True and false altars in the land
There are two separate Hebrew words that are translated as altar in the Bible. When the two different meanings are correctly interpreted it helps clarify a lot for intercessors. The use of altar is not just in the Bible. It exists in almost all religions. Its use existed even before the Bible was written. Although Cain and Abel were the first two to bring an offering to the Lord, the first appearance of the word altar in the Bible is in Genesis 8:20. It says, “And Noah built an altar unto the LORD…” As we look at the two types of altars from the Bible it is important to examine how to bring any offering to the Lord.
An offering “pleasing to God” versus an offering “to please God”. When an intercessor builds on the right foundation, dismantling the false altars where offerings are made is pretty straightforward.
An offering pleasing to God or an offering to please God
From the beginning of time, while bringing sacrifice unto the Lord, it is the condition of heart than the offering itself that matters to God. Cain brought an offering like Abel did. When bringing an offering or gift to a person it is good to have an idea what the person wants or likes. In the case of Cain and Abel one person did just that while the other did not. Abel followed the Lord’s way, the way God taught his family. In the first family they ate from the herb of the field as instructed by the God (Gen 3:18). God was the one who made the first sacrifice in Gen 3:21. God sacrificed an animal to clothe them with skin. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Early on, sheep was used for its coat. Thus Abel decided to become a keeper of sheep just to follow God and His presence as God showed his parents. Eating the flesh of animal came much later as they ate herbs. Abel decided to take up pleasing God as his career to be connected back to God. He brought his offering to the Lord from his sheepfold according to the pattern set by the Lord. He recognized the significance of shedding of blood in sacrifice.
Cain chose to be the tiller of the ground (Gen 4:2). The ground was cursed for the sake of disobedience. “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field” (Gen 3:17-18). Cain also brought a sacrifice as he acknowledged God. But Cain did not care God’s pattern as long as it was something he thought was good. The Bible says in Gen 4:3 that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. Cain brought from the ground where he cultivated out of his own labor. He relied on his own ways for salvation. This is where many like Cain miss the mark including Christians. As long as it came from his hard work Cain was satisfied. Cain’s offering actually looked better than Abel’s.
Abel’s life goal was to transmigrate back to God’s presence and to be connected back with God. Everything Abel decided to pursue was in line with what was pleasing to God. While Cain cared less about pleasing God as his first purpose yet liked to keep God in an arms-length by bringing a sacrifice anyway. He wanted to please God but on his own terms. There is only a slight difference between “an offering pleasing to God” and “an offering to please God”. But the difference in the meaning is profound. Still today there exists a fine line in the heart of a sacrificer while bringing offering to the Lord. One of the biggest struggles humans face in this broken world is to offer sacrifices in a manner pleasing to God versus offering something hoping to please God. Jesus elaborated further on how to bring an offering in the New Covenant. “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matt 5:24. God has no need of our gifts or sacrifices.
What is your bottom line?
Is our goal to ultimately live in God’s presence? If we don’t care at all about God’s presence like Cain we will end up bringing offering in our own terms. However, both Abel and Cain groups still today have the full freedom to choose how they want to live. Have you wondered why some of us wait till the last due date to pay our bills or wait till the deadline date to submit in our work? Generally as humans we tend prolong until we absolutely ought to do. Similarly, until there are no options left we naturally tend to postpone when it comes to pleasing God. For that reason as believers we face great pressure to abandon the comfort and conveniences of life to please God daily. Jesus is the only perfect example. He gave up His own free will voluntarily to please the Father to bring us redemption. He had no pressure and yet chooses to obey. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:6-8). Like Jesus if we choose to walk in God’s presence and bring an offering pleasing to Him our success is guaranteed. The temptation we face every day in this broken world is to first go by our instincts according to what sees and feel good. It also applies even when it comes to our offering to the Lord in our hearts.
