The Reading: Exodus 27:1-8
“You shall make the altar” (v.1) RSV
The Altar lay outside the Tent, and indeed was the key to entering. The altar was outside not only so that the tent was not burnt by its fire, but because sacrifice was always the prerequisite to drawing close to God. No sinful human being could presume to go barging into the presence of God without due preparation. The first stage was to be cleansed from sin and rebellion.
As the writer to the Hebrews says: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). This is what the altar was for.
Jesus fulfilled and so ended the need to keep sacrificing burnt offerings on the altar, by offering himself as the one, perfect sacrifice. Again, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it: “(Christ) has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).We approach our Lord not because we are good, but because he (Jesus Christ) is good. It was God himself who was, in his son Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19), dying for us that we might be forgiven. His love for us cost him his life.
The altar is, however, not only there for sacrifice for sin, but also for sacrifices of thanksgiving! God has given so much and it is only right that we should offer back to him the first fruits of our gains. Gratitude is a key attitude to cultivate within ourselves. It stops us taking things for granted and even grumbling that we have not got more!
Paul expresses well the sacrifices that are fitting for us to give: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Our God is pleased with the dedication of ourselves to him, and “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Thank you Lord for your love and sacrifice for me. May I respond in generous love and sacrifice for you. Amen.
1 What was Abraham going to sacrifice on his homemade altar?
2 What did Solomon offer at the altar?