The Altar – George Herbert

Yesterday I gave a sermon about Romans 12 and the idea of living sacrifice. Having all this on my mind, I wanted to share a poem with you all by George Herbert, one of my favorite poets, about this.

The Altar

By George Herbert

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart and cemented with tears;
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.
A HEART alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow’r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame
To praise thy name.
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

A place for sacrifice

Notice how Herbert frames us as the altar and God as the sacrifice. Though we strive to live as a sacrifice, the only way we can do that is through the sacrifice that God has already made for us. So though we offer ourselves to him, we are not so much a sacrifice as a place for sacrifice. We are altars unfit for the service of God, so God the Son sacrificed himself to transform us into beautified, sanctified altars that could become a place for God’s praise for eternity.
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