Genesis, the first book in the Bible, records the histories of four men – Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob –all of whom passed through distinct situations in the course of their lives. Noah built the ark, Abraham left his country for a promised land, Isaac inherited all the riches of his father and married Rebecca, and Jacob tricked his father in order to take the birthright from his brother. Although these men went through very different life experiences, one thing is common: they all built an altar to God (Gen. 8:20; 12:7, 8; 13:18; 22:9; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7). In this series of posts we will consider these altars in the book of Genesis.
To build an altar to God is for the purpose of offering sacrifices to God. A sacrifice is something that is set apart from its original usage and position in order to be wholly for God. In Romans 12:1 Paul exhorts the New Testament believers to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God.” This shows that we should be the sacrifices that are wholly for God, or in other words, we need to consecrate ourselves to God. With this understanding, we can see that the spiritual significance of these four men building an altar to God is that they consecrated themselves to God, that is, they gave themselves and all that they had to Him. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s consecration was their consent to give themselves to God to let Him fully work in them and on them. This consent made each a sacrifice to Him. Previously, they could live for themselves. But now they were set apart for God’s use. As Witness Lee states, “To put it simply, to be a sacrifice means to be offered to God for His use” (Experience of Life, p. 37).
Once we have consecrated ourselves to God, we may suppose that we are ready to work for Him. Actually, our consecration firstly positions us to be worked on by Him, which is necessary before we can work for Him. Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, Jehovah, You are our Father; / We are the clay; and You, our Potter; / And all of us are the work of Your hand.” With the attitude expressed in this verse, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gave themselves and their permission to God to freely mold them as a potter molds the clay. Just as the clay does not work for the potter, but the potter works on the clay, so God desires that we first let Him work on us so that we may become useful to Him. May we open to the Lord in prayer concerning building an altar to Him, consecrating ourselves to Him, and consenting to let Him work freely in us and on us as He sees fit.
All references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.