“An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.” Exodus 20:24-25
Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that we had nothing to do with the fact that we exist? No matter how you look at it someone else is responsible. Our parents were responsible for our conception and birth and their parents were responsible for their existence and so we can trace the line all the way back to creation. At that point, according to the biblical account, God becomes the original chooser, designer, and originator for the first human parents and through them all humanity. But, as you can see, no one had a choice in the fact of their own existence.
Now think about this question. How much do we contribute to our own salvation?
Most Christians, or at least most Protestant Christians, know that salvation comes to us as a free gift from God, wholly undeserved and entirely unearned by any act of merit. But I think that most of us believe that in some way we did contribute to our salvation by at least providing the occasion, setting, and means by which our Savior was slain.
Our focus text provides a different point of view for defining and explaining the death of Christ.
The Hebrew sacrificial system was put in place by God to provide three functions. The first was for the establishing and reaffirming of covenants. The second was for the atoning for sin resulting in forgiveness for the petitioner. The third function of the sacrificial system was one of an educational nature. Every aspect of the system was carefully designed by God to illustrate and instruct us about all we needed to know about how and why we’re forgiven and given a relationship with God.
As we look at these first instructions for the altars the people would erect we see that the altar was to be either made of earth or un-hewn stone. God emphasized his point by specifically commanding that no tool was to be used to fashion the stones from which the altar was assembled.
Who fashioned those un-hewn stones? If anyone were to get credit we would have to give it to God. His was the voice that spoke the words that brought them into existence, his was the command that, at the time of the flood, caused the first cataclysmic break up of the earth, and he was the one that establish the laws of nature which continue to shape the structure of the earth to this day. God fashioned the stones so it was God who was responsible for the shape of the altar.
By the same token it was God, his love, his mercy, and his freely given favor, which according to his plan, provided every aspect of the sacrifice of Christ. The only part of our salvation we’ve ever contributed is our need to be saved. Everything else comes from God.