01/05/17 At the Altar

READING: Genesis 13-15, Matthew 5:1-26

“He went by stages from the Negev to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had formerly been, to the site where he had built the altar. And Abram called on the name of Yahweh there.” Gen. 13:3-4

I’m guessing that most of us have been there. We walked with God, messed up in sin, and returned to Him under His grace and mercy. Even Abram, the father of the Hebrews, walked that path.  He erected the first recorded altar in the Promised Land when he arrived in Shechem (Gen. 12:7), thus affirming his faith and marking a place where God appeared to him. The next story in Genesis is Abram’s sojourn in Egypt and his sin when he encouraged Sarah to lie about her status. Upon recognizing who Sarah really was, Pharaoh ordered his servants to escort Abram and his family out of their land. From there, Abram returned to the Promised Land – and particularly to the very place where he had previously erected the altar. There, he worshiped the Lord again.

I can only imagine what Abram must have experienced there. He knew God, but nevertheless lied to protect himself. Still, though, he apparently knew the right move was to go back to where he had worshiped God in the past. Maybe his goal was to re-engage his relationship with God after his failure. Perhaps he sacrificed there to express again his grief. Whatever his purpose, Abram found God ready to receive him and to reaffirm His covenant with the patriarch. In fact, Abram built another altar when he moved to the area of Mamre (Gen. 13:18). Sometimes we, too, must halt our wrong directions and return to worship the God who welcomes us.

Too often, people who’ve made sinful decisions allow the guilt over their wrong to drive them further from God. Instead of running back to Him to worship Him again, they flee at least temporarily in the wrong direction. If that’s what you’re doing, stop your running. God will meet you again at the altar, where He wants you to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).

  • Go back in your mind to these events in your spiritual walk, and meditate there for a minute: your conversion experience; your baptism; the first time you shared the gospel; the first time you participated in the Lord’s Supper; the first time you just knew that God had answered your prayer.
  • Thank God for second chances.

“God, I return to the altar to worship You today. Make me hungry for righteousness.”

TOMORROW'S READING: Genesis 16-17, Matthew 5:27-48