Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | July 2, 2015

Tearing Down the Altars of our Heart: “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses”

Today’s devotion comes from 1 Kings Chapter 13:1-10.

“1 Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.  2 He cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name;  and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’”  3 Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’”  4 Now when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.”  But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself.  5 The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.  6 The king said to the man of God, “Please entreat the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.”  So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and it became as it was before.  7 Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.”  8 But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place.  9 For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’”  10 So he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.”  1 Kings Chapter 13:1-10.

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Today, we do not have literal altars that we need to tear down, but we have figurative altars that we need to tear down.  There are altars and idols set up by our heart that we worship.

Augustus Toplady (1740-1778) was chiefly known as a writer of hymns including “Rock of Ages”. He ministered in London, England. Although he was originally a follower of John Wesley, in 1758 he adopted strong Calvinist convictions. Some comments by Wesley upon Toplady’s presentation of Calvinism led to a bitter controversy between them. The following is an article by Augustus Toplady which give an example of some altars and idols set up by our heart that we worship.

The ‘god’ of Arminianism by Augustus Toplady

“I dare say, that, in such an auditory as this, a number of Arminians are present. I fear, that all our public assemblies have too many of them.  Perhaps, however, even these people, idolaters as they are, may be apt to blame, and, indeed, with justice, the absurdity of those who worship idols of silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.  But let me ask: If it be so very absurd, to worship the work of other men’s hands what must it be, to worship the works of our own hands?  Perhaps, you may say, ‘God forbid that I should do so. 

Nevertheless, let me tell you, that trust, confidence, reliance, and dependence, for salvation, are all acts and very solemn ones too, of divine worship: and upon whatsoever you depend, whether in whole or in part, for your acceptance with God, and for your justification in his sight, whatsoever, you rely upon, and trust in, for the attainment of grace or glory;  if it be any thing short of God in Christ, you are an idolater for all intents and purposes. 

Very different is the idea which Scripture gives us, of the ever-blessed God, from that of those false gods worshipped by the heathens; and from that degrading representation of the true God, which Arminianism would palm upon mankind.  Our God (says this Psalm, verse the third) is in the heavens:  he hath done whatsoever he pleased.  This is not the Arminian idea of God: for our free-willers and our chance- mongers tell us, that God does not do whatsoever he pleases; that there are a great number of things, which God wishes to do, and rags and strives to do, and yet cannot bring to pass … Is their god the Bible-God?  Certainly not.  Their god ‘submits’ to difficulties which he ‘cannot help’ himself out of, and endearours to make himself ‘easy’ under millions and millions of inextricable embarrassments, uncomfortable disappointments, and mortifying defeats.  …  This said scheme ascends, on the ladder of blasphemy, to the mountain top of atheism;  and then hurls itself from that precipice, into the gulf of blind, adamantine necessity, in order to prove mankind free agents! 

…  One great contest, between the religion of Arminianism, and the religion of Christ, is, who shall stand entitled to the praise and glory of a sinner’s salvation?  Conversion decides this point at once;  for I think that, without any imputation of uncharitableness, I may venture to say, that every truly awakened person, at least when he is under the shine of God’s countenance upon his soul, will fall down upon his knees, with this hymn of praise ascending from his heart, Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but to thy name, give the glory:  I am saved not for my righteousness, but for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake.” 

When we read the following four Scriptures, we see four reasons why we tear down these figurative altars.  First, “the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”.  Second, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God;  the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”  Third, the Lord is our God.  Fourth, we have our own “place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.”  “There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.”

“Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant.  Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations;  and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you.

“Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day:  behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.  Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst.

But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— ”  Exodus 34:10-14.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.  Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.  For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods;  then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.  But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.  For you are a holy people to the Lord your God;  the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”  Deuteronomy 7:1-6.

“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth.  You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree.  You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place.  You shall not act like this toward the Lord your God.  But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.  There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.  There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.”  Deuteronomy 12:1-7.

“Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim.  And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land;  you shall tear down their altars.’  But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?  Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you;  but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’”  When the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.  So they named that place Bochim;  and there they sacrificed to the Lord.”  Judges 2:1-5.

But, there is hope! 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”  2 Corinthians 10:3-5.


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