Profaned Altar Made Of Cut Stone
“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.”–Exodus 20:25
We start out this morning with a warning from God to Moses concerning the building of an altar. God desired an altar of uncut stones—stones in their natural state, not profaned by man. When something is profaned, it’s sacredness is no longer pure and man reveals his contempt for God.
Take, for example, language. Language is a gift of God, intended to allow the communication between people. This gift, like many do, came with certain stipulations. God said not to take His name in vain, and not to tell lies. When we do so, we have profaned God’s gift. Since I have already broached the subject of profaning language, let’s go a little farther. If the words crossing your lips are the same as the profanity used by an unbeliever, remember Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
God intended for the altar to be a place of sacrifice, of unity, a place of protection, and a memorial. Last Sunday’s verse, Genesis 8:20 spoke of Noah building the altar and making sacrifices of the clean animals and birds. In verse 21, we read of God’s reaction to these sacrifices. “And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imaginations of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.” If Noah were not a righteous man, then his offerings would not have been accepted by God.
In Deuteronomy 12:5-7, God tells His people what to do once they have destroyed the temples and places of worship of their enemies. “But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all the tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there shall you go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the first born of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.”
Our quote Thursday by Joseph de Maistre spoke of civilization being found wherever there was an altar. This is what these verses are saying. Once God chose the place for the tribes to gather, He made sure there was an altar. It was to be a place of offerings and sacrifices and a place where the people came together to eat. If the Israelites would have taken it upon themselves to choose their gathering place and built the altar of their choice, God would not have blessed them.
In Exodus 21:14, we read of the protection of the altar. “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.” Nothing nor no one has authority at the altar save God. The children of Israel knew this. They also knew that if they killed a man while he was under God’s protection, they would be just as guilty as he was.
Often, an altar was built to remind future generations of an important event concerning God that took place in that spot. Isaac built one in Genesis 26:25 after being visited by God. “So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and Isaac’s servants dug a well.”
In our lives, we see these same intentions God had for the altar. It is at the altar where we bow down and make ourselves an offering to God. We gather at the altar with our brothers and sisters in Christ to find fellowship and strength. As long as we go to the altar with a sincere heart, God will protect us from the Satan’s wiles. And it is at the altar where we remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
We are a lot like the stone altar from our opening verse. Just as God wanted it uncut and natural, that is how He wants us to come to Him. If we try to cut off our rough edges and clean ourselves up before we surrender to God, it’s like saying Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t sufficient enough to do the job. By trying to help God save us, we are saying we don’t trust Him to do it by Himself. God wants us to come filled with our sins—our rough edges—so that we can confess each of them to Him. Once we do this, He will take away our sins. Then He can begin to smooth our rough edges until we are, at last, a new creature in Him.