Cain’s journey and free will
The struggle to choose between how to bring an offering to God is in the center of dilemma of free will. Every human deserves to enjoy the freedom of choice and free will. Millions have given their own lives to protect true democracies and movements that protects free will. In many countries, many still give their lives every day for this cause. God never violates our free will to choose. But the problem of this broken world is that humans can manipulate other humans to influence one’s free will. And another issue of human free will is that no one has the strength to do good as he or she likes to 100% of the time. In many parts of the world, the freedom of free will is a big issue. An equal or bigger issue is the inability of every human to do good all the time. No government institutions or NGOs discuss this issue. It is a lasting curse in this broken world. Freedom of will and strength to do good are both required.
God lent Cain a helping hand to overcome and warned him about the curse of sin that was about to devour him. However, Cain continued to exercise his free will to hate his brother. God did not stop him from killing Abel and allowed Cain to continue his free will. Cain choose to continue his lifestyle even after he knew he failed to do good. Though he deserved death he wanted not to die. God came to him again with a third chance after Cain was convicted of criminal charges. God granted him his wish and spared his life. God still gave him another chance to live in restitution with God. Yet the third time, Cain free willingly choose to walk away from God’s presence (Gen 4:16). Cain made a rash decision yet God did not take away his free will. Unfortunately many still today follow Cain. They don’t seem to care about a second chance or two hundredth chance to live in restitution with God. As long as one has breath one gets any number of chances. That is why the Good News is good news. But for one to come to the decision to live pleasing to God or living in His presence is the toughest decision to make free willingly. All the power structure of darkness and one’s own flesh fights this important decision a person has to make in his or her lifetime-to live pleasing to God.
Mizbe’ah-An altar pleasing to the Lord
When our patriarchs Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob built altar unto the Lord they followed the way of Abel and made sure the offering was pleasing unto the Lord. The altars they built are represented by the Hebrew word mizbe’ah. It literally means “a place of slaughter or sacrifice”. In the Hebrew Bible, “mizbe’ah” was typically made of earth or unwrought stone. Altars were generally erected in conspicuous places. It is an earth thing presented to heaven according to the Lord’s pleasure. In Exo 20:24, “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.”
There were two types of sacrifices made on a biblical altar (Mizbe’ah). 1) One is the burnt offering like the offering that was offered in the outer courts of tabernacle and later in the Temple. 2) The other one was a freewill offering of peace and thanksgiving offering that was offered in the inner court. The peace offering was offered at the altar of incense in the holy place. Today many believers come to the altar only when they have sinned against the Lord. The Lord bid us go past the outer courts and not stop at the outer courts. Although we enter through outer courts asking for forgiveness and appropriate the sacrifice of the Lamb of God we can go further to inner courts as the royal priesthood of New Testament (1 Peter 2:9). We are urged to offer our lives continuously as a living sacrifice as acceptable to the Lord (Rom 12:1) in the inner courts. Both burnt offering (for our sins) and freewill offering has its respective places. We are encouraged to offer repentance at the outer courts for our sins and peace offering at the altar of incense in the inner court continuously.
Mizbe’ah in the New Covenant
An altar in the New Testament is a much blessed place than in the Old Testament. Our lives can be an altar-a Mizbe’ah all the way into the inner courts unlike our forefathers who went only up to the outer courts. Only the priests had access to the inner court of tabernacle and the Temple. In the New Testament we have access to the throne room of grace on a 24/7 basis (Heb 4:16). The throne room is in the inner court or to be exact in the Holy of Holies. The High Priest had access to the same place only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Those who are in Christ in the New Covenant today are moving tabernacles. Our altar is keeping our bodies and heart pleasing to the Lord. An altar on earth for a believer is a location or condition wherever we execute the appointed offering to offer a sacrifice (Ex 20:24b). The condition of body or mind in an instance of time is the concept of New Testament altar. It is not about a certain location. As a result the scripture affirms that He will come and answer us and bless us. The word ‘place’ in Hebrew is mawkome which literally means a position or standing or a condition of body or mind.
