In ancient times, altars were often built to commemorate a divine action or deliverance. They were also used to offer sacrifices to God for remission of sins. Cain and Abel built altars for sacrifices; Noah built one to remember God’s deliverance; Abraham built altars to remember God’s promises. These altars were to help later generations remember how God had delivered them but were often times forgotten and new altars to other gods were built.
Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. I Kings 12:20
When Solomon sinned against God, He declared that He would take the kingdom from Solomon’s son and so it was. Jereboam was made king of Israel according to God’s plan. However, Jereboam became afraid that if the Israelites traveled back to Jerusalem to worship, they would turn against him and follow Rehoboam. So what was his answer to this dilemma? He built two golden calf altars for the Israelites to worship at.
If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.” Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” I Kings 12:27-28
As I was reading how this story unfolded, it occurred to me that we too often times build our altars in the wrong place and for the wrong reason. Altars are an act of worship and remembrance so when something happens in your life, do you build an altar for your circumstances or because God delivered you? Are you fearful and build your altar to false gods? What type of altar is it?
We must also remember that our altars stand as a testimony to others. So when our altars are not of God, we lead people astray. Jereboam led the Israelites away from God when he told them to worship the false altars. I personally want my future generations to remember me as one that worshiped God alone. What testimony will you share?
An Altar of Pride
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have laid something at the foot of the cross and then went back for it because I was impatient. I allowed my sinful pride to tell me that I could surely fix it myself only to find that I made it worse. Perhaps you are in a similar situation right now. Are you facing something in life that you are trying to fix alone? This is called the Altar of Pride. We build an altar to our achievements and to our abilities instead of giving God the opportunity to teach and bless us.
We get caught up in what the world expects us to be that we become prideful that we must deliver to meet their expectations. We take pills to lose weight, we seek out the wrong people to associate with, we look for status symbols to fill our lives and bring them meaning.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7
God calls us to Himself and tells us to be humble. How can I ever think that I know better than the God of all creation; the God that split the Red Sea; the God that created man from the dirt? This altar is easy to destroy if we simply humble ourselves and ask forgiveness for our prideful ways and allow God to have control of our lives.
An Altar of Fear
We all experience fear of one type of another. I know that often times I find myself fearing the future. It’s the “not knowing what God’s plan is for me” that makes me fearful sometimes. I find that I weigh myself down with worry and anxiety and soon I build an altar of fear which prevents me from allowing God to work.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. II Timothy 1:7
This is probably one of my favorite verses and one that I go to often in times of stress. I find myself becoming anxious about something that I may or may not have done and it prevents me from worshiping God. It is very easy to become a slave to fear and before you know it, there it stands. An altar built out of fear. God wants to tear down that altar of fear and replace it with His power and love.
An Altar of False Happiness
This is an altar which can creep into our lives without realizing it is there. We find ourselves in a situation where we are experiencing fear and anxiety so we turn to the things that give us temporary relief. I am talking about drug or alcohol addictions, pornography, adultery, lustful thoughts, and hateful thoughts. We seek out these things because the world makes them so easy to have. We believe that we will attain happiness from them but in reality they only take us farther from God. We are soon worshiping at the Altar of False Happiness. These altars take us away from true worship and the only One that can ultimately provide us happiness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Most of us have heard the old song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” Well when we stray from the path of righteousness, we never truly experience happiness but only an empty promise from the enemy that we will find peace. Do not allow yourself to be drawn to the things of this world that only work to widen the gap between us and God. Drown yourself in the Word of God instead of alcohol; Feel the awesomeness of His presence instead of turning to drugs; Spend time in prayer with God building a relationship instead of looking for it in pornography, adultery, and lustful thinking. Those relationships will never last but the one that you have with God will last an eternity.
The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. I Kings 13:5
God sent a prophet to Jereboam and told him that God would spill out the bones and ashes from his altars because of his sin. Jereboam was caught up in his own fear and forgot about following the will of God. God destroyed his false altars just as God is willing to tear down all your altars to false gods and spill out the ashes.
Jereboam raised his hand and called for the prophet to be arrested but instead his hand shriveled. He asked the prophet to pray to God to restore his hand and God did just that. All you have to do is ask and God will be more than willing to tear down your altars and heal you. Jereboam became trapped in his own fear, anxiety and pride, but in the end all he found were empty altars. Where are your altars built?
Dear Father in Heaven, I want to thank You for placing this message on my heart. For showing me that I need only serve the one true God and worship Him alone to find the happiness You promised. I thank You for tearing down my altars and allowing only one to stand in Your presence. I ask that You be with every person that reads this today. Touch them in a special way and show them if they have erected any altars in the wrong places. I know that You are willing and able to tear down our altars if we only allow You to work in our lives. I ask that You continue to search my heart and show me any sin that remains so that I may not be distanced from You. I will continue to give You all the glory forever. Amen.