Exodus 20:25 (HCSB)
25 If you make a stone altar for Me, you must not build it out of cut stones. If you use your chisel on it, you will defile it.
This short pericope reminds the Israelites to worship God alone, and provides rules for the altars to use. Although short, and seeming a bit like “book-keeping”, what is conveyed here is solid foundation for the worship of God.
First, God reminds Israel again to worship Him alone. He has spoken to them from heaven. Nothing man can fashion from his own hands can do the same. Nothing man can fashion from his own hands can rival God. Notice that God does not simply prohibit just the worship of idols fashioned by man, He forbids the making of them at all. God knows our proclivity to worship ourselves, and what we make. So instead of giving us the rope to hang ourselves, in a sense, God provides a guardrail, a safety to keep us from falling into the trap of worshipping our worthless, dead, idols.
Likewise, the ordinance on what to use to construct the altars seems at first glance innocuous. But notice the prescription here: do not use cut stones, do not use chisels. Altars are to be composed of rock formed by God, not by man. The focus of the altar is God, not man. How often do we fall into the trap of admiring the construction rather than the One who it is built for? If the construction of an altar turns to a show of craftsmanship, the focus shifting to man, than we have pushed God out of the picture yet again.
Again, God places rules, even though they might seem silly or harmless, to protect us, to bring us joy, to help keep us on a road leading to Him.
Lord, thank You for guiding us, and loving us enough to provide us guidance, even when it is not in line with our desires. I pray for the wisdom and obedience to follow Your lead, and to seek You constantly. Amen.