If your body is the living temple, you are a moving temple not a static one. When you operate being subject to the Spirit of God, wherever you are and wherever you go, the Lord goes with you and invades your enemies. Jesus clarified in Jn 4:21, 23, “believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” We are the generation living in that NOW. Come to the throne of grace as true worshippers. We can bring our peace offering continuously and build the altar unto the Lord. Combining Ex 20:24 and Jesus’s words in Jn 4:23, the meaning of true altar of God is understood as any place where you mention or call upon the name of the Lord as true worshippers in spirit and in truth. Mizbe’ah is different from Cain’s altar and sacrifice which he tried pleasing God with his works hoping to get some credit as well.
Bamah-the common altars of today
The general concept of altars today is much different from the Mizbe’ah even in the Christian circles. Old English had various spellings such as alter, altar etc. The English word “altar” may have been influenced by the French autel derived from Latin words altare meaning podium or stage. It has a sense of meaning, to worship, honor and offer sacrifices to influence forces. The altars in cathedrals and some traditional church buildings are influenced by the latter meaning. The other Hebrew word used in the Bible for the word altar is called Bamah. It means a high place and was used long before the Bible was written. Bamah exalts an earthly object as a power source. In other religions the general notion of altar comes from Bamah and not Mizb’eah. From the Latin root of the English word, an altar is more close to a high place or bamah. Since both the Hebrew words are translated as ‘altar’ in the Bible the ideology of bamah became the common understanding from the former gentile practices.
A high place is dedicated to an image or idol. Objects dedicated in high places are invoked as it is connected to the power structures of darkness. In Exo 20:26 the Lord warned not to ascend in elevation unto His altar (mizbe’ah) like the pagans do to their high places (bamah). The Lord also warned that there will be a consequence if we interchanged the meaning of the altar.
The consequence for going up to the high place is the discovery of nakedness. It is the way of the fallen man and came from the tradition of Cain and not Abel. The way of the altar of the Lord is one that leading to His presence. The first time man felt naked was when he just lost the presence of the Lord in Gen 3:10. “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” The high place or bamah is a place of fear. It is a place of nakedness (as a result of lacking God’s presence) and a place of covering (covering ourselves with own ways to please Him). When we choose the high place (bamah) route we already lost His presence and our way to Him. The ultimate goal of the offering and altar is the presence of the Lord and communion with Him. The Lord’s name is invoked in a true altar. The biblical altar is a memorial place of sacrifice or Mizbe’ah. The bamah route totally misses it and so do many Christian traditions and cathedrals.
In Jeremiah 17:2 the Bible warns, “As the remembering of their children, so is the remembering of their altars and their poles of Asherah worship beside the leafy trees on the high hills.” If we don’t setup the right memorials and altars (mizbe’ah) in our families and communities, we are risking our children and generations caving into false altars (bamah). The agenda of the powers of darkness is to setup memorials in high places and make counterfeit altars and allure believers to it.
Besides churches, bamah is the strategy enemy uses to infiltrate the land with false altars. Without the right understanding of a biblical altar the chances are that the enemy infiltrates a generation with bamahs so that they cry out Isa 48:5. “Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.” Idol, graven image and molten image are objects of altars in the high places. The whole idea of an high place (bamah) is to install or establish an object or image. The altars can be setup as bamahs also in churches and if not careful we end up worshiping an idol or object and totally miss out on the purpose of a true altar or mizbe’ah.
How does bamahs look like today?
Today a false altar does not need to be a high place in the literal sense like in the olden days. High places can be erected through media, laws of the land, etc. For instance setting up images and idols can be in the form of the LGBT movement, abortion movement and so on. They all have a powerline with the second heaven as they are setup in disobedience and violation to the word of God. High places and false altars can be setup up without any religious branding today. The enemy is smart. Without any religious umbrella, idols and false altars can be established in the land.
