Burning Altars: The Acceptable Sacrifices by Esther Ojo

(Leviticus 6:12)

The first man ever recorded to build an altar unto God was Noah. He offered clean animals and birds because he was so grateful to the Lord for preserving him from being wiped off by the great flood. Noah had peculiar insight into God’s perspective concerning building altars and making acceptable offerings. His offering was acceptable to God and God was so pleased that He made a covenant by that sacrifice never to destroy every living thing by a flood again. Asides Noah, several people made altars to render burnt offerings unto God - Abraham, Moses amongst others, and their offerings were considered acceptable.

From the above introduction, it is safe to conclude that, “God is interested in Sacrificial Offerings and not just altars”. It is the sacrifices burning on the altar that matter to Him; He is delighted in pleasing sacrifices rendered on the burning altars.

Dictionary definitions of an altar range from, ‘A table or similar flat-topped structure for religious rites’, to ‘a sanctuary’, and to ‘a place for ministers of God’, but the true meaning is beyond these. The Bible describes an altar as a Vessel separated for the offering of pleasing sacrifices unto God.

In the Old Testament, the only things that would be found as sacrifice on an altar will be animals and crops. Now, God clearly states that the kind of sacrifices to be kept burning on the altars are not just sacrifices of animals or crops. He expects sacrifices of Righteousness, sacrifices of Joy, sacrifices of a Broken and Contrite heart, sacrifices of Thanksgiving, sacrifices of Praises amongst others.

Sacrifices are indeed rendered on altars, but examining the sacrifices stated above shows that the altars required cannot be one ‘Made by Men’, rather they must be ‘Made of Men’ - living altars. The right question then cannot be “what are the living altars?” rather it should be “who are the living altars?” since these altars are actually persons. So, who are these living altars, and how can people burn with fire? The living altars are the Recreated Men. Men are not only like God’s image but in His likeness too; Christians are the altars, they are the ones set apart for the offering of sacrifices that can be accepted by God, and on these altars made of Men, their own lives are the sacrificial offering.

God is fed up of animal offerings, what He desires is the giver. From the beginning, God has had no interest in sacrifices rendered by a wicked heart, He is interested in the vessel rendering the sacrifices as we see in Cain’s and Abel’s sacrifices in Genesis 4:3-4. The succeeding verses show that Cain did not render the sacrifice with a pure heart. We are the altars that God speaks of and on our altars - we render sacrifices.

Apostle Paul wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”. The sacrifice God desires is no longer non-living, it never really was. Living sacrifices cannot be animals since animals have to be slaughtered and their life taken from them before they are burnt on an altar, but we become living sacrifices by the devotion to displaying godliness and righteousness. Peter describes the new kind of altar used to offer acceptable sacrifices as “Lively Stone, a Spiritual House and a holy priesthood that offers up spiritual sacrifices” and “not fleshy sacrifices”.

King David wrote in one of his Psalms, saying, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. His words clarify what sacrifices are acceptable to God – A Broken Spirit, a Broken and Contrite Heart. The perfect example of a sacrifice God expects is in Christ. Previously, God had declared the sacrifices of burnt offerings to be animals due to the imperfections of the Israelites but this was a placeholder for the real, it was a shadow of good things to come because animal sacrifices cannot possibly substitute for a Broken Spirit nor a Contrite Heart, so at the right time, God brought Christ as the perfect example of the kind of sacrifice He desires.

Dunsin Oyekan, a famous gospel artiste sang about this living kind of sacrifice saying, “I brought myself, I am your sacrifice, Receive this living sacrifice, Leave me at the altar with my Father.” He was not speaking of a man-made altar neither was he speaking of animals as the sacrifices rather he was speaking of himself as the altar and his conduct before God as the Sacrifices. These sacrifices cannot be rendered using an unsuitable altar.

We are the altars and the temple of God and a defiled altar is not acceptable to God; both altar and sacrifice must be continually be right else the one spoils the other. The altars are not described as burnt altars but burning altars – a continuous action and not a passive one. God gave the warning that the fire on the altar must be kept burning and never put out.

The scripture for this theme is LEVITICUS 6:12. “And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings.” (Leviticus 6:12)

From this verse, it can be deduced that some actions need to be carried out continually to keep the fire burning. What are they? The altar needs to be supplied with the right fuel daily to keep it burning. If water is then poured as a fuel on the altar, automatically, the fire will be quenched. Regardless of how pricey other fuels might be, if they are poured on the altar, the fire will go out.

