by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
"And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him." (Genesis 12:7)
This is the first reference to Abraham building an altar in Scripture. Building an altar and making sacrifice to God denotes total dependence and reliance on Him. It implies saying no to self and yes to God--in effect presenting one's self in submission to God as a sinner, trusting Him for gracious handling of one's sin, and discounting one's value apart from His work. Building altars became a habit with godly Abraham, the "Friend of God" (James 2:23), and he practiced it many times during his life (see also Genesis 12:8; 13:4, 18).
We can surmise that at an early age, Abraham's son, Isaac, was taught this same practice. It doesn't seem that Isaac misunderstood or debated the situation, even when he himself was identified as the sacrifice to be slaughtered (Genesis 22:9). He fully trusted and worshiped the same God, and evidently agreed with Abraham's obedient act. Later, Isaac, himself, practiced altar-building at least once on his own (26:25).
Compare Abraham and his family to Lot and his family. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Lot built an altar and recognized God as worthy of worship. No doubt as a direct result, Lot's wife, sons, and daughters totally rejected these ideas, preferring the sinful practices and mentality of Sodom. Lot was a true believer (2 Peter 2:7-8), but his lifestyle and lack of "altar-building" rubbed off on his family, to the detriment of himself and the people of God ever since.
Here is the question: Do we want to be Christians who ignore proper worship and total submission to God and have families who do likewise? We don't build physical altars today, but we do need daily times of family prayer. JDM
This article was originally published January, 2012. "Altar Building", Institute for Creation Research, https://www.icr.org/article/6519/ (accessed June 30, 2022).