The Story of Two Altars

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October 13, 2021

Judges 6:20-24 (NIV)

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”

CONSIDER THIS

This was very bold. Gideon took his dad’s staff to destroy his dad’s shrine. Who can fault him for doing this under cover of night? 

This is a story of two altars. Let’s remember from yesterday:

“Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

Remember how many years Israel had suffered under Midianite oppression? Hint: It’s in v.1 Hint #2: As many years as the bull we shall call “Deuce” had been alive. Coincidence? Not on your life. 

So he tore down the altar to Baal, the god who was no god at all, and cut down the Asherah pole to the goddess. These were so-called fertility gods who promised flourishing life for all who would m`ake sacrifices to serve them. Whatever it is in the world we turn to for life, safety, security, prosperity, and the flourishing good life; whatever alliances we are willing to forge or allegiances we will deign to pledge or oaths we will stoop to swear—those become our altars to Baal and Asherah. And something in us is willing to let this comparison live in the undefined place of a loose metaphor for a very long time. The din of idolatrous worship will eventually drown out everything save the desperation of the worshipper. And here’s the good news: though it be seven years or seventy, it is never too late to tear down the altar to Baal and build a proper altar to God. 

Now, here’s the critical piece today. Notice where the “proper kind of altar to the Lord your God” gets built. 

Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”  v.26

The great seduction is to build the altar to the living God alongside the altar to dead god (aka the idol). No-one much minds Jesus as long as there is an “and” put before his name. With Jesus, it is always an “or.” To say Jesus is Lord is to say Jesus or everything else. But then he is so good to come back around and tell us if we will seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness that he will provide everything else we could possibly need. It’s why Jesus says it is very difficult for a wealthy person to inherit the Kingdom of God—not because they have wealth but because their wealth has them. And who among us does not idolize wealth? 

It’s easy to build an altar to God alongside the other shrines in our lives. It takes enormous courage to tear down our altars to the lesser gods and to build a proper altar to the Lord your God. What a sign it is, though, when the stuff of the old altars becomes the fuel for the flames for the new altar. Oh my. These become the fires of great awakening, one by one, heart by heart, home by home, church by church, city by city. 

There is a mighty roar of repentance coming on the horizon. It is the realignment that leads to unspeakable joy. Who is ready? Who will go first? 

THE PRAYER

Father, we believe this is true and yet I still am not quite willing to see it in myself. Where are the altars to the false gods and idols in my heart? Search me Holy Spirit. I pledge my repentance in advance. Where is my misplaced trust? Where are my misspent affections? Where are my lost longings? What is it apart from you that I think will make my life work and even flourish? Jesus, I do not want to waste another day of my life on serving gods who are no gods at all; who promise life only to steal it. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour. In Jesus name, Amen. 

THE QUESTION

What gives you security in this life? Is it your wealth or the promise from pursuing it? Is it your appearance? Is it your network of relationships? Is it your name or your family heritage? Has it become the darkness of an addiction or a broken longing or an unholy attachment? 

P.S.

OK preachers and pastors and candlestick makers in our midst—If you haven’t gotten your plans for Advent together yet, I’ve got a deal for you. Check it out here. Today is the last day to dive in. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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