And the LORD said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.…
The directions given shadow forth the essentials of genuine worship. Amongst the heathen the idol is the central figure, the human symbol of the unseen God. The true God will admit no such symbol; it is a barrier against, not a step towards, the worship he desires. In true worship there must be utter self-suppression. "Obedience is better than sacrifice;" it is only through obedience that the sacrifice becomes acceptable. In this light consider -
I. THE ALTAR. To be made of earth or unhewn stones. The simple unadorned material as provided by God himself. Anything beyond this, any touch of human handicraft, pollutes it. The principle which underlies this fact: - sacrifices offered in the appointed way are acceptable; if we try to better the appointed way - to put something of our own into the sacrifice as a ground for acceptance - we spoil all. Self-obtrusion, however well-intended, is pollution. The altar is the expression of God's will: try to improve it, and it becomes instead an expression of the will of the would-be improver. "I give thee this, O God; it is not worth much, but I give it thee in this self-chosen manner, and surely that adds to its value." Not a bit: it deprives it of all value. The altar of self is not the altar of God; sacrifices offered upon it may perhaps soothe the worshipper, they cannot propitiate the Deity. The pillar, e.g., of a St. Simeon Stylites does not add to the value of his prayers; they have a better chance of reaching heaven from the contrite heart at the foot of the pillar. (Cf. Colossians 2:22, 23.)
II. THE APPROACHES. If the offering be made with a pure motive, it must also be offered in a pure and reverent manner. The special direction, no doubt, aimed against the enthusiastic indecencies associated with idolatry. Still, it illustrates a principle: "All things," in the worship of God, should be done "decently and in order." God looks first at character, but he requires also that character be matched by conduct. The Corinthian Christians (1 Corinthians 11., 14.) infringed the principle, if not the precept. Many amongst modern worshippers infringe it also, e.g., by indecencies of dress, behavior, etc., in a place of worship or when engaged in prayer. Conclusion. - Two things required of us, humility and reverence; inward and outward self-suppression. Do we want a motive? "Mine altar" (ver. 26). Remember who it is whom we worship. What place left for self when the heart is fixed on God? - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.