We are the altars and the temple and the Spirit of God is the fire on the altar. When we become a new being, we receive God’s Spirit and a Holy Fire is kindled in us, but when there is no supply of the right fuel, there will be absence of the activation and expression of the Holy Spirit. The appointed Priest has to burn wood at the altar daily and place the burnt offerings on it. The wood at the altar which is our spiritual works in all facet of our life is the fuel for the Living Altars.

As it is written, “purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”, the first step to keeping a burning altar is to be determined to do away with our old lifestyle and become transformed and transfigured by patterning our lifestyle to the instructions of God whom we serve, thus we become in His likeness. This means we will keep ourselves from those things that would displease Him. We must display righteousness and godliness to its perfection. God is perfect and holy and does not expect less in any offering.

We don’t belong to this world; therefore, we must set our hearts on things beyond and do away with the things that would appeal to us in the world. This means that we must be a people whose will and intentions are ultimately for the Lord. We must not give place to the devil, such that our fire ceases to burn because he is all about looking for journey partners to hell. There is need to surrender ourselves wholly to the things of God, we must inculcate the practice of His presence, and to practice God’s presence means to always engage in activities that keeps us in fellowship with God, and these activities are not so many. They are:

1. Studying His Word

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
The word of God is the tool to keep our altars burning and more importantly prevent it from being quenched, the word of God is the right application to the wiles of the devil as well as the right food for God’s Spirit in us. Through the scripture, we get the right wisdom to keep our fire burning and our steps, words, conducts become aligned to God’s pattern.

2.Praying

“Pray without ceasing, …building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost”
Through prayers, we bring God along in our life experiences. The quotation above shows prayer goes a long way in keeping our altars burning, we hand over to God through prayers and make our journey to be that of 4 people (The Man + The Trinity), by doing so, we remain constantly in fellowship with Him.

3. Acting His Word

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass”. (James 1)
It is not enough to just study the word. When one studies and does not live by the word, one becomes a spiritual handicap.

4. Preaching His Word

“…for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe, is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1Corinthians 9:16)
The Word of God is not a commodity that should be hoarded by middlemen. The gospel needs to be heard all over the World because it is the commission given to us by God (Matthew 28:19-20), therefore, we need to preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2). Aside the fact that it is a commission, we can keep our altar burning through this, because when we gain souls for Christ, we rub on each other and encourage one another.

5. Having a heart of Praise

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalms 100:4)
In all of this, we must not forget the place of praises, we keep a heart of fellowship when we keep a heart of praise. Praise creates a joyful atmosphere and brings the manifestation of God’s glory and presence to the altar (1 Kings 6-8).

Conclusively, as altars of God, we represent the Father on earth, we are in a generation where God’s word is considered to be boring and unpleasing to the ears so as God’s ambassadors, we must make a difference and set ourselves as examples (1 Timothy 4:12). Whilst doing this, we must also be spiritually sensitive to the wiles of the devil, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”  — 1 Corinthians 10:12. Peer influence is one of the strongest tools of the devil, the more reason we must be cautious of our company (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

“Our prayer obligation should be discharged both privately and publicly, while the Word can be ministered to every creature in several different ways. It can be proclaimed from the pulpit, personal work, individual to individual, distribution of tracts and so on. To be true to our twofold task will mean the elimination of all machinery, organization, activity that does not accomplish God's definitely stated work. While on the other hand, the introduction of these things is bound to obscure the vision and crowd out this great twofold task that has been committed to the church.” - Oswald J. Smith

Keep the Altar burning

REFERENCES

All Biblical quotations are taken from the King James Version.
1.    Genesis 8:20-22
2.    2 Timothy 2:21
3.    Righteousness - Psalms 4:5,54:19; Joy – Psalm 27:6; Broken and contrite heart - Psalm 51:17; Thanksgiving - Psa.107:22, 116:17; Jonah2:9; Praises - Jeremiah 17:26,33:11 Hebrews 13:6.
4.    Romans 12:1
5.    1 Peter 2:5
6.    Psalm 51:17
7.    Heb. 9:26, Ephesians 5:2, 1 Corinthians 5:7
8.    Hebrews 10:1
9.    Dunsin Oyekan - More than a Song 

10.    1 Corinthians 3:17
11.    1 Corinthians 5:7
12.    Ephesians 4:27
13.    1 Thessalonians 5:17 & Jude 1:20
14.    The Man God Uses – Oswald J. Smith