Spiritual Director · August 9, 2017

Devote #78

The Altar

Today I was reading about the completion of the temple Solomon was building for God in Jerusalem. This place must have been spectacular with gold walls, ceilings and floors. We actually read that,

“There were so many bronze furnishings that no one even knew how much bronze it took to make them.” —2 Chronicles 4:18

But what stands out most to me is the layout of the temple and the main attraction: the altar.

You need to know, the idea behind the Hebrew word for altar is essentially, “the killing place.” I know you probably knew that, but may have forgotten it.

The altar was the place of sacrifice. It was the center of the worship service for the priests and for all the people of Israel. So when you entered this temple, the first main object you would meet was the altar in the sanctuary court.

Every time they entered the sanctuary, they were reminded that in order to approach God there needed to be a sacrifice. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22). Blood needed to be shed in order for the people to be made right with God. That was all accomplished on the altar.

An innocent third party gave up it’s life, made the sacrifice, for theirs.

Many churches still have altars in them. Some are finely decorated. No more bloody sacrifices. And some churches have gone away from the altar, no longer a necessary furnishing.

In a sense we have an altar. Our altar, our “killing place”, is the cross, where Jesus died for our sins and we follow by dying to self and living for Him.

Sadly, many churches have eliminated the cross as well so as not to make anyone feel uneasy. But let’s be remind again, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22). We needed that innocent third party between God and ourselves, to be sacrificed.

When you wear that cross around your neck, or have a cross on your shirt or cap, you’re making a statement about the “killing place.” It was a bloody mess. It was a disgusting necessity. Without it you and I would still be trying to make things right between us and God and to no avail. We would never be able to do enough to appease the wrath of God for our sin and we would have absolutely no hope of eternity.

Here’s my word of encouragement for you today

Thank God, we don’t have to still make animal sacrifices to Him to account for our sins.

Jesus sacrifice was the last sacrifice needed. His blood paid in full your account, my account, everyone’s account, from the beginning of until the end of time. Don’t ever be ashamed to display your cross, your altar, because He took your place.

Thank You for sending Jesus to be our One and Only needed sacrifice. Jesus, we will never be embarrassed to display our love and gratitude for what You did on our behalf. It’s with a heart of love and joy for You, we pray, Amen.

—Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen

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Mark was Spiritual Director for VdC from 2016 to 2019. He's written many of the devotions, especially the Devote and Affirm series, found on this website.