This week my Bible reading was in Genesis chapters 8-14. Highlights in these chapters are Noah after the flood, God's covenant with Noah, the tower of Babel, the call of Abraham, and Abraham and Lot separate. I took a lot of notes this week but my mind kept coming back to things that were built in these stories: altars and a tower.
I'd like to begin with establishing a framework for why people in the Old Testament built altars. They were built for worship, commemorating an encounter with God, as a memorial, while making a covenant, and to find refuge. Here is the link where I found this information. Building altars in the Old Testament seems to be a good thing, unless the altar is being built to a pagan god. The altars being built in this portion of Genesis are by Noah and Abraham.
After the flood subsided and everyone is out on dry land again, Noah responds by building and altar. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that he build this altar because he was grateful for his whole family being kept alive when everyone else on the earth was destroyed. God responds by promising to never destroy the earth again by flood. Genesis 8:18-22 speaks about this covenant.
Chapter 9:8-17 show God speaking out loud to Noah, instead of in his heart (Chapter 8). He reiterates his covenant and introduces the sign of that promise - the rainbow.
A few chapters later, Abram is introduced. After leaving his home, prospering, and then separating from his nephew, Lot, we find Abram building an altar. Shortly before building the altar, God tells him about all the land he will inherit and all the children he will have. Childless Abraham believes that God will give him this land and he also believes, that though getting up in years, he will have children.
The Tower of Babel is built in Genesis 10 and 11. I was surprised in my reading when I realized I was only half right on the reason the people built the tower. The part I remembered was that the people wanted to build a name for themselves but what I did not remember was the reason behind their wanting to make a name for themselves. See the Genesis chapter 11 account below:
They built the tower because they didn't want to be dispersed. They felt by strengthening themselves they would be secure. We know how that worked out!
These chapters in Genesis are very important pieces in the history of God's early dealings with His people. There is much food for thought on obedience, faith, patience, vision, security, providence, etc. and I think those may only scratch the surface!
Reflecting on the actions of altar building or tower building I have a few parting thoughts.
Altars are no longer part of the landscape for believers. Here are some verses to inform what we offer on our metaphorical altars:
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Few of us, with the exception of Trump (Trump Towers), have built literal towers to build a name for ourselves in order to ensure our security. However, most of us do build "towers" - be it building our reputations, bank accounts, physiques, families, to name a few. Anything we look to in faith and confidence to make ourselves secure is an idol. God, being the faithful God that he is, just might answer in kind like he did to those who built the tower of Babel. They didn't want to be dispersed, figured out a way to not let that happen, and then God confused their languages and dispersed them. We are all just a moment away from financial collapse, failed marriages, disease, etc. Look to God alone for security because if you are in Christ, be sure, God will remove your idols. He is faithful!
Heavenly Father, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you. May I lay myself on the altar daily by denying myself, taking up my cross and following You. Help me have praise on my lips, not complaining. Show me the good works you have prepared for me to do. May I be generous with all your gifts. Keep me from putting my trust in anything but You. I ask for all of this in Jesus' name. Amen. Thank you.