Tag Archives: altar

Scapegoat

Most people have heard the term “scapegoat.” Typically, we hear this word when referencing someone who took the fall for the team or someone who took the blame for something they weren’t even guilty of committing.  This term is rooted in Leviticus 16, when we read of the need for Aaron to present a live goat that would take on the sins of the people, and then go into the wilderness to symbolize the complete removal of the sins of the people.

There is argument over the term Azazel. Some people see this as being Satan. Others understand this term to mean “complete removal” or “entire removal.” No matter the possibilities, this action of laying of hands on the goat’s head for confession was seen as a transfer of the sins from the people to the goat. Driving the goat away from the people, into the wilderness, symbolized the removal of the sins of the people.

You may use this term “scapegoat” today to describe someone who carries the blame alone, despite their lack of guilt. This live goat that Aaron lay hands upon is a foreshadowing of Who would come to be the ultimate Scapegoat. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was free of sin. He was perfect. As He hung on the cross, it was as if Aaron lay hands on Him. The sins of all people were transferred to Jesus Christ. He bore it all. He died on the cross, killed like a criminal, and then He was sent away to remain in a tomb. But the story doesn’t end there. On the third day, He rose. Unlike the need for Aaron to continue to find scapegoats to purify the people, Jesus Christ was able to provide the complete removal of sins forever. There is no need for another scapegoat. Today, if you are convicted of sin in your life, turn to the one true Scapegoat, Jesus Christ, and repent of your sins. You will be forgiven.

“The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD…. When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place and the Tabernacle and the altar, he must present the live goat. He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land.” – Leviticus 16:10, 20-22 [NLT]

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Bringing Sin Upon Them

I always get upset when I read Exodus 32, because as Moses is up on the mountain with the Lord, the people are again getting themselves in trouble. They surround Aaron and ask to make gods because they haven’t a clue what happened to Moses, the one who led them out of Egypt. Right after they approach Aaron, he immediately is asking for gold earrings. He doesn’t beat around the bush.

Aaron leads the people to sin. We see his immediate action is to answer their request and make a golden calf. He doesn’t stand up boldly for God. He doesn’t say, “Hey, let us wait for Moses.” He jumps right in headfirst. When Aaron’s sin is addressed, he is asked what the people did to him that caused him to “bring terrible sin upon” him. This leaves the door open for Aaron to confess to what he did. Instead, he points out “how evil these people are.”

In the case of Aaron, the people supplied the gold, but he fashioned the calf. When the people got excited, he built and altar and planned to worship the calf, just adding to the sin. When people sin, they are to blame for their actions. Even so, we never should be leading someone to sin. If we are bringing sin upon someone, we are guilty and in need of repentance.

“Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, ‘Tomorrow will be a festival to the LORD!’ Finally, he turned to Aaron and demanded, ‘What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?’ ‘Don’t get so upset, my lord,’ Aaron replied. ‘You yourself know how evil these people are.’” – Exodus 32:5, 21-22 [NLT]

The Lord is My Banner

In Exodus 17, after the defeat of the Amalekites, Moses builds an altar and named it Yahweh-nissi, which means “the LORD is my banner.” This may seem strange for us to embrace personally, unless we have a good understanding of a banner. When we think banner, we think of something posted at a convention or bazaar.

Think of a banner as the flag taken into battle. To the army, the flag is a great symbol. This shows the side of who you are fighting. This is a symbolization of strength and security. If you are defeated, the flag is taken. Think of capture the flag. The flag is also a place to rally. One would return to the flag, the rally point, after battle. Consider a sporting event, where the individual teams or schools are represented at different rally points. A person knows where to find their teammates when they find their flag. The banner is also lifted high. This is important to the battle against the Amalekites. Remember, as long as Moses raised the banner high, the Israelites were winning. Lifting the flag high was a great symbol against the Amalekites. It showed all that it was in fact the Lord fighting this battle—He was bringing victory for His chosen people.

What can we take away from this? How is the Lord our personal Banner? He is our strength and our security. It is at His altar that we can fall and find comfort in His strength and His security. As well, it is at His altar that we find safety—He is our rally point. We are meant to run to Him. Just as Moses lifted high the banner during the battle, so we lift Jesus high. We lift our hands to Him. We raise our voices to Him. When we think upon these things, it is then that we can embrace Yahweh-nissi. The LORD is my banner.

“Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-nissi (which means “the LORD is my banner”).” – Exodus 17:15 [NLT]

Altar to God

Jacob wanted to build an altar to God. An altar represents the presence of God—it was how one would have an encounter with God. He recognized the need to be clean before a holy God. He commanded everyone to toss out all of the other gods. They were to rid themselves of anything and everything that was not God the one true God. Then Jacob commanded that they take “a good bath and put on clean clothes.” They were purifying themselves. This was an outward display to signify a change of heart—a ceremonial cleansing.

Many scholars see this bathing as a likeness to baptism as this washing was done to signify their choice to serve the one true God. Baptism is an immersion into water or sprinkling of water which signifies purification. It is the ceremony people participate in when they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In doing this, people choose to give their lives to the one true God. By doing so, you receive the Holy Spirit and therefore have the presence of God within you.

You may have already been baptized, but you might not have tossed out all of the alien gods in your life. Something might be pulling you away from the presence of God. Evaluate where you are today and see if anything is taking the place of God in your life. He should be first always. Today is a good day for a cleaning. Let us put on clean clothes and walk forward in His presence.

“Jacob told his family and all those who lived with him, ‘Throw out all the alien gods which you have, take a good bath and put on clean clothes, we’re going to Bethel. I’m going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone since.’”

-Genesis 35:2-3 [MSG]

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The Altars of Abraham

Abraham built an altar at Shechem and thereafter built another altar to God at Bethel. He built an altar to call to God—to pray and worship. He built an altar to remember God’s promises to bless him (see Genesis 12:7-8). These altars were important.

We don’t build altars today but we do have churches. It is true that we can pray and worship in our homes or anywhere for that matter; however, it is beneficial and necessary to attend church. At church, you join together in a place dedicated to God, to pray and worship. At church, you are reminded of God’s promises to bless you.

Don’t neglect the opportunity to gather together to pray and to worship our Lord. As you join together to pray, to worship, to be reminded—you will be refreshed and equipped to continue walking forward.

“Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”  – 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 [NIV]

Full Price

“But King David replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.’” – 1 Chronicles 21:24 [NIV]

Gad told David to build an altar to the Lord and David obeyed. When he approaches Araunah to ask for the site needed to build the altar, he insists on paying the full price for the area even though he was told to simply take it. David’s reason was that if he simply took the land without a cost, then it really was not a sacrifice.

A sacrifice should cost something or it does not mean much. If David took the area without sacrificing anything of his own, what would it mean to him? It would mean nothing. It would not have been his sacrifice, but Araunah’s sacrifice.

Today look at what sacrifices you make for the Lord. Are you actually making a sacrifice that means something to you? Remember the widow who gave all she had—that small amount was a big sacrifice in her situation. We should feel the sacrifice—do you? Remember that God paid the full price for you. No sacrifice was too much for Him to give.