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Friday, August 20, 2010

What is all this stuff about an "altar"?

Psalm 26:6 says "I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar O Lord"

Anyone with the slightest bit of familiarity with the Bible, and especially the Older Covenant (testament) knows that the talk of an "altar" runs constantly through it. This morning, I was especially struck with the talk of innocence and goodness, and an altar.

An "altar" is simply a symbolic reference to the idea so hateful to modern man that God is a God of justice, and that rebellion is not just glossed over in a grandfatherly "tut tut" but must be paid for. The slaughter of "innocent" and "pure" beasts in a symbolic ritual of appeasement to a God who dares to be furious at our misdeeds continues to offend the sensibilities of men.

That is at the core of Christian thought. I need an altar. What struck me this morning is that the Psalmist proclaims his "blameless life" unwavering trust in God, truthfulness, integrity and refusal to hang out with the wicked......, and he only does that in the context of "going about the altar," which is a blunt admission that his life is NOT good, and must be cleansed of its filth. Thus the statement about "washing hands." We have no moral fiber of our own. It is all derived and alien. The thing that an unbelieving society hates about us....., and has a right to hate... is the perception that we think we are "better than them." Our statements about our own moral standards are perceived as smug and superior. Some of that is unavoidable, as Jesus said that we all naturally hate God and his goodness. However, it is hard to hate a man who is truly humble and knows that every bit of good character he has is from an altar where someone else had to be utterly consumed so that I can claim to be "innocent."

Today I would love to be innocent. I really would. But I want even more to know why I am innocent. I want a glimpse of another altar, where God himself took the fiery judgment so I don't have to.


usafhockey said...

Thanks for encouraging truth.

D said...

That's heavy.