Shawn Chou—San Jose, California, USA
After Noah and his family came out of the ark, he built an altar and made burnt offerings to the Lord (Gen 8:20). This is the first example of altar building mentioned in the Bible. After these offerings, the Lord blessed Noah and his family (Gen 9:1).
The family altar is when family members dedicate time to worship God together at home. In this comfortable setting, the family regularly gathers to sing hymns, share testimonies, study the Scriptures, pray, and have fellowship with one another. Building a family altar is the fundamental work of a Christian family. As children grow up, it will help establish their faith foundation and mold a godly character.
Hear, my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding;
For I give you good doctrine:
Do not forsake my law.
When I was my father’s son,
Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother,
He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.” (Prov 4:1–5)
This passage has been a great inspiration and influence on me and my family over many years of altar building. As parents, what expectations do we have for our children? Outstanding academic achievements? Good career? High income? As King Solomon shares with us in the passage above, his father emphasized the importance of gaining wisdom and understanding from God. Through the family altar, we can impart these same teachings to our children.
While wisdom is not the only blessing we gain from the family altar, it is certainly crucial. Without it, we may end up making wrong decisions, deviate from God’s teachings, and fall short in our faith. When our children come of age and leave home, we are no longer in the “passenger seat,” monitoring and directing them. They must drive independently and make their own decisions. If they have been raised with the family altar from a young age, we can trust that they have attained the wisdom, through God’s word, to stay on the correct path.
Building altars is not just a parental concern. As children of God, our worship and service to Him extend beyond the physical church building, permeating our whole lives. The pandemic has brought this to the fore since most of us have had to isolate under various forms of lockdown. Our homes have, for a time, become our sole places of worship. Hopefully, this has inspired us to continue building our altars at home, even when normal life resumes.
Building an altar in our household plays a central role in our journey of faith. Families that are willing to embrace it will, like Noah’s family, be blessed. They will see a closer relationship with one another and with God. Let us endeavor to practice the teachings and practical advice contained within the following articles to establish altars for the glory and honor of God.