If your want to know the future, study the past.
The Altar of Abraham, and Moses
“They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” John 8:39
What did Abraham do that was counted as righteousness and how was it so different from the corrupted conditions found by Christ upon His arrival in the kingdom of Judea? Where do we find the potency of Abraham’s character? How do we become a part of God’s blessing for him and his seed? Did God asked Abraham to do something unique and seemingly out of character with Jesus Christ?
“And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said … and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.” Genesis 12:7
Why did God want Abraham to build an altar? Was it to kill animals and burn their lifeless carcass upon a pile of stone and earth? Does God delight in the blood of beasts? What is the purpose of the altar?
“To what purpose [is] the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.” Isaiah 1:11
Jesus expounded upon the absurd idea that the blood of beasts was a delight to God when he spoke with the scribe who understood the nature of the kingdom of God on earth.
“And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love [his] neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. ...” Mark 12:33-34
If God does not delight in the bloody sacrifice, then why did he want Abraham to build an altar? What function did it fulfill? Have we missed the true purpose of these altars?
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” Ecclesiastes 11:1
If the Bible is always taken literally, then we should go out every morning and cast bread on ponds and rivers and oceans. The metaphoric meaning is often clear, yet sometimes is lost in the confusion of impractical historians and religionists. Casting your bread upon the waters has little to do with bread or water. And “burnt offerings unto the LORD” is not really about burning up dead carcasses so that God will be happy with the “sweet smell” of it.
When Abram left his Father’s house, he took with him many people who likely believed things very much the way that Abram had begun to see things. Abram was not a poor goat herder but a literate, wealthy, and respected man with a substantial following.
“And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan…” Ge. 12:5
As Abram traveled, he continued to spread his ideology, his beliefs, and teachings. As a man with a mission, he spread his “tent” and built his “altars” amongst the people wherever he went. Where people would listen and abide in God’s way, there was His altar.
“And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.” Genesis 12:8
Moses and the Altars of Clay and Stone
The Mizbeach or altars are said to be of two types.
“An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.” Exodus 20:24
Moses made an altar of earth. He was told to do so. He was not told to use just any type of earth but particularly the “red clay”. God had made Adam from this “red clay”. Was the altar made of dirt or was this another metaphor? Was the altar made of a certain kind of clay, or was it made of a special kind of man?
This altar was used to convey the sacrifices of the people. The chief characteristic of sacrifice is not so much that something is destroyed by fire, but rather that it is lost to the grantor. The grantor must be willing to truly concede the, “surrender of something for the sake of something else… something given up or lost.”
Such giving was essential in a free society where no government collected funds through taxation for redistributing wealth. Society needed a way of taking care of community needs. Such voluntary assistance is an extension of what should already be a part of the family, but, in Israel, it became a part of the congregational community on a national level. Nothing is more benevolent than the parent's sacrifice for their children and the children’s for their parents. The same may apply to nations with networking intimate charitable congregations.
The burnt offering is dedicated, or hallowed, upon the living altar of each family by the grantors. Like bread upon the waters, or tribute to the kings, it is lost to the grantor. If you have anything more than an intangible hope and faith to insure its return, then it is not entirely given and pure charity is not truly exercised.
In the City-State, there is a contribution for the good of the populous and the general welfare of the corpus of the State. The difference between those statutory contributions and those offerings set on Abraham’s and Moses’ altars was the former is extracted by authority upon entering the jurisdiction of the State as a member; and the latter was a freewill offering with personal daily choice in liberty. The State guarantees social security within its walled boundaries of authority in the form of entitlements, while God’s altars offer only hope and faith.
Abraham and the people who exercised the free will choice to support one another formed an altar of earth and brotherhood. As he spread his tent, his tabernacle, the way of liberty became strong in the land. When kings like Chedorlaomer devoured one City-State after another, it was Abram and those who believed in the law of liberty and choice who were the saviors of that day. This prophetic principle may still hold true in our own time.
There was another altar mentioned by God, but not with the terms “thou shalt”, but with the terms “if thou wilt make”. This altar was different and carried specific restrictions.
“And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” Ex. 20:25-26
This altar was made of stone not hewn by the hands of men, not touched by tools of iron or power. You are also warned not to make the altar tiered where you go up to its higher places by steps or degrees. If you do so, you will reveal a nakedness or lack of the covering or authority.
The Hebrew word rigmah [hmgr] is translated into “council”, but actually means literally “a gathering of stones”. It is from the Hebrew word Regem [Mgr], which is translated “friend” and is the same as ragam [Mgr], meaning “stone”. Both words have as a common origin [bgr] regeb, “a clod” (of earth). Hebrew letters have meanings which define the words.
God wrote the Ten Commandments upon dead stone. It is not the medium that He preferred, but was a secondary choice, as the hearts of the people were too hard. They were stiff-necked and hard- hearted. It was easier to write His laws on stone than upon the hearts of the Israelites. There would come a day when this was no longer true.
“For this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” Hebrews 8:10
God wishes to write His laws upon lively stones and to construct His altars and temple with those same stones of living flesh.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5
The stones of the altar of God were men. The use of the word “stones” was a metaphor, just as the words “burnt offering” were a metaphor for the idea of giving a thing up entirely. These altars were composed of men who the community trusted as friends, not rulers.
