In November last year, the Lord caused the word "altar" to appear before my mind many times. In pondering over this word, the rhema of the Lord came saying: "In the year 1997, 1 desire to restore the altars of communion and consecration in the lives of my people." The significance of the altar will be unfolded here through the life of Abraham. In his pilgrimage in Canaan, he built four altars.
In Gen. 12:6-7, Abraham arrived in Shechem. Here he built his first altar. Shechem in the original language means shoulder. In the human body, the shoulder is the place with the most strength. The shoulder can lift what the hand cannot pick up. Therefore Shechem can also mean strength. The first characteristic of Canaan is strength. Thus, God's strength is found in Canaan. Canaan is not just a place flowing with milk and honey; it is also a place of strength. In Isaiah 9:6, it is written: "And the government will be upon His shoulder." The strength of God is in the government of God. In the initial experience of obedience, God graciously edified Abram by strengthening his faith towards God. The first lesson of faith Abram learnt was the Lordship of Christ.
In Gen. 12:8, Abram built his second altar in Bethel. The name Bethel in the Hebrew language means "the house of God". God's people are the temple of God, or house of God. In Gen. 33:9-12 and 35:1-3, we find that, Bethel is also a place of prayer. Jesus Himself said in Mark 11:17 "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." The house of God is a house of prayer. The second lesson that Abram learnt was the importance of prayer and communion as he "called on the name of the Lord." As Abram lifted up his face towards Bethel (God's house), he turned his back from Ai (a desolate heap, or defeat). If we constantly maintain the altar of communion in our lives, we shall never suffer setbacks or the defeat of Ai (Josh. 7:5).
In Gen. 13:18, Abram built the third altar in Hebron. The name Hebron means fellowship in the original language. It is impossible for one to live in Hebron without first passing through Bethel. Fellowship can only be found in the house of God. Without God's house it is impossible to have fellowship. However, there is a prerequisite for entering into the true fellowship of Hebron. The prerequisite was fulfilled when he made a separation from Lot. (Gen. 13:9) When we deal with our fleshly life, we shall find our Hebron. The whole character of Hebron is whole-heartedness. The whole purpose and yearning of Abram's heart was to fulfil God's will. Abram was consumed with the call of God. He was called to be the father of many nations. Caleb was whole-hearted and he inherited Hebron (Josh. 14:12). Hebron can only be possessed by being whole-hearted. The third lesson Abram learnt was that he must be whole-hearted and dedicated towards God's call (12:1) before he could receives his inheritance. The Oaks of Mamre is found in Hebron (118). The name Marmre means fatness or riches (inheritance).
Abraham still had to learn one last lesson. He built his last altar in Moriah, Mount Calvary. (Gen. 22:2) This name is actually taken from the verb "to see" in the Hebrew. It means, "the revealing One who is more than a provider". Literally, God has seen ahead and has made provisions for your every need! When this incident occurred, Abraham was at least 120 years old. He had walked with the Lord for about 50 years. Abraham knew God. They had a long covenant relationship!
Abraham was required by the Lord to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. This was an offering of consecration! A burnt offering must be burned by fire. All of God's promises hinged on Isaac. If Isaac was to be burned up, would not God's promises be burned up? God's goal and His work were closely linked to Isaac being raised up.
Isaac was a gift (grace) from God. Isaac, who represents the work of God, was the plan of God's redemption for mankind. Do we love the gift of God or the ministry above the Giver Himself? God must teach us this vital lesson: we are to put the gifts or the ministry aside, and live totally in God. Isaac must not be an idol in our lives. Would you be willing to give up your plans to do your own thing or your ambition, and follow wholly after Him?
Abraham said to the Lord, "God, 1 consecrate my son to you. I give what I love the most to You." In verse one, Abraham said, "Here 1 am." This is similar to Isaiah in Isa. 6:8. Let us arise to pursue and love God above His blessings. It took three days of journey before they reached Mount Moriah. The number three signifies that we must consecrate our body, soul and spirit totally to do His will. The maturity of Abraham was reflected by his total consecration unto the Lord. It was this obedience that causes him to become the father of many nations and a friend of God. My friends, let us build the altars of communion and consecration deep in our heart.