Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there. Exodus 20:24
The people of God were always building altars in places where God showed up and did the impossible. These are the places where He told them who He was. These are the places He won us, and places where they could go to remember Him and seek His blessings again. These places “mark the spot” of His faithfulness.
- When a covenant was made, an altar was built. What are the promises you have received from God?
- When a victory was won for God’s people, an altar was built. What battles has He fought and won for you?
- When God’s character was seen clearly, an altar was built. When has God shown or told you who He is?
What are our places of remembrance? What are our places of sacrifice? These are our altars of remembrance.
Building an altar was the process of making an otherwise unremarkable place holy, (set apart, different). It is a place of remembrance that implies territory, progress, movement. This is promised land; where sabbath rest in His promises resulting in thriving, fountains of life, both physical and spiritual. I want to remember God’s victories in my life more than my losses. In fact, remembering is the way we don’t forget to obey Him and lock into the joy set before us. We have to build altars so we don’t forget to be faithful. Unfortunately, we do not have many models of multi-generational faithfulness to God.
After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10)
We must remember, because remembering is the internal mark of a mutual chosen-ness between us and Yahweh. For God to fight for us means He has chosen us and we have chosen Him by honoring Him and following His commands. We will remember the way He fought for us, the way He made room in this earth for us so that His glory would fill the earth by our experiencing of His goodness! We are a God-glorifying people just by the sheer fact that we still exist, that we made it through our seasons of war, desert, trials, temptations, testing. We passed the test. Now the real test begins…will we remember, and in so doing, remain faithful through the generations? It turns out thankfulness is result of remembering.
As I remember these places that remind me who He is, He promises to bless me again fresh.
“The altars you make for me must be simple altars of earth. Offer on such altars your sacrifices to me – your burnt offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there. 25 If you use stones to build my altar, use only natural, uncut stones. Do not shape the stones with a tool, for that would make the altar unfit for holy use.” (Exodus 20:24-25 NLT)
What two things could these altars be made of? Soil and Rocks. Natural made into supernatural. We do not cut them to make them look nice and fit perfectly together. Victories are often messy affairs and God’s true temples are never made with human hands. We let these rocks stay sharp and untouched, so people can see their raw truth and worship Him, not because of what WE made out of our past, but what He has done simply by the sacrifice of the cross, dressing us with the righteousness and authority of the blood of Jesus, by showing up for us, taking fear out of us, fighting for us, filling us with His Spirit, and returning us to trust in Him over and over again.
I wrote this about five years ago, when I was in a desperate battle with fear of man. This was my resolution then. It’s time to let God dig out the rocks from the soil of my heart—those markers of fear and disappointment that I have been paying homage to for too long. They places of sacrifice. It is this process of taking the uncut, rough, heavy, and hard things up out of us and bringing it to the light. Those rocks submit to the faithfulness of my God. By building an altar of testimony out of THAT THING I’m placing it in full view of the world in testimony to God’s power. In this way fear, heaviness, oppression, and hardness is no longer a part of us or an emotionally active, traumatizing part our lives, but a public way to praise God. We have seed-like promises from God that need strong root systems that have been root-bound by fear. I have the very Word of God, Jesus Christ, wanting to penetrate my heart’s soil and grow fruit in me. My building an altar is not an outward show of my religious fervor. It worship, eyes on Yahweh, The Mover of Stones, and it is a penetrating excavation of hardness in my heart making space for softness.” (from Seed and Soil, upcoming book release)
Caleb remembered. The man of the tribe of Judah who walked into Canaan in his forties, and came out full of courage when the other men’s hearts failed. This man was forced by the decision of others to walk around the desert with a faithless people for 40 more years, but He remembered the promise made to him, and eventually conquered that land promised to him.
Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ 10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. (Joshua 14)
We can notice a couple of things here:
- Caleb was Kenizzite. So he did not even earn the promise of Abraham as a natural son of Abraham, but as an adopted son into the tribe of Judah, who was faithful to the Lord. How much does God have for those whose hearts remain courageous to obey Him and encourage others to do the same under extreme pressure and fear. Many of us are faithfully operating in promises made to Israel on the basis of our adoption into the family of God…this is biblically supported. Remain faithful and remember the promises.
