Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. Genesis 8:15-21
Genesis 8:20 may very well be the first record we have of anyone building an altar to the Lord. The altar was built out of thanksgiving to God for sparing the lives of Noah, his family and the animals God had instructed Him to save. Do note the altar was not built the moment God spoke to Noah. Not at all. The process took quite a while. Noah received the instructions; built the ark; survived 40 days and 40 nights of rain and then waited months until the waters had receded and the ground was dry enough to walk on. Yes, it took a while for Noah to get to the place where he was able to build an altar but he built it anyway. And then He moved on.
The Scriptures bear many references to the times people built altars to the Lord. (Gen 22:9 – Abraham built an altar; Judges 6:24 – Gideon built an altar; 1 Sam 14:35 – Saul built an altar to the LORD; 2 Sam 24: 25 – David built an altar.) Their actions could be interpreted as a sign that they had given that season to God and were ready to walk where He led. They built the altars and they moved on.
It’s not always easy to build altars. It’s easier to try to use our altar stones as tools to resolve our issues on our own, instead of laying them at His feet. Instead of turning our disappointments to Him and allowing Him to turn them around for our good, we try to change them our own. We’re prone to fail. We can’t change our circumstances. It’s best to use them as tools of our worship as we build the altar and move on.
What are the stones you find yourself walking around with? Anxiety? Hurt? Anger? Frustration? Delay? Jealousy? Fear? Bitterness? Loneliness? Broken promises? Hopeless dreams? A broken heart? … Trying to fix them on your own? Trying to fashion a life you hope to be proud of and happy with? Trying to find only the answers you want? Thinking of using your stones to bring you freedom? In our hands, the stones have no good use. We lack the tools to change ourselves … build Him an altar and lay yourself upon it. If He is pleased with your offering, He will consume your sacrifice and give you the strength to move on.
Father, I’ve been carrying around the stones for this altar for far too long now. I had not realized that the building of the altar somehow meant I needed to let go of the things I had been holding onto. I’ve had some of these stones for so long I don’t even remember why I picked them up in the first place! Today I build an altar to you with these stones – all the stones from my past mistakes, past hurts and past disappointment. I give You all the stones that signify my failures and shortcomings and the ones I’ve been ashamed to let anyone else see. I give You the ones of dreams yet unfulfilled and desires I hold close to my bosom. Because I speak to you from a broken and contrite heart, I know You will hear me. Thank you for receiving the sacrifice I bring. I have built the altar and laid the sacrifice. May You be pleased with what I bring to You. I have done all that I can do – please grant me the grace to move on. Amen
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