As we continue to look at the culture of the altar, you can not go to far without looking at worship. In fact the very first altar mentioned in the Bible is about worship.
In Genesis 7 and 8 we have the account of the flood and Noah. Most people are familiar with most of the details about the ark and all the animals and how they were all saved from the flood. With the account of Noah we also find the first occurrence of an altar in the Bible. I am not saying that Adam or others never worshiped God at an altar but simply that at least what is recorded in scripture Noah is the first mentioned.
In Genesis 8:20 it says “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” NASB
As the first mentioned altar I believe this altar carries significance in what God looks for in an altar. Let’s take a look, as it should help us in building our own altar.
First it says that Noah built the altar “to the Lord”. This is critical. Now it may sound simple and as often as I have read the passage I am sure I glossed over that point most of the time. I think we often have the intention of building something for the Lord but it ends up being more for us than Him. I probably have been in too many services where songs that were meant to flow from a heart in true worship and adoration of God end up becoming about how great the person sang, or the beat that made me dance, or in my case clap (off beat of course). It is so easy to take something that is supposed to be Holy and for God and make it more about stuff that isn’t really that important. Noah built an altar for God, not for his kids to see or people to notice him. Nope, he built it for the Lord. I like that he built it himself as well. To often today we want things that didn’t cost us anything. We want a free ride. The greatest of worship doesn’t come because of what someone else did but rather what I do. Even if I have to get a little messy in the process. When it’s really for Him you won’t mind what you have to go through.
The second thing with Noah is he “took of every clean animal”. Now that doesn’t probably mean much to you. I know it doesn’t to me, since I don’t have a list in my pocket of what animals are clean. In the Leviticus 11 God does tell us what are clean animals though. It is not an exhaustive list but for animals he says basically animals with split hooves and who chew the cud. So for animals that list has cows, buffalo, goats, deer, elk, sheep, antelope and quite a few others. Then you have the list of clean birds as well. You can easily Google this and get a list of clean birds and animals. Noah didn’t just take one animal, he took one of every clean one. In my list of animals and birds I come up with between 40 and 50 animals and birds that Noah would have sacrificed. It wasn’t quick or easy for Noah to do this. In church we often just want something quick and not to hard. That sounds like the first point again where it is more about us than Him. On the ark there were seven pairs of each clean animal and bird of which Noah gave one. In other words, He didn’t hold back in his worship. He didn’t stop after the first animal or the first few but rather gave of every kind. To often we miss God in our worship because we are only giving a little and not really everything we have.
God did not hold back when He gave Jesus as a ransom for our sins. He gave His best. How sweet could our worship be to God if we truly gave everything and stopped holding back because of what other people might think.
No wonder this is the first mention of an altar. It’s exactly what God wants. That it would be for Him and we would give everything. In the next verse we see how God responded to Noah and the altar he built.
Genesis 8:21 NASB
“The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, ….”
The verse goes on but it is incredible that God relented because of the aroma from the altar.
I believe our worship is more powerful than we know. God takes notice when what we are doing is for Him and we are giving it everything we’ve got.
At the altar our purpose is to bring Glory to Jesus. We don’t do things for us or people to look good but that Jesus is glorified. The best way we can do that is we bring all that we have. I don’t save my best for the football game or the gym, my best is reserved for Him. I am not interested in worship that makes me feel good. I am interested in giving worship that causes God to take notice, worship that impacts both Heaven and Earth.