One of the key characteristics of these altars of men is that they are not to be hewn with iron tools. Again a metaphor of the language common to Abraham. This is in reference to regulations and restrictions placed upon these men as to how their job is done.
Why would it not be a good idea to regulate these men of the Altar? First, you should ask who is doing the regulating and who made them judge over the men of the altar?
The people who freely give offerings govern by their power in choosing to give or not to give. If they did not trust or choose to give, they could stop donating and that living altar would no longer receive their offerings. The people were the governors of the system and tempered the wisdom of the altar by their own freewill charity.
No “steps that go up” is another limitation on these stone altars of flesh. The going up by steps would also be creating a hierarchy of power and control. It would be a centralization of the wealth of the altar. This would lead to power and authority amongst those who tend the altar. A different kind of soul would be drawn to the service of the altar, one thirsty for position, prestige, and power. They would assume the duties and responsibilities of the people, one to another, and, in the repose of the people, apathy and corruption would grow. The people need to participate in the daily choice of charity. Such activity builds virtue and character, as well as fellowship and community. Any centralization of authority leads to a ruling elite, and the slothful deprivation of man’s individual dominion or freedom granted by God’s good grace is diminished.
“What is freedom? Freedom is the right to choose; the right to create for yourself the alternative of choice. Without the responsibility and exercise of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.”
These systems of charitable altars allowed communities and nations to remain free from the exercising authority established by men like Cain, Nimrod, and others. It encouraged strength amongst the gathering of the people through virtue, brotherhood, and sacrifice. It did not diminish the role of the individual or the family. It left honor within the family and compelled men only by the practice of God’s love.
At the core of this system was the family. It was the family that provided security for men through the blessings of the ways of God the Father. Each family as members of the community cared one for the other, forming the whole nation through a network of caring.
In this fragile life we live, families may falter or suffer calamity or experience destitution. When larger groups came together to safeguard the whole community, they would devise methods by which all could be secure. There was always a danger of a loss of freedom: the people sought social security. Abraham’s Altars gave a solution to the dilemma.
In the City-State, security was established by controls, force, and regulation of men, by men. These edicts hewed away at the freewill of men, giving power to other men instead. Men who sought power and control carved this new system into their own image. The exercising authority corrupted men and with that power came the danger of tyranny.
“Protection draws to it subjection; subjection protection”
These leaders were granted the power to enforce the security of the State. Stripped of the presence and plan of God, these men revealed their naked assent to the position of gods, or ruling judges, of the city or civil powers. The dominion granted by God to the individual was now incorporated into the City or Civil State. The ruling elite were perpetually tempted by that power granted to them by the demagoguery of the people.
From their high positions over other men and their lofty offices, these principalities exercised authority that became totalitarian. The temptation to become a beast, devouring the people and their substance, was too great, except for men like Moses and Abraham. There was none more divinely suited as ruler of a free state than Jesus, Who came as a servant.
“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Ez 16:49
Leaders are corrupted by their weakness for power and the weakness of slothful people. Equally important in the devolution of mankind is the cultivated apathy of the general populations. People no longer had to choose corporeal sacrifice in charity. No longer was faith in the Creator and love of neighbor the essential principles of social security.
It was the will of the organized State that men conformed to the will of the state and not the will of the Father in Heaven. The State promised to provide security from famine, catastrophe, and other “acts of God” or the tyranny and attacks of other civil gods of power.
A new kind of faith was directed toward the State and its gods. This faith was called allegiance. To insure the loyalty and fidelity of men, oaths were required. These ruling Benefactors also required tribute from all to insure the benefits of this controlled society. Ultimately, one class of citizens were deprived to pay for the appetites of the other. Coveting your neighbors goods became a policy of the State with a granted license by the voice of the people. Love of the State was more undeniable than love of neighbor. Private wealth became an enemy of the state and we soon saw Plato’s simple economic policy, whereby no gold or silver shall be owned by any citizen, become true, even before he taught it.
Gold in the hands of the public is an enemy of the state. Adolph Hitler
Children were taught by the State or abandoned to the care of strangers. The sanctity of marriage diminished and the natural use of the flesh became dissolute. Fear of the State was more real than fear of God, for despite the praises in their temples and churches their real homage, prayers (applications) and worship was to the State.
“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools… Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature [institutions] … For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:” Romans 1:22-26
Under the perfect law of liberty and at the altars of Abraham and Moses, each individual or family exercised faith, hope, and charity. While at the altars and temples of the City-State, obedience and compliance were the ruling creatures. The spirit that moved those altars of force was that of covetousness, control, and cupidity.
Men may choose to apply, or pray, at a government altar of authority and force or the altar of God’s granted liberty. God created a law that forbids coveting or stealing from your neighbor. Man created institutions based on taking from your neighbor.
“Because the creature [institutions] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:21
Mankind is changed by his choice. He chooses the institutions made by men to rule over men or he chooses to seek the kingdom of God and its righteousness.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matthew 11:12