All throughout recorded history, altars have been erected and used by Christians, Jews, various religions, and also pagans. There are good altars, but they can also be bad depending on how they are used. Many human sacrifices have been conducted on altars to appease the so called gods. Even today, sacrifices such as abortion, are executed to appease a person’s lust as they have given themselves over to gods/evil spirits. They have elevated themselves to a god doing what is right in their own eyes. These types of deceived individuals sacrifice their own children through neglect and even murder/abortion to go on pleasing their own immoral appetites.
"An altar is any structure upon which offerings, such as sacrifices, are made for religious purposes. It was usually a raised platform with a flat surface. There are over four hundred references to altars in the Bible. The word altar is first used in Genesis 8:20 when Noah built an altar to the Lord after leaving the ark. However, the idea was present as early as Genesis 4:3-4 when Cain and Abel brought their sacrifices to the Lord. They most likely presented their offerings on some type of altar, even though the word altar is not used in that passage.
An altar always represented a place of consecration. Before God gave His Law to Moses, men made altars wherever they were, out of whatever material was available. An altar was often built to commemorate an encounter with God that had a profound impact upon someone. Abram (Genesis 12:7), Isaac (Genesis 26:24-25), Jacob (Genesis 35:3), David (1 Chronicles 21:26), and Gideon (Judges 6:24) all built altars and worshiped after having a unique encounter with God. An altar usually represented a person's desire to consecrate himself fully to the Lord. God had worked in a person's life in such a way that the person desired to create something tangible to memorialize it.
During times of Israel's rebellion and idolatry, the Lord's altars fell into disrepair. The prophet Elijah, confronting the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, "repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down" (1 Kings 18:30). Elijah's restoration of the altar was significant, given the rampant paganism of his day. Also, in spite of the fact that he was living in a divided kingdom, the prophet symbolized the unity of God's people in his construction: "Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, 'Your name shall be Israel.' With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord" (1 Kings 18:31-32). It was on this rebuilt altar that God rained down fire and put the Baal-worshipers to shame (verses 38-39).
Sometimes God Himself commanded that an altar be built after He had delivered someone in a miraculous way (Deuteronomy 27:4-7; Exodus 30:1). Such an altar would be a memorial to help future generations remember the mighty works of the Lord. Because atonement is God's work, the Law specified that an altar made of stones must be made with natural, uncut stones, "for you will defile it if you use a tool on it" (Exodus 20:25).
When God gave instructions for the tabernacle, He also gave detailed instructions for the kind of altar the courtyard should contain (Exodus 27:1-8). On this altar, the people made sacrifices that God accepted as atonement for their sin. It was to have four horn-like projections, one at each corner. It had to be large enough to hold sacrifices of bulls, sheep, and goats. For the temple that Solomon built, the altar was made of pure gold (1 Kings 7:48).
In the broadest sense, an altar is merely a designated place where a person consecrates himself to someone or something. Many church buildings have "altars" for prayer, communion, weddings, and other sacred purposes. Some Christians create their own "altars" for personal worship as visible reminders of Romans 12:1, which says to "present yourself as a living sacrifice."
Every human heart has an invisible altar where the war between the flesh and the spirit rages. When we surrender areas of our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit, we are in effect laying that area on the altar before God. It can help to visualize Abraham's altar where he offered his son Isaac to the Lord (Genesis 22:9). We can ask the Lord what areas of our lives He is requiring that we offer to Him. We can symbolically lay that on the altar and let go. We don't need a flat-topped surface; we can surrender our lives to God on the altar of our hearts at any time." The source of this article is from GotQuestions.org
As we can see, there are many reasons people built altars. God had stipulations why altars were to be built as well as how to build them. For an altar to be effective, it had to be clean and holy. One had to follow God's instructions in the Word. God accepted Abel's sacrifice because it was built on a holy altar, whereas his brother Cain's sacrifice was rejected because Cain did not make his sacrifice according to God's stipulations. Cain wanted to do it his way and this type of stubbornness and attitude can never be accepted by God. How are our altars? Are we or our church pleasing to God or is there compromise and sin? Do the altars need to be rebuilt like Elijah had to do?
