We’ve just reached one of the pinnacle moments in Exodus, when God reveals Himself to His people and speaks directly to them. However, the Israelites didn’t like hearing from God. They wanted to keep Him at arm’s length. So Moses went up to the mountain to meet with God and receive from Him the rest of the commands and rules God set for His newly freed people. Unlike the monarchy the Israelites came from, this nation would be formed and led by God.
The beginning of what we now call the Law started with the Ten Commandments, which we discussed last time. I’m not going to go through all the commands and guidelines God gave Moses, but I found this section on alters very interesting. The first subject God addresses after the initial Ten Commandments is how to worship and offer Him sacrifices.
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’”
While these instructions on alter building and sacrifice offering may sound rudimentary and old school, one aspect of this command popped out at me. God didn’t want the people to fashion alters out of hewn stones, but plane, uncut stones. Why? Why would it matter? It would seem like the fancier the better, right? If you were building something for God, wouldn’t you want to make it look nice?
But God said “no.” In fact the “no” was so adamant that He said, “if you wield your tool on it you profane it.” The word profane can literally be translated, “wound, pollute, slay, or prostitute.” That’s strong! So the Israelites were not to build an alter for the LORD their God with stones they had fashioned and shaped.
This is an important command, because God gave it directly after the Ten Commandments. But what does it have to do with us and how can we apply it to our lives? We don’t build alters any more, so what can this important instruction teach us about the heart of God?
Our works do not impress God. We cannot build, craft, or fashion anything that would impress our Creator. Our best efforts are a profanity to Him. There’s nothing we can do to earn God’s approval. God wants us. Our lives. Our hearts. Our very selves. He doesn’t want what we can do or make for Him.
Sometimes we get in the mindset that God needs us, needs our talents, or needs our skill set. But in reality, God doesn’t need anything. He’s God. He made the universe out of nothing by merely speaking words, so do you think what you have to offer would impress Him?
God doesn’t need us. But He wants us. He wants relationship with us. Nothing we could do will change that. So don’t worry about trying to create something amazing for God or trying to impress Him with what you can do, just give Him your heart. He doesn’t want fancy alters, just a heart of obedience. Just give God the gift of yourself.
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
~1 Samuel 15:22b
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