Exodus 20:24-26, “You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones, for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it. You shall not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.”
And now for Verse 26. As we saw when Moses went up the mountain, often altars are built high upon a structure that is designed to show that the deity is above the realm of normal mankind, and that only those special ones can ascend to it. Thus in many cultures we see pyramidal places of worship, and even in western Christendom we see much of this as well.
However, as can be readily seen in Ex 20:24-26 God our Father did not want us to make any such structures. Why did He not want us to have steps going up to His altar? Let’s just look at where we are here. Usually the altar, and thus its minister, is on a level above you, and therefore the minister could think that he is better than you because he has the authority to stand above you. And then that makes you feel less than worthy. But God says don’t build steps up to my altar because we are all equal in His love and Grace. We all come to Him on a level playing field (so to speak) of His making.
And then God says, “that your nakedness may not be exposed on it”. Remember that in more ancient times and in those warmer climes, people wore robes rather than trousers. Even today in the Arab nations this is still prevalent. So what would happen if you tripped going up the steps? You would fall flat on your face (literally and figuratively), and every one down below could look straight up your kilt so to speak. All that you had wished to keep private (your privates), would be on display for all to see. That is why God’s altar is not approached by going up steps, for He knows that it is not right for our shame, for those things in our lives which we wish to keep private, to be exposed for all to see, for does he not clothe us with robes white with righteousness.
Furthermore, when we make steps to achieve something, like the ‘7 steps to better living’, or the ‘12 steps to sobriety’ etc, then we are creating situations for ourselves to fail, and to be failures. Very few people are able to complete these ‘easy steps’ to betterment, and all that happens is that they become discouraged, despondent, and ultimately, destroyed. We do not need to go through the 7 steps of getting closer to God. We don’t even have to go up 1 step. He has made all the steps, rushing to meet with us right where we are. In Him our shame will never be exposed. He has raised us up and seated us in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
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