Altar Lessons By Breanna Murphy

There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel [mighty is the God of Israel] (Genesis 33:20)

When I first became a Christian I was in grade 7. My family didn’t go to church when I was younger, and it was through my friends’ invitations that I ended up learning about Jesus and asking Him into my life.

I remember how excited I was to get my first Bible, but I also remember that I had no idea how to read it! So I began like I did with every other book, and started at the beginning. I started reading Genesis and for every chapter I would pull out a key verse, write a mini sermon about why it was important and then write how it applied to my life - just like I saw my pastors doing for our church every Sunday! I didn’t know that most people didn’t do things this way. That was the only application of Bible verses that I knew, so that process began a (LONG) two-year journey through Genesis that I’m still thankful for to this day.

One thing I remember about that journey, is that there were a lot of references to key Bible characters building “altars”. I remember being confused as to why altars were necessary and why they held spiritual significance. When I looked into it, I found out that altars were used for a number of things, but most often, people seemed to be using them to remember when God did something amazing for them that they didn’t want to forget. They’d take the time to build this stone structure and to commemorate God’s goodness and how He worked a miracle in their lives. That altar would be around for them and for future generations to remember the crazy cool things God did in seemingly hopeless situations.

Though we don’t build stone structures in the middle of the desert anymore, I think the Bible characters in Genesis were on to something. When it comes to God answering prayers in my life, I’m continually challenged to pause and take some time to thank Him for it. I’m not good at it at all! I think too often I’m distracted by the next thing that needs to happen, or another big obstacle. I forget the prayers of desperation I prayed last week, or how hopeless a situation felt once I’m on the other side of it.

Every once in a while, God brings me back to the “altar lesson” he taught me so many years ago. I’m challenged to sit STILL and remember the incredible ways God orchestrated events in order to help me. When I do that, Jesus’ power and faithfulness become that much more real to me, and I remember to be that much more dependent on Him. When I pause, it takes the pressure off of me to achieve anything because I remember I’m not the one in control. When I build that metaphorical “altar” I become so much more grateful for my life and for God, and I find myself talking about how good God is so much more!

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for being faithful, even when we don’t acknowledge it. You hear us when we pray and Your plan is so much bigger than the obstacles we’re afraid to face. Help us to pause. Help us to remember the little and big things You do for us everyday, and to thank You for them. I ask that we’d be able to see them a little more clearly everyday and that our faith would grow as we continue to look for You in every circumstance. Amen.

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