An Altar Of Earth

September 21, 2015

Exodus 20:24-26

(All scripture is from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

The best known scripture in the Old Testament is Exodus 20:1 through 17 – The Ten Commandments (see also Deuteronomy5:6-21).  I find it interesting that the very next commandment (other than a reference in Exodus 20:23 reflecting back to the first two of The Ten) concerns a simple Altar Of Earth upon which the Israelites were to offer their burnt offerings.  It is described thus in Exodus 20:24 through 26:

      An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice upon it
      your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. 
      In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will
      bless you.  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.  Nor shall
      you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed
      on it.

It was to be a simple altar of earth or stone.  Let’s look at the altar’s description:

•      Exodus 20:24 and 25 – “An altar of earth [or of non] hewn stone….if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.”  God wanted an altar reflecting creation from His hand, not man’s!  Man is sinful, so much so that anything he attempts to do is tainted by sin!  If anyone added his handiwork to this altar – no matter how great his skill, as God said, “…you have polluted it.

In Isaiah 64:6 it is written:  “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags….”  Our righteousnesses are the very best works we can do!  And if our very best is like a filthy rag, then what does our worst look like to God?!  This is why it plainly says in…

▸ Romans 3:10 and 23 – “There is none righteous, no, not one….For all have     sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

▸ Ephesians 2:8 and 9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

▸ Titus 3:5 – “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us….

The only ‘work’ acceptable to God is what Jesus described in John 6:29:  “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.”  Why?  Because only Jesus was sinless!  And only His work on Calvary’s cross was sinless and will save us!  As with the Altar of Earth, we cannot add anything to the simplicity of God’s plan of salvation without corrupting it!

•      Exodus 20:26 – “Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.

Is this command given because our bodies are sinful?  No.  But it does involve the fact that we are sinful!  The very first thing that Adam and Eve noticed when their…eyes…were opened…” (Genesis 3:7) after they disobeyed God by eating the fruit “…of the tree of knowledge of good and evil…” (Genesis 2:17), was…they knew that they were naked…” (Genesis 3:7).  It seems that nakedness and sexual immorality are among the first manifestations of sin! (See Romans 1:21-32).

Now, I don’t know if they early Israelites wore underwear of not – or what kind of underwear they had!  I think they wore a folded loin cloth next to their private parts, perhaps tied around the waist with some string or light rope.  Whatever it was, God did not want them to be publicly exposed – either fully or partially!

•      Exodus 20:24 – “…I will come to you, and I will bless you.”  While this is not a description of the altar, it is closely tied to the proper use of The Altar of Earth.  This is God’s fondest desire – to bless His children!  He will come as Judge someday (see Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16), but now He plainly says in I Timothy 2:3 and 4:  “…God, our Savior…will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.”  He does not want anyone to go to hell!  So He has made the way for all to access eternal life through Jesus Chist!  He loves us that much (see John 3:16; I John 3:9, 10).  However, if a person insists on trying to gain eternal life his or her own way, rejecting God’s way – the only way through Jesus Christ – according to John 14:6 – then He will allow that one to experience eternal separation from Him and suffering in hell!

May this brief look at The Altar Of Earth be a blessing to you, helping you to understand God’s demonstrated love for you, and His work on your behalf.

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