The Altar is Still There

Genesis 13:1–4 (ESV) So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. 2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3 And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.

What do you do when you blow it and others know you’ve blown it and you’re ashamed to even realize just how much you’ve blown it?

You go back to Bethel.

Bethel means house of God. And it’s exactly where Abram went back to after one of his greatest failures. In Egypt, Abram relied on his cunning and ingenuity to make a way for himself through the tough famine in the land of promise. He figured God could only be trusted so for and sometimes matters must be taken into one’s own hands. 

The result was shame and expulsion… and it reads from Pharaoh’s own mouth:

Genesis 12:19–20 (ESV) Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

So Abram went again into the land God told him to be in for the promises to be fulfilled. This time humbled and defeated. But what did he find? He found that old altar he built when he first arrived. This may be years later, we don’t know. But he found a place to call on God and he did.

What the enemy wants you to believe is that when you’ve really blown it (like selling your wife out in Abram’s case) or adultery in your case, or public humiliation, or the really bad sins that everyone is going to remember you for… when you do that… get back to the place where you called on God. Go back to church, go back to that altar, get back on your knees before Him, and call upon the Lord! He’s there waiting and what He has is really good news.

The story of the Prodigal son fits here. The Greek language is explicit and ratcheted up to describe the Father’s action when the son returns.

Luke 15:20 (NKJV) “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

He literally LEAPS on his son is the word picture we have from the NKJV, He “fell on his neck”. The words present an image of the Father running so hard and so boundlessly to the boy that he literally overtook him in the moment. This was the same son that previously asked for his fathers’ money and wildly wasted it. He deserved a cold shoulder. He got abounding grace instead.


What does James say to the “adulterous people” of his scathing rebuke in James 4?

 James 4:4 (ESV) You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

Ouch. That’s true and it hurts… but notice two verses later:

James 4:6 (ESV) But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

And then the same call:

James 4:8 (ESV) Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 

If anyone ever told you that you sinned too big for God’s grace, they lied. They spoke for the devil and he’s doing a good enough job apart from the assistance of ignorant people. God forgives aggressively and convincingly.

Just go back and see for yourself.