“He knows and he’ll let Israel know if this is a rebellious betrayal of God. And if it is, don’t bother saving us. If we built ourselves an altar in rebellion against God, if we did it to present on it Whole-Burnt-Offerings or Grain-Offerings or to enact there sacrificial Peace-Offerings, let God decide.
“But that’s not it. We did it because we cared. We were anxious lest someday your children should say to our children, ‘You’re not connected with God, the God of Israel! God made the Jordan a boundary between us and you. You Reubenites and Gadites have no part in God.’ And then your children might cause our children to quit worshiping God.
“So we said to ourselves, ‘Let’s do something. Let’s build an altar—but not for Whole-Burnt-Offerings, not for sacrifices.’ “We built this altar as a witness between us and you and our children coming after us, a witness to the Altar where we worship God in his Sacred Dwelling with our Whole-Burnt-Offerings and our sacrifices and our Peace-Offerings.
“This way, your children won’t be able to say to our children in the future, ‘You have no part in God.’ “We said to ourselves, ‘If anyone speaks disparagingly to us or to our children in the future, we’ll say: Look at this model of God’s Altar which our ancestors made. It’s not for Whole-Burnt-Offerings, not for sacrifices. It’s a witness connecting us with you.’
“Rebelling against or turning our backs on God is the last thing on our minds right now. We never dreamed of building an altar for Whole-Burnt-Offerings or Grain-Offerings to rival the Altar of our God in front of his Sacred Dwelling.”
Tuesday: We are the Altar
The Israelites built an altar--a model--after the Altar of God. It was not to replace the Altar of God, but to serve as a witness to it: a reminder of who God is and what he has done. A reminder of his salvation. We're not talking idols here, we're talking about a bridge. A means to get from point A to point B, from us to God. These particular Israelites were separated from the Promised Land, set across the Jordan and away from the boundaries marked out by God. They were aliens in a foreign world and they feared forgetting who God was or being excluded from the rest of the community.
This bridge allowed these Israelites to reach God, to worship and honor their Lord even being so distant from the Altar of God. It was not an act of rebellion, but of desire. God desires relationship with us, and in that time, relationship with God was symbolic in nature. The Altar was the place of atonement, of cleansing, of offering, of sacrifice, of redemption. It was the place to purify oneself through blood and fire, so that we could be presented to the Lord having fully expressed our desire for him. But it became legalism--a standard of motions and rules meant to bind the people and legislate spirituality. Not God's intent, but man's.
Instead, God rolls out the next part of his plan in response to our shortcomings: his son, Jesus. Sent to Earth, separate from God and his promised land, yet fully connected in Spirit. And Jesus became that bridge--that witness--to whom God is. He became that reminder and that means to reach God even when our lives seem so far away from righteousness. Christ's death, then, did not serve to replace the original Covenant, or requirement for blood and fire, but to fulfill that Covenant. To stand in the gap for us. This story is a preface to what God was doing: bridging the gap between himself and mankind through his son, expressed in love and delivered through the Spirit. The old ways are not negated, rather they set the stage for a beautiful understanding of the scope of God's grace.
Wednesday: Challenge Yourself
God's plans are far beyond our vision, understanding or even dreams. We cannot fathom the work God is doing because we are finite. It's like standing at the foot of a tower and trying to guess what lies on the other side. Until we go through it, we have only supposition. And until we have fully experienced the tower, we cannot imagine what lies beyond. Then, even if we could imagine or dream or guess, we have no foresight as to how the adventure will change us, thus altering our perspective of what lies beyond. God never hurries. And he knows the plans he has for us. Just as he painted little bits of his story for the Israelites, so he paints little bits for us. He hinted at the coming redemptive power of Jesus, and he hints at what he has for us. It doesn't matter, however, if we even see all of the hints. Until we walk the road and experience the story, we cannot understand how it will look because our perspective will continue to change.
Furthermore, through the work of the Spirit, we become the Altar of God, filled with his have and love and redemption. Full of his righteousness to bring his Kingdom to our communities. It is not by or hands that we serve our Lord but by his Spirit working in us.
What does it mean to be an ALTAR OF GOD?
Does God feel accessible to you? Why?
What in you compels you to do good? Would those traits exist without Jesus? How does God refine those?
HOW DOES YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS DRIVE YOUR DREAMS? HOW DOES IT DRIVE YOU TO BE PART OF GOD'S DREAM?
What feelings do these photographs draw?
Friday: Think & Pray
Have I ever come to a place in my experience where I can say – "I indeed – but He"? Until that moment does come, I will never know what the baptism of the Holy Ghost means. I indeed am at an end, I cannot do a thing: but He begins just there – He does the things no one else can ever do. Am I prepared for His coming? Jesus cannot come as long as there is anything in the way either of goodness or badness. When He comes am I prepared for Him to drag into the light every wrong thing I have done? It is just there that He comes. Wherever I know I am unclean, He will put His feet; wherever I think I am clean, He will withdraw them.
Repentance does not bring a sense of sin, but a sense of unutterable unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am utterly helpless; I know all through me that I am not worthy even to bear His shoes. Have I repented like that? Or is there a lingering suggestion of standing up for myself? The reason God cannot come into my life is because I am not through into repentance.
My Utmost for his Highest
Father, thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus, who has bridged the gap between our brokenness and your righteousness. Thank you for the life lessons you teach us that remind us you are here. Father, teach us to be patient for you, to learn that you never hurry and we are the servants of your master plan, which is always bigger than our own. We thank you for redemption and grace, for transforming us into your Altar through Jesus.