There is a perfect destination for weddings that isn’t as common as it used to be.
The weather doesn’t matter, the flowers will always be beautiful, and there is usually plenty of seating for friends and family. The price is very reasonable, and the setting is exactly what every wedding should feel like.
The perfect destination for a wedding is a church because the altar is more than a wedding fixture; it is designed to be a wedding moment.
My husband, Jim, officiated a beautiful wedding last weekend. The bride was the daughter of special friends, and it was a blessing to witness and participate in her wedding. Why was this wedding so special?
Because the bride and groom chose to include God in every aspect of their service.
Their wedding wasn’t just a ceremony. It was a time of holy commitment to God and to one another.
Why does the altar matter?
The first time the word altar is used in Scripture is in Genesis 8:20–22.
Noah and his family had been at sea for a long time. After the sun came out and they were finally able to leave the ark, Scripture says, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lᴏʀᴅ and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lᴏʀᴅ smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lᴏʀᴅ said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease’” (Genesis 8:20–22).
The altar in this passage was built to offer God praise for his loving care and for preserving both people and animals for his future purpose. Noah made his offering to God and God responded with a promise of his own. God would “never again curse the ground because of man.”
Time will move forward from season to season as long as the earth remains. Noah’s altar time with God is a biblical reminder of the way God has always completely and faithfully kept his promises.
In Scripture, the altar was a place for the people to make sacrifices to God for sins. When the temple was built, there was an altar of incense, a place where God’s words were received. In Christianity, the altar was often seen as the Lord’s Supper table, which was used for sharing the bread and the wine of remembrance.
Spiritually, an altar of sacrifice is no longer needed physically because Jesus was the final sacrifice for all sins, but there remains a significant reason to spend time at an altar. Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of his day when he said, “You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (Matthew 23:19).
In a very real way, any special place where people can encounter the presence of God, make commitments to God, and seek his voice of leadership becomes an altar. An altar is simply a place made sacred by the heart of the person who approaches God in that place.
Is there a special place where you go to seek and experience the power of God or make a commitment to God?
When have you stood at an altar and why?
Most people my age would probably answer that question by saying “My wedding.” Most weddings of my generation took place in a church where we exchanged our vows at the “altar.” But, keeping the words of Christ in mind, that spot was only an altar if the vows we made were a sacred commitment in our hearts to God and to the one we were marrying.
When Jim officiates a wedding, he always explains to the bride and groom that their engagement period was a contractual relationship, able to be broken. He then reminds them that their marriage will be a covenant relationship between one another and God. He goes on to say that the moment when they take their vows they enter into a sacred, holy commitment to each other to live as one, under God as their King.
Weddings don’t have to take place at a church, but they should always take place at an altar. Biblical marriage is one of God’s richest blessings in life. God ordained marriage and ordained the family structure. It is so important that marriage begins with a mutual commitment to live with one another, for God’s holy purpose.
People don’t always keep their vows, and every husband and wife will make mistakes that damage their relationship with God and each other. But we should never underestimate the power of God’s blessings on a biblical marriage.
We also should never underestimate the power Satan exerts in this world to destroy this great blessing either. There are so many negative statistics in our culture that can be traced directly to the non-biblical redefining of marriage and family.
God’s ways are higher, and we never need to question his plans. God loves us and wants us to have a life he is able to bless. If our lives include marriage, we can know his standards for our relationship are high and holy.
Revisit the altar
Jim and I will soon celebrate our forty-third anniversary. It seems hard to believe so many years have passed. People are beginning to be impressed by that number and sometimes ask, “What is the secret to your long marriage?”
Honestly, it isn’t a secret; it’s God.
Jim and I meant our vows when we took them at the altar and, by God’s grace, we have stuck with them. We have loved God and each other. God has blessed our love. But, as with every spiritual commitment, it is important to revisit the altar sometimes and remember the covenant decision we made to become one life together under God’s authority.
The joy of a wedding
We were able to witness a biblical wedding this past weekend. A man and woman stood at an altar and became one life, together under God. It was a joy to listen to them speak their vows and know they were speaking them to God and to one another. It was a joy to pray for them, knowing God was able to bless and answer our prayers for these two godly young people. I expect they will have a special family and they will honor God’s will in their lives.
For all of us, whom should we be praying for today?
It is common in our culture to make the wedding more about the reception than the service. It is common to make the bride and groom the center of the day instead of making God the center of their future lives together, “until death they do part.”
Marriage is one of God’s richest blessings. If you have a strong marriage, take a moment at an altar and thank God for that person you share your life with. If you want a strong marriage, take a moment at an altar and ask God to guide you toward that relationship.
The altar is a place where you can experience God’s Presence and listen for his voice of guidance. After God spoke to Jacob, Jacob told his family, “Let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone” (Genesis 35:3).
God is with us, wherever we go.
Pray that we will enjoy some time at the altar this week.
God surely wants to meet us there to bless us, guide us, and show his love for us.
What place will be your altar this week?