- Caleb REMEMBERED the promise made to him by God and at the age of 85, remains vigorous and vital in His old age and went in to drive out the people he was dreaming of driving out for FORTY years. Some of us will not see a fulfillment of our promises soon. Some of us are waiting for timing, of for others to get on board with the promises God made to us as a people. Some of us have a promised but delayed victory. But it is coming. And when it comes, you better remember the promises made to you so you can claim the territory.
We have to remember the promises made to us. These are our altar stones. These are the markers of the Lord’s direction and covenant to us, but personally and as believers collectively. Let me invite you to take a tour of my altars in case you need some examples here.
I remember when I was told I would never have children, first by multiple medical professionals and then as a curse spoken over me when someone saw me playing a certain drum in Africa. I have children. Sometimes they overwhelm me and I forget that they are a gift and inheritance from the Lord, but I call my heart to remember. I offer thanksgiving on this altar for my sharp arrows in my quiver whose children’s children will pierce the enemy in every future generation on this earth.
There’s a place I met with God once. It was my room as a child. There God filled me with the gift of tongues as I sought him night after night for months begging for this gift. I remember the way I would talk to Him through that window and intercede for my family, for my friends, for the nations, even as a 13 year old girl. I remember. And I give thanks. He loves to give gifts to His kids.
I remember when God broke the cycle of addiction in my family through my father’s surrender to Jesus. I remember when God broke chains through my mother’s obedience to and hunger for God. Being under their authority has allowed me to move into true spiritual freedom and I honor them and walk so joyfully in their blessing. I thank God for my parents on that altar of remembrance.
I remember in 2013 when God spoke to me in the car at a bend in a road in my hometown. I had three children under the age of three at the time. He said, “you can stay here and be content, but a little bored, or you can follow me to that place and see what I really have for you.” This decision changed the course of my life. We put our house on the market and moved to a place where we literally knew no one. I offer my sense of direction, my future, desire to be near my extended family and dear friends, and desire for comfort on that altar pretty regularly.
I remember my salvation. I recall the invitation when my deliverer spoke an invitation to my heart to come sit at His feet and let Him disciple me, to take the rocks and thorns out of me and break up the hardness of my heart to receive seed, to receive the Living Water fresh again. I remember so I don’t forget. I am a sinner saved and rescued by the true and loving God. I return there often with a thanksgiving offering. I offer my worship and my heart on that altar a lot.
I remember the nature of my personal slavery. How every brick I built was for a kingdom of my own making. I remember the chains of anxiety and control I wore. I remember the pressure of performance, the striving, making bricks without straw. I remember how God led me out of academics and making a name for myself back into a place where I only know His name. I offer my career and legacy on that altar pretty often.
I remember the moment the Lord opened my eyes to see the deception of the enemy in my life. A simple lie that had lodged in my mind and grown like a weed in my heart. I remember seeing the strategy of the enemy against me so clearly as God rescued me from basing my identity around a lie and accusation. I offer my sense of human understanding on that altar.
I remember the first fruits of the life of Christ in me. I remember when the gift of prophecy was fanned into flame and used to speak truth, hope, warning and life to those who would hear. Though some hated that gift, and sought to destroy it either by theological arguments or lies about my character and intentions, I deeply desired to have it and I love hearing God’s heart for His people. I offer my time, schedule, and reputation on that altar of remembrance quite often.
I remember in a worship team practice when Jesus asked me to give him my sarcasm, my “entertainer” desire to be the center of attention, my need to be recognized. I offer my natural gifts, my “likeability,” and personality to Him on that altar a lot, resolving to only let Him fill me with His nature as much as He can despite my shortcomings and weakness.
I remember how He showed Himself to me in these places. It is less about my personal victory and more about His. It is about nothing being hidden. It is about a sacrifice of praise and confidence in my God and a fresh blessing from Him.
What are your altars of remembrance?