I want to tell you about an experience I had here in Durban many years ago.
At that time, we still had the convention at Clairwood Racecourse and at that convention, my job was to see to the transport – to fetch people at the station and to bring them to the grounds, or to do the shopping. The convention was already on and the kitchen staff realised that they still needed something so they asked me if I would go to town and get this for them. Well I bought this and started on my journey back.
Clairwood is a few Kilometres out of the city and soon I realised that there was a car in front of me, I think it was a minibus, but I could plainly see that a few nuns were in this car. I was following this car and it just so happened that where I turned left that they turned left and also when I turned right, they did and so we continued until eventually we left the city and I was still behind them. Then I started thinking about them. There was such a resemblance to what I was doing and what they were doing. I knew that they too made a sacrifice and they left all the possibilities of making a career, having a home and a family. They have made this sacrifice and given their lives and feel that they are doing it for God’s Kingdom, the same as I did. They were living with a hope in their hearts that God would take notice of this and that God would eventually accept them into His Kingdom and give them a place at His right hand. I knew that they were sincere and sure that what they were busy with was the right thing and I wondered, “Am I being very proud of myself to think that MY sacrifice would be accepted and theirs not?” I wondered, “Would God not take notice of that?” They were doing it in all sincerity and would He not take notice of that? It worried me.
Well, we continued and eventually, they continued and I had to turn off but my rest was gone. I didn’t feel so free inside any more and there was this something that worried me a bit. I delivered my goods to the kitchen and I went into the meeting, which was still on. The last speaker, one of our visiting workers, was already speaking and when I sat down he was just at this portion where he read these verses in Matthew 23. Verse 16, “Woe unto you ye blind guides…” I will just jump to verse 18, “Whosoever shall swear by the altar it is nothing but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it he is guilty. Ye fools and blind for whether is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?” He continued to speak about that and to say that one could bring a very costly gift, very precious, but if you would put this on the wrong altar, it would not be accepted but even a lesser gift that is brought to the right altar, it will be accepted because it is not the gift that sanctifies the altar but it is the altar that sanctifies the gift. I was in awe that God, so directly, immediately jumped in. He could see that there was something that was worrying me, something that I could not handle and He IMMEDIATELY gave me the message that helped to bring peace back into my heart. That I could understand that this is what God expects of us, to honour the altar. One could be too inclined to look at the gift, that which goes on the altar as if that is the most important thing. He wanted me to realise that it is the altar that sanctifies the gift.
I looked up in Exodus where it speaks about the first altar that was made. It says there in Exodus 29:36, “Thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin offering for atonement and thou shalt cleanse the altar when thou hast made atonement for it and thou shalt anoint it to sanctify it. Seven days thou shalt make atonement for the altar and sanctify it and it shall be an altar most holy. Whatsoever touches the altar shall be holy.” God said this had to be done. This altar was there, it was made out of stone and it was only a stone structure, until it was sanctified, until everything was done that God commanded should be done to it. There was a sacrifice brought unto it for seven days, a bullock, and eventually it was anointed, atonement was made for it and it was sanctified and declared holy, MOST holy. So holy that everything that would touch the altar would be holy.
We read in Hebrews 13:9, “Be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace and not with meats which have not profited them which have been occupied therein. We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle.” We have an altar, a different altar. Not an altar built of stone but an altar which God approved of. So much so that He could lay His Son upon that altar. The greatest sacrifice that ever was brought and that altar was the altar of obedience. His Son was obedient.
It says there in Philippians, and I often think of that part, where Paul says, “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus 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 Himself the form of a servant,” and it says, “He became obedient, humbled Himself and became obedient, even the death of the cross, wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. Things in heaven, things on the earth and even things under the earth.” He became obedient, obedient unto death. This was the altar on which this supreme sacrifice was laid, this altar of obedience. He was obedient although it cost Him so much, He had such a high position in heaven, He could have had a glory equal to what God had and yet He was willing to give that all up because God asked Him to do so and because of the love in His heart, He came down to this world to be humbled, humiliated, hated, scorned, and eventually, to be nailed to a cross to die for our sins. God saw that sacrifice and it was a sacrifice so great, so holy, so noble, so that no other sacrifice could ever equal it. God thought that this was so great a sacrifice that no other sacrifice could ever be laid upon this altar, this altar of obedience.
It says here in this verse in Hebrews that we have this altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve in the tabernacle. It also says not to be carried about with diverse and strange doctrines because it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace and not with meats which hath not profited them. It is a good thing that the heart be established. It is a good thing that the heart finds its comfort, be steadied, be assured because of grace, because of this grace, which has been bestowed upon us, because of what the Lord Jesus did. Let us find our strength there, find our comforts there and not in meats, not in the gifts.
Sometimes, we can make so much of it and we think of all that we have done. We could almost call it what we have sacrificed. We shouldn’t even use that word because what we do is so very little and God is not impressed at all by what I bring and what you bring. Our sacrifice doesn’t count at all, it is just that which the Lord Jesus brought that impresses God. The only thing that we can do, what we may do, we may come forward and we may touch this altar. Not with our hands but touch it with our hearts. With this feeling of gratitude that He gave this sacrifice and God’s heart was moved to forgive the sins of all the world, because of that sacrifice. The only thing that we can do is to humbly come forward with reverence, and touch this altar because they that touch this altar would be holy.
I hope that God would help us not to be carried away, as it says here, by strange doctrines, “Be not carried away with diverse and strange doctrines.” There is this inclination amongst some and they have their eyes fixed upon other strange doctrines. It appears that they give so much, they do so much, they bring greater sacrifices. They can heal the sick and they do so much for the poor and they have their eyes fixed on some kind of a gift and think that God could be impressed by that, but God is not impressed by that. He is impressed by that which the Lord Jesus did and the only thing that we can do is humbly come forward and touch that altar. May God help us that this morning too, that this would be our purpose and that we would see the beauty of this altar and come forward in such a way and touch it that we may receive this holiness.