Altered Altars

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 20:22-25

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. (v. 25)

The Lord repeatedly prohibits his people from manipulating the materials of true faith. These prohibitions protect against diminishing God’s glory. They also prevent fashioning a version of God that serves a human ambition or agenda. The Lord’s prohibition extends even to altars for the prescribed sacrifices. These are to be built only of stones unshaped by human hands.

As contemporary Christians, we don’t build altars or offer sacrifices. But we do live our faith publicly. Many of us live in communities in which the linguistic and visual trappings of Christianity abound. The Lord’s prohibition against human-shaped religious objects applies directly to the ways we live our faith in public. We must guard against political and cultural forces that seek to manipulate us by using the language of our faith to sell a product or agenda. And we must resist the temptation to speak and act as though the one true God serves our purposes. God isn’t a servant of any human ambition. Yet in the person of Jesus Christ, he came to serve our greatest need: atonement for our sins and the promise of eternal life. Don’t try to shape God. Instead, allow your life to take shape around the love and lordship of Jesus Christ. —Ben Van Arragon

As you pray, thank God for shaping your life for salvation through Jesus.