyed those instructions the ark was able to be moved. 1 Chronicles 15: 25-29 So David, the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom with joy. 26 And so it was, when God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bulls and seven rams. 27 David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod. 28 Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn, with trumpets and with cymbals, making music with stringed instruments and harps. 29 And it happened, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the City of David, that Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David whirling and playing music; and she despised him in her heart.

Michal was so caught up in appearances that she despised David’s pure worship of God. When we do not worship God we become barren and she never bore children. We need to focus on our worship to God, no matter what it looks like to others. God made sure it was He who was worshipped, not a material object. And in all honesty, sometimes we treat the holy things of God with reverence, but forget it is but a representation of God. When we stray from God, He will bring our focus back to what is important – Him.

All throughout the history of the Israelites, not only were there altars to God, but the Israelites often built altars in high places and idol worship was in their midst. God had specifically instructed the Israelites Exodus 20:1-11 exactly how important it was that they worship only Him. And God spoke all these words, saying:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.  4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God,am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.  7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. 8 “ Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

And yet, while Moses was up the mountain receiving instructions from God, the Israelites, despite their fervent promises to obey God, they built an idol. Exodus 32:7-14 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” 11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Frequently the people turned to idols and every time that happened, God would withdraw His hand of favor over the people, until they came back to Him.

I spent a lot of time on the altar itself, as God instructed it to be built, and you may be asking yourself how can this relevant to me? Here are a few ways it is relevant.

Since Jesus’ sacrifice, when the Temple veil split, we have become the Temple of God. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

The woman at the well asked Jesus about where we are to worship, and Jesus replied John 4:19-24 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”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. 22You 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.”

Does this mean we don’t need to go to church anymore? No! Hebrews 10: 19-25 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

But when we assemble, we need to keep some things in mind.

ALTERCATION: When we come to God we have to come in the Spirit of Forgiveness, holding no anger or animosity. If we have unfinished business with anyone, we need to settle that, for God wants us to approach Him in love, for it is by love that we are known as His.  Mark 11:25-26“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 5:21-26 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

ALTERNATIVE So often we are double minded in our worship and in our faith. We need to settle once for all that God is God and we are not, and we are to obey God. Not be pulled aside by other gods or other things. God needs to be prime in our lives.  Matthew 6:24  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  James 1:5-6 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord: he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Ezekiel 14:3-5 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? 4 “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.

God clearly sees not only what we do, but what is in our hearts. We can look so holy and worshipful to others, but God knows what is really going on in us.

Ezekiel 8:6-17 Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.” 7 So He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall. 8 Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door. 9 And He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.” 10 So I went in and saw, and there—every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in their midst stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. Each man had a censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’”
13 And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.” 14 So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.” 16 So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east. 17 And He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”

ALTER EGO God wants us to be consistent – often we have our church personalities and then our home personalities and they are not the same. Are we the same worshipping God in the privacy of our house as we are in public? Are we making a show of our worship to impress others, or are we worshipping God? Matthew 6:16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Isaiah 29:13-16 Therefore the Lord said:  “ Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work  among this people,  a marvelous work and a wonder;  for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,  and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” 15 Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, and their works are in the dark; they say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?” 16 Surely you have things turned around!  Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it,  “ He did not make me”?  Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

We need to come to the altar in an ALTERABLE state – willing to let ourselves be cleansed by God.

Romans 12:1-2 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.

In these last days we have to discern who and what we worship, and we will have to be strong in our faith, for the temptation will be to go with the flow.

Daniel 3:13-18 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, andpsaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Matthew 4:8-11 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Romans 1:20-25 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Revelation 22:8-9 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 

9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

God wants us to draw near, and it is ever more urgent as the end times come.

Hebrews 10:19-25 19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Luke 21:34-36 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

We want to cast our crowns before His feet and worship. God is there to love  us and guide us as we seek Him.

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About Heather Marsten

Welcome to Heather's Blog. I'm looking forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. I just moved about nine years of material over from another blog site, Xanga, who may close down mid-July. At first I was disappointed to make the move because I had a lifetime membership at Xanga and had to spend weeks transferring posts. But now I'm thrilled. Already I've met new bloggers and read many new websites. Blogging is a wonderful way to expand my horizons and garner new ideas. I'm a happily married mom of three young adults. My husband and I are proud to watch our children grow and venture out into the world. My daughter is still in college but my two sons have graduated. One has a job and the other just graduated and is in the process of finding a job in his field, physics. Anyone know of any jobs out there? I'm proud of our children and love watching them grow and mature. They've become fine, compassionate, and loving people. Empty nest? Nah, I'm too busy to let an empty nest bother me. Not enough hours in the day. My husband and I enjoy quiet time together and I have many interests to pursue - one of which is blogging :D I am a born-again believer and love God. As you read this blog, you will discover that Bible studies thrill me. There is so much wisdom contained between the covers of the Bible and I am fortunate to sit under the teachings of a remarkable pastor, Pastor Don Moore. Members of our church (Living Word Chapel in West Hurley, New York) are encouraged to teach and there are visiting pastors who stop by our church, I also study the Bible on my own and love sharing what I learn. One other passion is writing. My current work in process is a memoir. A scene from my memoir was published in a book called: Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware - an anthology of angelic encounters compiled by Cecil Murphy. I'm hoping my memoir will encourage other survivors of abuse. I grew up in a home filled with abuse, including incest. For most of my life I was searching for something that would fill the void of not being loved by my parents. I tried many ways to find that love -- therapy, relationships, occult studies, and keeping my life so filled I had no way to think about my past. It was only when I discovered God that I was able to put the pieces of my life back together and walk forward in a joyous life. My nickname - wondering has changed from wondering where the heck God was in my life, to wondering what incredible adventure is going to happen next. I hope you enjoy my site. Please say hi, share some thoughts, and ask questions. I look forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. Have a blessed day. Heather
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