Setting My Altar

“Now Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, ‘Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.  And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster. And you shall write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over to enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you. And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them;  you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God,  and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.’” Deuteronomy 27:1-8

Much is made by God for the preeminence of an altar. On the day you cross over– this must be your established priority, your constant reminder, your identity, your goad to surrender, obey, and rejoice. Your altar shall hold and portray My word, your altar shall be for Me, your altar is our place of communion.

Today, we erect many altars and neglect the Lord in most, if not all. We arrive at days and places that flow with figurative milk and honey, and erect monuments to ourselves. We make choices that enhance our image, collect objects and experiences that boost our public personae. We relish (and flaunt) all the blessings from God and behave as though they flowed from our efforts and expertise.

But God calls us to a deeper way of living. He commands us to put Him first in a fixed and permanent way. When all our efforts, work, dreams, and plans are offered to Him, He brings blessings of peace and provision. When we take delight in the worship of Him, He bestows rejoicing and gladness on all that concerns us. When His word is our guide and light and hope, we have strength and wisdom for today and hope for tomorrow.

What is it exactly that I worship? To whom or what do I offer myself, and surrender my passion and affections? What do I prize? What is my aim, my standard, and my banner? What needs to change and be yielded for my primary altar to stand erect for the Lord of all?

“Spirit of God, who dwells within my heart,
wean it from sin, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as you are,
and make me love you as I ought to love.

Teach me to love you as your angels love,
one holy passion filling all my frame:
the fullness of the heaven-descended Dove;
my heart an altar, and your love the flame.” ~George Croly (1780-1860)

Oh Lord, keep my walk steadfast and blameless. May I daily put You first, seek and honor You at the altar of my whole heart. (Psalm 119:1-5)

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