Erecting Altars to Bolster Our Obedience

Woman sitting outside staring out to the horizon

Photo by Liam Simpson on Unsplash

My life has been punctuated by a series of, “Are you serious, God?” moments—times when I want to pretend I didn’t hear Him, when I’m convinced He couldn’t possibly have uttered the command I’ve sensed. And there have been times, way too many, when I’ve been tempted to cloak a disobedient heart in excuses and rationalization.

That burning I felt within while reading that passage—that must have been heartburn. That jolt I felt in my spirit when my pastor gave that sermon—the stage lights must have hit me wrong.

But in this instance, God left no room for doubt, confirming His message numerous times through numerous sources, all in the span of a week. So, reluctantly and perhaps with a few tears, I obeyed.

For just over a week, after which time I started praying for guidance once again. Over the same issue God had so clearly advised me on, as if His instructions came with an expiration date.

They hadn’t. Obedience meant remaining fully engaged in the area He’d already shown me, until He told me different. Trusting, regardless of the delay, He would indeed do just that, should my assignment change.

I thought of my reluctant obedience dance with Christ as I was reading about Sarah and Abraham’s journey, recorded in Genesis 12. God gives them both a pretty drastic command—leave everything and everyone you’ve known, your homeland, and go. To a place you’ve never been.”

Abraham obeyed and he and his wife began the long, arduous trek to the Promised Land. Their journey wasn’t quick or easy. They traveled 600 miles to Haran, where they settled for a bit, then continued on another 400 miles to Shechem. It was here that Abraham built his first altar. (Gen. 12:8)

This sacred structure served three purposes: First, it was a place of intimacy where Abraham met with God. Second, by erecting this sacred

Stone altar

Image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

edifice of simple stone, Abram was taking ownership of the land and declaring to all God’s supremacy. And finally, this rockpile served as a tangible reminder of God’s promise and his commitment to obey.

When His faith wavered, God’s voice seemed distant, and the fulfillment of His promise delayed, Abraham could look back upon all the altars he’d erected and remember—the moment when God met with him personally and spoke words of blessing. The moment Abraham’s heart surrendered, and the resultant peace that swept through him. And the confident conviction that had strengthened his weary soul.

That altar and all the others he built following provided a tangible reminder of God’s faithfulness and care and Abraham’s commitment to follow. When difficulties tempted him to abandon the call and when insecurities caused him to doubt God’s promise, he could look back and remember, drawing strength and renewed faith from past encounters with the living God.

I’ve learned, if I want to stay strong in Christ and obedient to Him, I need to do the same. I need to fashion my own altars—notes tucked in my Bible and journal entries stored in my bookshelves. Concrete and irrefutable reminders of times when God spoke directly to my heart, issuing a call.

Like with the situation I mentioned early in this post. Perhaps if I hadn’t recorded God’s clear commands provided the week before, I could have rationalized them away. Or forgot them entirely. But regardless of what my temperamental heart longed to believe, I knew God had spoken, and I had determined to obey.

Let’s talk about this! Can you relate to the temptation I shared? When have you been tempted to discount or rationalize away God’s guidance? Have you ever wished His instructions came with expiration dates? How do you remain focused on “the call” when life becomes challenging or it feels like His promise has been delayed?

Share your thoughts, suggestions, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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