The first time in the Bible that we can indirectly see even the hint or suggestion of an altar is in the scriptures of Genesis 3:21. In this passage we see the Lord having sacrificed animals for the clothes of His naked children. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together in an attempt to cover their shame. For the first time, their eyes were opened to know good and evil. The Lord demonstrates the need of more than a physical covering to erase their conscience of guilt and the shame of their disobedience. Only through an altar and only with the substitution of life’s blood can they ever hope to return to the innocence of their beginning.
Next, we come to Abel, who through faith offered a more excellent sacrifice than that of Cain, whereby he received the approval of the Lord. His offering speaks great faith. With much volume, it showed that he understood the significance of a blood sacrifice, a spotless lamb of the first year. Adam must have passed on the revelations of what the Lord would require if they ever hoped to return back into full fellowship with the voice of the Lord. His faith showed the Lord that he believed the Word preached unto him. His offering was accepted by the Lord and he was blessed at the altar thereof.
In Gen. 8:20 we come to Noah, who built an altar unto the Lord. There, he sacrificed one of each of the seven clean pairs of animals he had brought into the ark. The Lord said, “Gather two each of every kind to replenish the earth, seven clean animals (which makes three pairs) with one leftover to offer unto the Lord for His protection and guidance. The Lord was true to His word. His care had kept them safe throughout the whole flood.
Then there is Abraham whom the Lord said, “Leave thy country, the land of thy nativity. Go unto the land that I will show thee and I will make of thee a great nation. I will bless thee and make thee famous. You shall surely be a blessing.” Abraham built an altar there and dedicated it unto the Lord. He praised His God and kept a close distance to his Lord. His ears opened up unto the voice that directed him. The Bibles said, “He knew not where he was going.” The altar was a mean of guidance from the Lord. “Don’t be afraid for I am with thee, saith the Lord. I will bless thee, I will multiply thee, and thy descendants and they shall become a great nation.
We read of Isaac and his altar and the worship that he gave unto the Lord. Each built and maintained their altars unto the Lord. In Gen. 35:1 God said unto the son of Isaac, Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build and altar there to God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayer when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all of their pagan idols and earrings and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem.
As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of the area so that no one attacked Jacob’s family. Here we learn that God is a God that answers prayer. We learn also that when we rid ourselves of all idols, purify our house, and put on clean characters that the Lord will reward us richly. Jacob said, “We are going to Bethel.” Bethel meaning the House of God! Beloved, when we get in church and let God change our hearts even our enemies will be at peace with us. The Lord became a terror unto all that opposed Jacob. He will do the same for us also.