Exodus 20:22-26 Altar Laws
God is beginning to flesh out His outline. The first issue He addresses is the place He and His people will meet together; the altar.
The altar God is calling for is a simple on. One made with the person’s own hands. One that can be made anywhere at anytime. It is a personal one made from a personal heart’s desire to honor the Lord.
A little bit later God will give Moses instructions for a corporate altar. One that is used by all the people together, but today’s instructions apply to the individual specifically.
I don’t know how many of you have children but I can guarantee all of you were children at one time. Today’s message reminds me of my children and my childhood too. My memory is better for my children’s lives than for my own so I’m going to use them as an example.
When my children were growing up, each year I would wind up with several handmade gifts. One I still have is a picture frame (ornament for my Christmas tree) from my youngest son. He made it in preschool. He will be 30 in December this year (2019). I still have it, not because it is some beautiful work of art but because HE took the time to make it. Sure, it was a class project that everyone was doing but it was his little hands that assembled that simple wreath frame and painted it. He made it with LOVE for his mommy. THAT makes it a priceless work of art.
Another work of art I still have from my daughter is a handmade cookie jar. She was a teenager when she made this in her art class. She molded and shaped and labored over this piece until it was perfect. I collect cookie jars of varying designs. The one she designed was a dog. Imagine the hours that went into hollowing out the body, shaping the head so it fit perfectly, and crafting all the detail into it so it reflected exactly what she wanted so it would bring a smile to MY heart! Once the hard work was accomplished, she fired and painted it so it would remain a reminder of her love for years to come.
I have a confession to make regarding this last piece. I loved it when she presented it to me and I love it still but it has been in a box for years as there isn’t “the right place” in my home to put it. That changes today! My heart breaks as I remember the love she poured into it and the carelessness I have treated it with. No, it can’t be used as all my other cookie jars as a canister but what it holds is MORE precious than anything the others contain; her love for me! You didn’t see me but I had to run out to my storage shed and bring in my daughter’s love from that old box. I am ashamed to say there were many pieces in there that I had forgotten. She love now has a shelf dedicated almost entirely to her gifts.
Speaking of my daughter’s gifts, some of them are marred by my neglect. The dog cookie jar I described to you has a piece missing from his neck. A trophy she crafted for me has the figure on top broken off and the figure’s legs nearly removed from her body. A small chocolate chip cookie jar has a crack in it from years of aging. At least they are not all dusty, which is the case for most everything else in my house! How could I be so flippant with the love I have been shown?!
That same kind of love that was given to me is the kind of Love the Lord calls for when we come to Him. That is why He instructed His children to make their altars with their hands. They are to pour into every handful of dirt or heft of a rock the love they want to represent to Him with their finished product. It is not just the sacrifice that they will ultimately lay on the altar that matters to Him but the care in which they put into the place they want to meet with Him.
EACH time we come together with Him is precious! Whether it be in the field to say thank You for the harvest He has provided, in the office for the job He has supplied, in the home for the family He has created or in your quiet spot for the breath He has bestowed. ALL these things belong to HIM and He graces us with them. They are His gifts of love to us. Our gift to Him is HOW we come to Him. Do we give Him our ‘handcrafted’ gift that takes our set aside time or do we give Him a ‘store bought’ present that was bought at the last minute? There is nothing wrong with a store bought gift as long as time and care was taken in purchasing it. Time to know the heart of the one who is the intended recipient and care searching for just the right gift to reflect how treasured the relationship is between the two.
We may not make physical altars like Israel did, but how we meet Him matters as much today as it did when He gave Moses the instructions we read today. “Make what you bring Me with your own hands and heart. Don’t make it so grand that it is “showy” to the world and exposes the nakedness of your soul as you mount its heights. Don’t strive for perfection in form so that you lose the art of the creation. Put your heart and soul into what you create and it will shout of your love for Me. That is what I want. No ‘store bought’ creations. I want a handcrafted work of love. I don’t even care if it leans to one side or the other. As long as your heart is in it, it is PERFECT!”
Father God, forgive me for my ‘store-bought’ times of coming to You. The times I came out of duty instead of love. Yes, I needed to come even in those times but more than that, I needed to give You my real heart. Thank You for teaching me every day, no matter how our time starts. Today’s lesson was special! Don’t let me EVER forget it. Thank You that You “keep all my pictures on Your refrigerator” no matter how childish they may be. I would love to look through them someday and see the progression we have made together. The simple scribbles of my first attempts to, hopefully, the artistic designs of the final ones. I know we are somewhere in between but some of the days where You let my “brush” soar gives me hope for our future too.