Do you remember the first time you answered an altar call? I do. I was twenty-one years old, and I answered the call to salvation. I was a broken young woman looking for answers to my pain and emptiness. I knew nothing about altar calls or the significance of my response to this invitation. I simply understood in that defining moment that I wanted to know Jesus Christ, and I wanted life as I knew it to change. Looking back, I now understand that I was answering the call to die so that I could truly live hidden in Him.
Over the years, the altar and I have become well acquainted. I have received healing physically and emotionally at the altar. I have experienced blessing and honor at the altar, and prophetic words have been showered upon me while weeping and trembling in the altar. I have been slain at the altar. This is a normal occurrence for many Spirit filled believers, and it is powerful and vital. However, I find myself wondering if we understand what God desires to happen when we stand at His altar, His table.
What I am about to say is going to stir the pot, and it may even bring it to a boil, but what follows after this is not designed to bring condemnation, but to spark introspection, individually and corporately. I have been doing my own self introspection, reflecting on personal time spent at the altar and judging my own life and what remains after these altar calls.
The place of slaughter
Recently, the Lord spoke something to me minutes before I was to minister in a corporate gathering. He said, “The altar needs to be relevant again.” I know some are going to say, “The altar is already relevant. People are going to the altar in my church.” But as I think about what the altar has become to the current church, it appears to not live up to its meaning in the life of a believer.
According to the Word Study Dictionary, the Hebrew word for altar, mizbeah, means the place of sacrifice. It is a noun formed from the verb zabah, which means to slaughter. The altar is a place of slaughter, a slaying of every desire and impulse hostile to the ways of God. I am in no way against altar calls for salvation, healing, deliverance, and the like. These moments are pivotal in the lives of people. What needs to be understood is that when we approach the altar, an exchange is to take place. We are not to accrue spiritual fatness, but we are to die at the altar so that His fullness can live within us. If something is not changing after this encounter, was anything sacrificed in the process?
What is meant to be a place of sacrifice has unknowingly become an altar for promotion and idolatry. Many have placed more weight on their experience in the altar than on what is required of them after they leave the altar. To many, a prophetic word carries far more weight when said in public view at the altar than the whispered word of the Lord said to those in the secret place. The cost is not counted when coming forward, and we have inadvertently made the altar an idol. An altar can be erected that is not ordained by the Lord.
A good use for idols
The Lord drew my attention to Judges 6 when Gideon was instructed by God to use his father’s bulls to tear down the altar of Baal belonging to his father and to cut down the Asherah. The Lord went on to instruct Gideon to build an altar to the Lord atop the stronghold and to offer the second bull as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole that was cut down.
It occurred to me how powerful it was to tell Gideon to take the wood from an unauthorized and idolatrous altar and use it in the offering of an authorized sacrifice to God. Not only that, but a burnt offering was a voluntary offering, indicating a readiness for communion with God. It was an offering in entirety with only the skin remaining as evidence that a sacrifice had been made. This is what happens when you come to the altar with the proper understanding. Those things not of God are burned while you are consumed by Him in communion.
It is time for us as the body to recognize when idols are in operation and unauthorized altars have been erected in our midst, and it is time for us to tear them down, cut them up and let them burn while we offer ourselves on His authorized altar. God is calling for fidelity in His bride. He wants us coming to the altar, but He wants us answering the bidding to come and die so that we may have life more abundantly. It is a beautiful and generous exchange. We give every part of us for every part of Him. We need to have fruit evident in our lives that time spent at the altar changed us. I challenge you to see the altar differently and to settle in your heart that when you approach the altar, you are coming to slaughter those things that need to die so He can dwell fully in you.