Altars, Tools, and Worship (Exodus 20:25)

Exodus 20:25 (ESV)


If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.


                God has the right to tell us exactly how he will be worshipped. Though many people believe that they may approach God in any way they so choose, God makes it clear that this is not the case. He will determine how people may come before him. He also has the right to determine what he will reject


                Just after giving the Ten Commandments, God teaches Moses several important things about how Moses and the people of Israel are to relate to God in worship. Of course he told them not to worship idols. He also told them standards for earthen or stone altars for worship.


                Notice in the verse above what God says about the stone altar. The people were not to wield any sort of tool on a stone altar. If they are to make a stone altar for the Lord, they have to simply stack the stones. Why? Any human alteration on the altar would profane it.


                What is the key ere? God is holy. We cannot improve his worship by adding our own touch to it. In fact, God makes it plain that the touch of sinful humanity on his worship is not helpful. We are sinners. We do not bring any sort of extra improvements to the table. God, in his holiness, rejects our attempts to improve his commanded worship.


                We should learn two things here. First, we should learn that God is truly Holy. He is not subject to our ideas when it comes to worship. He will command what he desires. We have no right to disobey or to reject his commands. Unlike the teaching of the world, God’s commands are to approach him in his way if we wish to be accepted by him.


                Second, we should be extremely grateful for Jesus. We are so sinful that even the use of a human-wielded tool on a stone altar of God would profane it. Our sin corrupts and misshapes worship to the point that it is unacceptable. Were we left in this state, we could not approach God, we could not worship God, and we certainly could not be forgiven by God. But God, out of his great love and mercy, sent his Son who lived out the perfection we could not live. God sacrificed his Son to pay the penalty we could never afford to pay. God raised his Son from the dead, proving to us that the work is done and that life is the reward of all who come to faith in Jesus. And now God invites all who have put their faith in Jesus to approach him with boldness and confidence (Eph 3:12). No, we do not determine how God will be worshipped. Nor do wee reject or reshape God’s rules. But, in Christ, we who would profane all we touch have been cleansed, redeemed, and welcomed into his presence. And that welcoming should give us great cause for thanksgiving.