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    So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. -- Genesis 13:1-4

Every man has stood before an altar where an initial confession of faith was made, where cleansing baptismal waters flowed, where marriage vows were exchanged. By returning, the soul is braced for the dangers and challenges that lie ahead.


    Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. -- Genesis 16:25

The sequence is exemplary; that life is blessed which invokes God before settling in a new home or undertaking a new responsibility.


After the pestilence that threatened Jerusalem was lifted by the Lord, David sought to purchase the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite in order to built an altar. Araunah wanted to give the king everything he needed for the sacrifice of thanksgiving, but David protested.

    But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” -- 2 Samuel 24:24


After a four-month pilgrimage across the desert sands, the Israelites returned to the city of their fathers, but the desolation seemed to mock their dream of rebuilding the temple. How did they begin this formidable task? They set up the altar in its place.

    Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord. -- Ezra 3:3


When the children of Israel heard rumors that the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had erected a strange altar near the Jordan, they presumed that sacrilege was being committed and they armed for war. Bloodshed was averted only after they hesitated long enough to learn that the altar was raised to remind later generations of their faithfulness.

    We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, “What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?” ...

    That is why we said, “Let us get ready and build an altar - but not for burnt offerings and sacrifices.” On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, ...

    Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, “You have no share in the Lord.” -- Joshua 22:10-29

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