Bishop Tobias Nyamwaya believes THE PURPOSE AND THE NEED OF THE ALTAR is:
Read Genesis 8:15-22
Noah built an altar, taking some of the clean birds and clean animals. Why did he use only clean birds and clean animals? Because some animals are considered unclean. Leviticus 11 speaks about such animals and birds such as pigs, vultures, etc.
Genesis 8:20-21 "20And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done."
So we see from the text that Noah is actually the one who began the building of the altar.
What does the word altar mean?
Altar means a sacred place for sacrifice and gifts offered up to God. The word altar comes from the Latin altarium, meaning "high" and also from the Latin adolere, which means "to ritually burn or sacrifice", which suggests its early purpose as detailed in the Bible.
So why the altar and sacrifices? It is important to note that altars are also built by the ungodly as protection of some kind to keep and protect their affairs, wealth, family or children. It is a very common practice among the Asian community, especially those in business, and among the Africans, as well as in the Western World without knowing it can have a negative impact upon those who practice it.
So why did Noah build the altar?
1) For the restoration of the ground
God had cursed the ground and it became unproductive. Genesis 4:9-13 tells us that Noah had to invoke God's blessings by building the altar to reverse the curse. Read Genesis 4:12
2) For the preservation of the creatures
Genesis 4:12 We may ask ourselves why didn't God talk to Noah before he built an altar and made the sacrifice. He told Noah to get out of the Ark and Noah got out, but God did not give him further instructions on what to do.
Noah received his instruction by revelation. It is important to have time with God. This is when we can receive a revelation from God to move forward, especially when we are stuck in some matters in life. Noah perceived by REVELATION that he had to do something, and that was to build an altar and offer a blood sacrifice.
* A sacrifice must be made on the altar. Bring it to the altar. Where is your altar?
* Once Noah made the sacrifice on the altar, then God began to speak to him. Are things so quiet for you that you are no longer hearing from God? You must do something and that is to make a sacrifice in whatever way you can. My personal testimony is how God rebuked me when I was trusting on man. Jeremiah 17:5 and Proverbs 3:5, 6.
3) For the preservation of seasons - Genesis 8:22
Winter, Summer, Spring and Autumn, so that each season would produce its own seed while the Earth remains. What was God doing?
* God was reminding Noah of the covenant He had made with him; Genesis 6:18, "with thee will I establish my covenant;" as long as the earth remains there will be SEASONS.
* Seasons were meant for man not to take things for granted.
(a) The changing seasons bring with them an annual cycle of plenty and want
There is a time to plant and a time to harvest, a time to lay up goods for the coming lean months when nothing will grow. Seasons help us to depend on God for our livelihood.
(b) The rhythm of seasons
It declares that God is the author of both abundance and need. He is the one who gives all good things to his children. Psalms 84:11, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them who walk uprightly."
(c) God established the principle of the seed and the law of seed time and the harvest (what we call SEED FAITH). Now we can see that Noah's first act after the flood was to build an altar and sacrifice there to the Lord. God was pleased and made promises to his family through the faith of Noah, but he also instituted the law of seed time and harvest.
Your life begins with the seed principle springing from the good seed or the bad seed you have sown, whether or not you were aware of your seed planting or not. The seed principle was not for Noah only. It continues today. To overcome life's problems; to reach your potential in life; to see your life become fruitful, multiplied and replenished (in heath, finances, spiritual renewal, family etc.), sow the seed of His promise in the soil of your need on the altar, just as Noah did. Bishop Tobias Nyamwaya
If we are ever going to experience a tremendous move of God that results in a national repentance, we must have clean altars, where the Holy Spirit can truly rule and reign with genuine power and authority. The fire of the Holy Spirit will only come down where there are clean and holy altars. We must be living sacrifices to the Lord so His authority and His gifts can flow through us as His representatives. Only when this happens can we be true ambassadors of Jesus Christ doing His works that He commanded us to do when He ascended after being baptized / filled with the Holy Spirit.
In my next pastoral article I will continue on altars. I will give examples of good and bad altars and testimonials of evil spirits that have dwelled in bad altars and how they have manifested themselves in people and shamans, etc.
God bless you,
Dr. Jonathan Hansen