Altars are based on a covenant
Every biblical altar and offering is based on a covenant. God made a covenant with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Israel and so on. True altars are also memorials of God’s covenant. Covenants enforce your purpose of sacrifice and your prayers. In Ex 3:15 God first addresses Himself as Yhwh-the existing one to Moses. He refreshed Moses of Israel’s covenant with the God of his fathers. God gives Moses a fresh revelation of where Moses and his people came from. God does not need memorials. He remembers and executes every covenant that He ever made. He will always be faithful on His part. Memorials are for humans because humans are forgetful. We need reminders, reassertions and reassurance. God doesn’t. Since we happened to live in a broken world God has to give us memorials and teaches us how to setup godly altars. Memorials and altars are for humans. Biblical feasts are also memorials and a type of altar that the Lord wanted to be kept throughout generations year after year (Ex 12:14). God’s ways of victory has to be kept as a memorial. God asked the victory He gave the children of Israel when Moses’ hand was up to be kept as a memorial. Moses built an altar there calling the place Yhwh Nissi (Ex 17:12-16). The greatest memorial a believer of the new covenant has is the Lord’s Table. He gave us this ordinance as a memorial as He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The chances are that we tend to forget the ways of God living in a distracted world so the Lord’s Table is a good reminder. It is not a ritual as some churches teach.
The true altars are backed by God. That is why David could boldly shout at Goliath and say, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of Israel whom you defy and you are an uncircumcised Philistine.” He called Goliath an uncircumcised-meaning an outsider to the covenant. Goliath had made demonic covenants with his gods. He also had his own altars and power lines to the realm of darkness when he encountered little David. False altars have no backing from God. False altars and Bamahs are almost in every case backed by fake and counterfeit covenants to be empowered by darkness.
How is false altars setup today?
1. Agenda-Influential people initiate a movement around a political or moral issue and start growing support around it. They have a strong agenda to influence masses. Then they make a monument around the immorality they rally forces for or against but in the name of tolerance and peace to allure masses. Thus a new false altar is born.
2. Acceptance– Gradually the monument is upgraded to become the law of the land. It can take its pace starting with a county, state and to the national level. Each upgrade of laws empowers the false altar to eventually become a national altar.
3. Agreement-The false altar then is celebrated as a memorial year after year. It is by now accepted by masses. Its commemoration increases acceptance among more people- reiterating each year in the minds of masses which in turn becomes more altars.
4. Solidarity-It goes beyond the agreement level when people start to stand with it by dedicating their institutions, businesses and organizations to the cause of the altar each year, thus the altars keep multiplying even more.
According to Hosea 8:11, one altar built for sin can multiply to become multiple altars of sin all across the land.
The multiplication of altars can happen nationally or individually. In the case of wise Solomon, what started with a second wife ended up with 1000 in total.
Beware of the altars in our lives and the land!
The real owner of the land and the creator of all inhabitants is Yhwh (Psa 24:1); not people groups, or nation-states or the heads of states. The remnant, Eklessia of the living God, is the first-born of Yhwh. As the first-born you have the privilege to consecrate your lives and the land to the Father-the original owner. When are you going to come out of the closet to cancel the false altars and restore the land? The original rainbow was created by your Father as a promise of restoration. The same rainbow still stands today calling us to repent and to receive the true Father’s love-from the most wretched to the most fortunate person. The false representation of rainbow demonstrates that the enemy likes counterfeits and he is not as creative as some think. Utter defiance against God and sowing defilement among humans is his sole objective.
False altars and the three power structures
Eph 6:12 lays out the strategy for intercessors and how to deal with the power structures of darkness in the second heaven and the false altars in the world below. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” First thing to know before we engage in any warfare is that our wrestling is not against flesh and blood. We do not engage with humans around us before we deal with the power sources behind them.
The natural world around us has three types of power structures. The source of all power of darkness comes from the second heaven-the realm of principalities consisting of Lucifer and the fallen angels with him. They are the magistrates which the Bible also calls the prince of air (2 Cor 12:2). The first power structure that Eph 6:12 talks about is the “principalities”. Their mission is to resist on earth everything as it is in heaven. The Prince of Persia in the book of Daniel operated from the second heaven. The principalities, however, do not operate on their own. They have agents and portals in the worldly realm where humans live and breathe.
