Monday, June 12, 2023

God of Freedom

When God instructed Israel on building His holy place and creating a sacred place of worship, one command seems, well, interesting: He tells them not to cut stones for His altar. When altars are made for God, they are made from uncut stones. 

This is true when the Israelites gather rocks out of the river and stack them as an altar, and it is true (sort of) when Solomon starts building the Temple. Israel, wandering and then settling the land, never cut a stone for their God; Solomon had stones cut far away from the build site to be used for the Temple. But to be honest, we don't know how cut or uncut those stones were. 

In the description of Solomon's building, we find the suggestion that stones were not cut at the Temple because they didn't want that kind of noise around there. He wanted the work site to be quiet. And it's easy to think, sure, that makes sense. Churches are sometimes solemn places, especially the grand cathedrals of old, so we understand how "serious"ly a people might want to take a holy place. It's not a place for dust, dirt, debris, and noise. 

But actually, I think God's command that Israel not cut stones for His altar is much, much simpler than that. 

And more beautiful.

Think back and remember where God's people were before they even thought about building altars...they were in Egypt. In Egypt, they were slaves. As slaves, they were responsible for making bricks and building things. It's not a stretch at all to believe that in Egypt, Israel was cutting stones as part of their regular duties. 

Fast forward to a people on the move, heading toward the Promised Land, no longer slaves but called children of God. Do you think God would tell them they have to cut stones? 

I don't. 

I think the reason that no cut stones were used on God's altar is simply because God wanted to remind His people that they were no longer slaves. They weren't slaves to Egypt, and they weren't slaves to Him. He wasn't going to use them like that. That's not who they were, and it's not who He is.

This is important because so many of us are living lives that we wouldn't have chosen. We feel like this world, and our experience in it, has forced us into things that just don't fit. We don't want to be like this. We don't want to be slaves to this. Then, we find God, and we're told that in God, there is freedom. 

And there is. 

The God who parts the waters to walk you out of Egypt will never just make you a slave in Canaan. 

You, my friend, have cut your last stone. 

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