TiO 45 – The Story – Come to the Altar!
The Main Idea
This week began the second major arc in The Story, the preparation for God’s final act of reconciliation with humans. The Old Testament, as this is commonly referred to, is not an old and irrelevant story but is, in fact, essential to understanding the story of Jesus.
Chapter 2 from The Story recounts the stories of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with a small, but significant character named Ishmael. The story of Abraham is, in so many ways, a story of altars. One altar in particular. In the message this week, Todd called us to discover the six altars in the life of Abraham and a call to be altered…by God’s work at the altar.
Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)
Q1: Have you ever seen an altar? Tell the story of the circumstance and the function of that altar.
Q2: Have you ever had to make a significant sacrifice? Why did you have to do it? What was the result?
Dig a Little Deeper
Faith always comes to life when something dies on an altar. That was the message that Todd brought to us from the life of Abraham. Throughout his life, Abraham faced significant challenges to his faith in a faithful God. Each time, Abraham chose to sacrifice his own desires and, instead, chose to trust in the promises of God. Todd identified 6 altars in Abraham’s life:
Read the second paragraph of page 14.
- The Altar of Obedience
Q1: How does Abraham show his obedience to God? What is at stake for him in being obedient?
Rather than question the prudence or sanity of abandoning his life and livelihood in Shechem, Abraham obeyed God and moved into an unknown land.
Read the fifth paragraph of page 14.
- The Altar of Worship
Q2: What does “worship” mean?
Abraham set up an altar and there he worshipped God. Rather than getting on with his busy life and his travels Abraham stopped to build an altar and to worship God.
From Genesis 13:3-4 we read: He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.
- The Altar of Repentance
In the narrative, Abraham does not repent at the altar which he returns to for he has no sin to declare to God. However the idea of returning to a former place after you have wandered away from a path you were following is a great example of repentance.
Read paragraphs 4 & 5 on page 14
- The Altar of Separation
Q3: Why did Abraham feel a need to separate himself from Lot?
Lot’s problems did not happen until after Abraham separated himself from Lot. But perhaps Abraham had a feeling (or a nudge from God) that something was going to happen. While, like Abraham, we need to be involved in the lives of those people around us, even when those lives are messy and, perhaps, sinful, we need to ensure that we are not so connected to them that we cannot resist being pulled into the same sin that they are engaged in. Abraham eventually had to go and rescue Lot, so he knew about Lot’s troubles and was able to offer help when Lot really needed it.
Read the italicized text starting at the bottom of page 14 and ending on page 15. This is not direct from Genesis, instead it is a summary of the events that happened.
- The Altar of the Tithe
Q4: According to the portion you just read, why did Abraham give 10% of the spoils of the battle to Melchizedek?
There are all kinds or reasons that we give to God. While many would say that giving to God is done because there is a rule about it, God makes it clear in scripture that it is not a rule that is most important. Instead, it is a heart attitude which acknowledges that our success comes from God and giving to him is returning to him a part of what he gave to us in the first place.
Read the story of the (almost) sacrifice of Isaac: from the middle of page 19 to the middle of page 20.
- The Altar of Sacrifice
Q5: Did Abraham believe that he was actually supposed to kill Isaac?
Q6: What was God’s plan in asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?
Q7: According to the last paragraph on page 20, what was the result of Abraham’s obedience?
We often hear people say, “I am willing to sacrifice, God just has not asked me to.” In this story, while it was probably God’s intention simply to test Abraham’s obedience, this was a very real request that God had of Abraham: to sacrifice his only son, the son through which the promise would be fulfilled. Abraham did not say, “I think this is just a test so I do not have to follow through”. Instead he, in obedience listened to and obeyed God.
We face the need to sacrifice every day. Each of the altars that Todd talked about are altars that we have to place parts of our past, present, and futures on. But the reward for sacrifice is huge. As was said many times during the message, Faith always comes to life when something dies on an altar.
Q1: Which of the altars mentioned in the sermon do you have the most trouble with? Why?
Q2: As you consider your life, what part of it—something in the past, present, or future—do you need to sacrifice in order to fully follow God?
Pray together for the things in your life that need to be sacrificed. Pray for courage and resolve.