Abraham’s altars and the lesson for us

Genesis is such an amazing book of the bible. In re-reading Genesis 12, I was again astounded by the depth and complexity of human history and our relationship with God. Gen. 12 is the famous chapter in which God called Abram (later name changed to Abraham) and made a significant promise:

I will make you a great nation; … I will bless those who bless you. And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:2a & 3a)

You can be sure that the promise of God is solid, and that we are seeing the curse of nations who curse Israel beginning before our eyes. In verse 7 of Genesis 12, “Then the LORD appeared to Abram,” God appeared to Abraham. In my interpretation he appeared as the Son (Jesus said in John 8:58,”Before Abraham was, I AM.” He was quoting God speaking to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14). God appeared to Abram! Think on that for a moment. The El-Shaddai, the I AM, the ALMIGHTY, appeared to a man, walked with him, spoke to him, comforted him, and commanded him. It is a shuddering thought to ponder the gravity of those moments. That gravity was not lost on Abraham, who built altars to Him all over the Land wherever he went. Abraham did not build houses for himself, he built altars to God.

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.

Abraham built altars right away, to mark his obedience to the LORD, and to sacrifice and worship. When Abraham came back from Egypt, “to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.” (Gen. 13:3-4) which is another way of saying worship and sacrifice. When Abraham and Lot had separated and Abram moved to the region of Hebron, he “built an altar there to the Lord” (Gen. 13:18).

Abraham corresponded with the LORD by building altars for worship. Building an altar is an intentional, physical act. Worshiping on front of an altar is an intentional, physical act. When Abraham returned from Egypt, Abraham saw the altar he had originally made and ‘called on the name of the LORD’ in worship and thanks. In this case, the altar was a reminder of his relationship with the great I AM.

We do not need to build altars, but we do need to be as dedicated and as intentional as Abraham in our relationship with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You note that when Abraham and Lot separated, there was no mention of Lot building an altar to the LORD. Lot was with Abraham when Abraham got the calling from God (Gen. 12:5) and was with Abraham throughout the blessing of his peoples’ increase. Lot saw God working in his family’s life. He reaped the blessings of Abraham’s obedience. But Lot did not build an altar. And from the biblical record we see how the distance between man and God can slowly grow when we fail to consistently correspond with the LORD. Lot crept toward Sodom, closer and closer he pitched his tent, until he was finally living inside the city with all its sin and perversity. Though the sins of the city grieved Lot greatly (2 Pet. 2:6-8) Lot did not build an altar. And in the end, Lot lost his city, his possessions, his family, his wife, (“Remember Lot’s wife” Luke 17:32) and sin fell upon his daughters, who lay with their father.

We do not build altars … but we pray. Our part of the correspondence between ourselves and God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is maintained through prayer, corporate worship, and fellowship in the body of the believers. Is your heart an altar to I AM? Do you pray constantly? Do you worship in faith and obedience, as Abraham did? No? Remember Lot’s wife. Jesus said:

Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.

Build an altar of prayer in your life and you will be blessed by the presence of the I AM Himself!!!