The humans with flesh and blood are a second category that intercessors wrestle with. These humans are the world rulers and authorities controlled by darkness from the second heaven. They are the competencies and rulers in the worldly realm according to Eph 6:12. They work in agreement with the second heaven and some even directly influenced by the second heaven command center of principalities. They are given power and receive instructions from the principalities and use their influence and offices to implement them in the provinces and states here on earth. Witches and warlocks obviously belong to this group including some influential and powerful people that believe to derive their power from such sources.
Unlike the other two, the third group in Eph 6:12 are non-living things. They are the false altars or bamahs. It is the same as spiritual wickedness in high places. As communities to governments sanction more and more false altars and memorials as laws in the land, the bamahs multiply. These bamahs need not be high places in the traditional sense but could be any memorial or law that defies the law of God according to the Bible. These high places both the literal and symbolic ones then become communication lines and portals directly connected with the second heaven and with principalities. By supporting the abomination and immorality in the land they trigger the counterfeit covenants setup by the second heaven that operate in defiance of God. The false altars trigger false covenants. The intercessors need to ask the Lord for strategies to handle these three power structures as they dismantle them in prayer and in the spirit.
Are we going to be silent when the enemy is busy setting up altars all across the land?
The remnant can be small group of believers. The counter strategy to false altars is not just based on manpower or is a number game. In the case of Sodom, Abraham pleaded to hold back the wrath of God on Sodom if there were ten righteous ones. “And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” (Gen 18:32-33). Perhaps the congregational quorum of ten or minyan that Jewish people still practice today came from the ten righteous Abraham interceded. Thank God there are more than ten intercessors in every country today unlike Sodom. The fact that intercession is not just about numbers as in a democratic movement perhaps is an encouragement for the intercessors. Knowing who we are and who our enemy is a good starting point to wage a good warfare in prayer. If not we may end up in all type of unnecessary warfare and uncalled-for activities.
Strongholds from the past in our own lives can also invite uncalled-for attacks in our lives. As a righteous remnant we need to learn to walk in repentance every day. The Lord be merciful to us to break all the strongholds in our own lives as we intercede for our families, communities and provinces. As we wrestle against the three power structures as in Eph 6:12 wherever the Lord has placed us, let us also pull down from the third heaven the kingdom of God’s infrastructure-will of God as it is in heaven on earth.
Daniel, six centuries prior to Jesus was essentially praying the Lord’s prayer to see His kingdom come as it is heaven. The Bible states that though his prayer was answered the first day he only saw the breakthrough only after twenty one days as the Prince of Persia was resisting him. This prince was the principality that was assigned to Daniel’s region from the second heaven.
As the fake altars are dismantled in the land, we also pray that the remnant will build in more holy altars. Just like false altars have power to change the course of nations to judgment, like Daniel. the remnant can also setup holy altars in our families and communities. These altars are setup on our knees. No matter what happened that day Daniel and his team made sure they prayed three times facing Jerusalem. Such consistence is what enemy hates in intercessors. He plays with our mind and emotions on a daily basis. He started it with the first woman Eve and never stopped since.
Prayer and true altars reverse the history of false altars. The greatest legacy a remnant can transfer to their next generations are the holy altars. It changes the history of generations and nations. Also the Bible states that the fire from the heavenly altar never goes out. So all we need to do is to keep our altar burning with holy fire. Let us rebuild our individual altars according to Rom 12:1-2. Once we have altars right as individuals we can carry them into our families. Joshua said, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”. As an individual you take your altar to your family and to your community. Let us consecrate holy altars in our communities, provinces, cities and states along with our fellow brethren as we step into a new year 2020! The preparation needs to begin well ahead of time.
This is an excellent, thought provoking article. May we always establish holy altars and bring offerings which are pleasing to God.