The Bible is filled with so many examples of the people of God who built altars in order to have a lasting memorial of God’s faithfulness, His promises, and His life-changing power.
- Noah built an altar after the flood (Gen. 8:20).
- Jacob built an altar after God changed his name (Gen. 35:6-7).
- Moses built an altar after God gave the Israelites a victory (Ex. 17:15-16).
In each of these instances the altar signified the time and place where God showed up and proved His faithfulness, His power, and His love. For each one of us today, every time we reflect and remember God’s faithfulness – big or small – we can add a stone to our faith journey.
In 2007, I hired a mountain guide to help me climb one of the minor peaks in Grand Teton National Park. It was a really hard climb. I didn’t know if I was brave enough for the intensity involved to summit. It took 12 hours to get up and down the mountain. After the climb I built a stone altar to remember the climb and thanked God for His faithfulness.
In Bible times, an altar was often a pile of stones set up by someone so that they (and their children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to multiple generations) would have a visible reminder of God’s provision and His faithfulness (Judg. 13:19-20).
But so much gets in the way of building altars to remember God’s faithfulness. Our busy lives. Our hurts. Our disappointments.
I don’t know about you, but I am not nearly as good at building altars as I am at building to-do lists, thinking of all the things I want God to accomplish in my life and in the lives of the people I love. Rather than thanking God for His tender mercies, I often find myself consumed with present concerns, unmet desires, grief, and problems that have yet to be solved.
More often my “altar” is simply a page or two in my journal, one where I revisit prayers the previous months and thank God for how He has moved, often in ways I did not expect. Over time when I review my journal entries and remember what God has done, I can see how God has expanded my vision and stretched my faith.
If the idea of building an altar is a new one for you, maybe give it a try. Not only is altar-building an exercise in gratitude, it’s also one of obedience: “Tell God your needs,” the Bible says, “and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers.”
Throughout this year, my daughters and I wrote down times when God was faithful to us and put them in our “Blessing Jar.” Today we will open our Blessing Jar during our Thanksgiving dinner and remember all the times that God was faithful this year. It’s easy to forget when times are difficult, so we figured we needed some reminders!
Don’t wait for the next Thanksgiving Day to remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in your life; instead, offer Him a regular sacrifice of gratitude on your altar.