Everywhere God led Abraham, every time he stopped, he build an Altar. The first thing Noah did when he got out of the Ark back on dry land after the Great Flood was build an Altar. Even Job built an altar. Moses had no experience with building altars so God provided one for him, with the burning bush – then later on gave the plans, showing him how to build a permanent one. Altars connected them with God.
An Altar is a place of separation, where you step away from the world and come into the presence of God, where sacrifices and offerings were made. Sometimes they would build an altar when they received a promise from God, to remind themselves of that promise.
The New Testament tells us that our bodies are His temple (our New Testament reading today at Supper (Compline) so how do we build an altar?
The book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, Job pre-dates Abraham, so not a Jew, and it is the greatest sob story ever written. Job is a righteous man, whom God greatly loved and favoured. God boasts of Job to Satan who replies that Job only loves him because God has blessed him and if he loses it all he would turn and curse God. So God agreed to let Satan test Job, but not kill him. In a single day, Job lost all his wealth and belongings, and 10 of his children die. Job tears his clothes and shaves his head in grief (to this day a Jew will often tear his clothing in grief.) But Job still blesses God in his prayers. So then Satan gives him with a horrible disease, like a leper with sores all over his body, his wife in grief and sorrow tells Job he should curse God and die. His best friends come to sit Shiva with him, 7 days of mourning and prayer made by a family after the burial of the deceased. They are not much comfort, as they seem to think Job must have sinned to have brought this punishment on himself from God. Job is the first person recorded as praying for someone to intercede on his behalf with God, and he knows that there is one.
Jesus told Peter that he recognized him as Christ only because God must have revealed it to him (our Gospel reading) – it is the same with Job – God had not deserted him. He never deserts us either, it is one of his promises. I have felt like Job over the past few months – I am slowly learning a hard lesson. We need to build an altar with our lives. We take the stony places, the pain, the hurts, the rejection, the abandonment, the loss, the abuse, the despair, the depression and the grief and with each stone, we build that altar in our hearts and give it to God – it is a part of us and He wants all of us, as a living sacrifice. Stone by stone, speak it out to God on your knees, building that altar in tears and then climb up on it, give it all to Him and bless Him anyway. Let Him pour over it the oil of healing and remember your Redeemer lives and He loves you.