The Altar of My Heart

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43:4

One of the practices in Lent is introspection, reflection. My friend, Ashley, wrote about this practice on Lent on Facebook this week —

Set up a quiet place in your home or go for a walk in nature.
Offer the time up to the Lord. Be quiet. Listen.Bring yourself to mind.
Give God the space and the quiet to speak to your heart.
What do I mean by that? Well, the speaking part is never audible for me but in this quiet space, I get images, thoughts or certain feelings. I remember things I wished I had not done and I think about things that I wished I had done. I offer it to the Lord.
I ask for forgiveness and for strength to do better.
But, (and this is huge!) I still sit in silence, listening.
When I give the space, the next thing I always feel is loved and seen.
At the end of my time I feel renewed and at peace with who I am in God.
What a remarkable thing!

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

As I read her post, I thought about retreating to my own private worship place – I think of it as my altar. I grew up in a church that had an “altar” … a railing, a place to kneel, across the front of the sanctuary. In most services, the congregation was invited to pray at the altar, to request anointing of oil, to be prayed for, prayed with. The opportunity to pray at a physical altar had a positive effect on my spiritual journey.

Altars are mentioned in scripture as a place of worship,
prayer, forgiveness – meeting with God!

  • As a meeting place with God (Genesis 12:7; 35:3; Judges 6:24)
  • To commemorate God’s deliverance (Deuteronomy 27:4-7)
  • Where sacrifices are made, atonement for sin (Exodus 27)
  • A place where the covenant was renewed (Joshua 8)
  • A place of prayer, intercession (Joel 2:17)
  • Where gifts are offered to God (Matthew 5:23)

I’ve been reading Chronicles this week. In it we find altars being rebuilt, renewed for worship!

  • Asa repaired the altar of the Lord – and the people “entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul.” 2 Chronicles 15:12
  • Hezekiah “gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the musicians played and the trumpets sounded. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed. When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped.” 2 Chronicles 29:27-29
  • Manasseh “restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 33:16

Jesus is our tabernacle, high priest, and sacrifice.

We have an altar – in one sense, the cross is our altar, because it is where Christ made the one perfect sacrifice for us. By His sacrifice on the cross, Christ defeated Satan, sin, and death! In His sacrifice, we find forgiveness, newness of life!

Let us therefore come to worship, with a true heart, in complete assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22

Our inner being may also be our altar, it’s where we follow the command given in Scripture by Paul, “to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—our true and proper worship.” In our hearts, minds we meet with God, talk with Him, renew our covenant with Him, and as my friend Ashley said, we listen, and allow His love to wash over us!

We find rest, peace, solace, acceptance at the altar!

The old hymn runs through my mind today, “Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control? You can only be blest, And have peace and sweet rest, As you yield Him your body and soul.” I hope you are encouraged as you finish reading this post to spend some time at the altar with our God!

Now from the altar of my heart
let incense flames arise;
assist me, Lord, to offer up
my evening sacrifice.

Awake, my love; awake, my joy;
awake, my heart and tongue!
Sleep not: when mercies loudly call,
break forth into a song.

This day my God was sun and shield,
my keeper and my guide.
His care was on my frailty shown,
his mercies multiplied.

New time, new favor, and new joys
do a new song require;
till I shall praise thee as I would,
accept my heart’s desire.

John Mason, 1683
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