“…he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD,
and he pitched his tent there;
and there Isaac’s servants dug a well”
This verse immediately follows Isaac receiving a promise and a visitation from the LORD. The PROMISE was no longer just Abraham’s it was now Isaac’s. The promise was given because of Abraham’s life of faith and obedience but there must come a time where the promise of God becomes our own. HIS promise not only becomes Isaac’s own but it produces a life of response within him. In the reception of the promise Isaac builds an Altar, calls on his God, pitches his tent (dwelling/abiding) and digs a well.
In the New Testament the altar speaks of many things but for the sake of brevity we will sum up the altar in the life of the individual believer as the place of true worship. This worship is to become a way of life for the true child of God. The Altar speaks of much more than a short time of singing one day a week; it is the place where we live and grow in our relationship in HIM, where we begin to realize that we are to offer ourselves unto HIM (Rom. 12:1) as a living sacrifice, where we offer the praises of our hearts, where we bow down under the weight of a Glory that softens our hearts and allows us to touch the very Holiness of HIS PRESENCE and the wonder of HIS BEING. It is here that we commune with HIM in the private sphere of our lives hidden away from the seeing of men. Here we offer prayers and the secrets of our heart in the most intimate of transactions with a Holy God. It is here that we learn of Him, we touch HIM, and HE speaks to us of things that words fail to convey. In this seeing of HIM we discover the truth of whom we are and the staggering contrast between who HE is and what we are. We begin to understand that even angelic perfection, though sinless and pure, cannot look upon HIM in HIS undimmed Glory in the heavens.
The Altar is the only place where we can touch such places of Glory. Here we are CHANGED into the Glory that we see from Glory to Glory; “EVEN AS BY the SPIRIT OF THE LORD”. As the Son walked this earth HE would spend hours alone with HIS FATHER in that perfect HOLY UNION that HE had from all eternity. The New Covenant provides ACCESS for us into the Holiest of ALL because of our lives being “HID with Christ in God”. It is by virtue of such a living reality that we can grow into the place of living and abiding at the very ALTAR of God. It becomes our spiritual habitat as we learn to abide in HIM.
The Altar is not only a place of sacrifice, communion and worship it is also the place of PROVISION; a PLACE where we eat and partake of HIM. It is the place of the “hidden manna” that comes to us by the seeing of HIM and the eating of HIM in the secret place. We read in Hebrews…
“We have an altar,
whereof they have no right to eat
which serve the tabernacle”
“Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things
live of the things of the temple?
and they which wait at the altar
are partakers with the altar?”
I CORINTHIANS 9:13
Suffice it to say that the way of the ALTAR is the way of life. In the life of Isaac the first act of his response to GOD was the building of the altar. In the New Testament all spiritual realities are “made without hands” and as such we build our altar by simply spending time with HIM in the secret places of our hearts until it becomes our spiritual habitat. The Altar preceded the pitching of Isaac’s tent for it is in the “building” of the one that the life of “abiding” is cultivated.
THE PLACE OF FEASTING
“Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies”
This table has been set with rich provisions and is there for us to eat and drink and become strong thereby. It is not a table for mere talking and listening but it is the table of the Bread of HIS LIFE which must be consumed in order that it becomes a reality in our lives. We have had much in terms of teaching; in fact much of our Christian experience in this land is really one of LISTENING to didactical teaching and the dissemination of information. It becomes an intellectual exercise and much of it remains purely theoretical in its actual application. We have become good at hearing, debating, and discussing the doctrines and concepts of men without the substance of LIVING in the reality of the LIFE OF CHRIST. The outward FORM of TEACHING is necessary for a season but somewhere it must give way to the EXPERIENCE and WALK in every true disciple. Notice that this TABLE OF PROVISION is not set in the confines of a nice and comfortable Christian Setting but in the PRESENCE OF OUR ENEMIES! The PROVISION comes as we OVERCOME our enemies.
It is in the conflicts of life that we discover His strength. Here, as the WORD of GOD is eaten and made real, we no longer live in ethereal teachings, concepts and good sounding religious ideas. Instead HIS LIFE is discovered WITHIN the conflicts of our daily lives! We discover the wonder of a living FAITH that must bring what I have heard into my WALK! This is where Christ becomes the EXPERIENCE of the individual believer. By its very nature the life of overcoming can only be appropriated on an individual basis. The corporate expression is only as valid as the authenticity of the individual. Just because I LISTEN to good teaching does not mean my Christian experience is valid. The validity of my LIFE in Christ can only be known by the expression of HIS LIFE in me. In order for that to be the truth of my life it requires not only a hearing of HIS WORD but it must give way to a doing of that WORD; obedience is the ONLY way to the life of OVERCOMING. If there is no obedience there can be no OVERCOMING!
In the Gospels we see and hear Jesus teaching the WORD concerning the Kingdom of God and we are struck with the wonder and the wisdom found within the beauty of HIS words. However, HE does not allow the Disciples to linger in the place of hearing only. Because HE is not just a teacher (but has come to fulfill His Father’s will) we see Him sending the Disciples to live and walk out that which He has spoken of. He sends them out to heal the sick, cast out demons and to declare the WORD of the Kingdom! Likewise the WORD must become flesh in our own experience. We must eat of the provisions of this table in the presence of our enemies! Not only the obvious, external ones but more importantly the enemies of our heart, the weaknesses of our flesh and the “I” that is always clamouring for pre-eminence, comfort and its own way. We must find HIM as our victory here or it will matter very little what we know. Judas heard and saw the Glory of Christ yet in the end he betrayed HIM for his own ends. It is not enough to know and have an association with Jesus; we MUST EAT OF HIM at this table “prepared” for us in the “presence of our enemies”!
Men love knowledge and understanding. We love to discuss things, debate things and share things but Jesus came that men may have “LIFE and LIFE abundantly…” He did not come to bring a new teaching or to tickle men’s ears with revelatory speech. HE came to be the very EXPRESSION of the all that God is. Not an expression only but the MEANS by which the fallen race of man would become “THE BODY OF CHRIST” in the earth. For this reason HE sets this table of provision that we may BECOME “bone of HIS bone and flesh of His flesh” in demonstration in our daily life. It is crucial to see that the conflicts and tribulations of this life are given to us to become strong. May God save us from teachings that leave us impoverished, impotent and unable to walk and may we find HIS table “prepared” for us in the “presence of our enemies”.
Obstacles in the pathway of the weak
become stepping-stones in the pathway of the strong.
Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)
“Do you not know that those who minister the holy things
eat of the things of the temple”
I CORINTHIANS 9:13
We partake of that which we serve. We are called to be servants of the Most High God. We are called to be a people whose chief joy and occupation in LIFE is to serve HIS Purposes here and now. EVERY BELIEVER IN CHRIST is called into a life of ministry and purpose. The priesthood of the individual believer is not a “nice teaching”; it is the CALL of God to every believer to be consumed with HIS purposes in the earth. If we want to eat and partake of the things of the Temple we must live the reality of ministering (serving) the Holy Things of God! The provision of God is found in occupying ourselves with the things of God. It is in the OUTFLOW of HIS LIFE that we discover the INFLOW! Men who hold the things of God in faithless inactivity never come to know the basic LAW of HIS LIFE…
“Give and it will be given to you”
The fields are rich all around us. In HIS eyes the fields are white unto harvest. The provision of God for the needs of the multitudes around us is found in the “five little loaves and two fishes” that we hold in our hand. We always want to have a sense of the plenty when in reality we have all that we need to BEGIN the journey into the LAW of HIS LIFE. Spiritual poverty is always the result of self-will, self-serving and self-reliance. Those who do not find themselves BECOMING servants of the MOST HIGH will never know of HIS PROVISION; the provision is found in the doing. It is in being faithful to what we HAVE that more is given. It is in being a source of strength and encouragement to others that we know of the mystery and wonder of HIS strength and encouragement into our own lives.
“The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself”
In this day let us be occupied in the Holy Things of our God; exercised in the portion of grace that HE has given to every one of us. Let us not sit and squander the time and opportunity afforded us of participating in the ministry of HIS LIFE and HIS CALL.
“…those who serve at the altar
partake of the offerings of the altar”
I CORINTHIANS 9:13
“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies”