Several weeks ago I was listening to a sermon by my good friend Jeremiah Bolich. He made a statement I haven’t been able to get over. He was talking about the altar and how the concept of bowing at an altar came about.
Throughout the Old Testament, we find the use of an altar all over the place, but it was the place of sacrifice or worship. I once heard the modern concept of coming to an altar to pray originated with Billy Sunday and the old revival tent meetings. At the end of the sermon, Billy would walk down the aisle and scattering sawdust, encourage the attendees to come forward and offer their lives upon the altar. However, even that concept came from the Middle Ages.
In the Middle Ages, during the time of kings and knights, the knight would come before the king and bow himself down as an act of devotion, dedication, and dependence. In so doing, he would bend his neck, revealing what could be considered the most vulnerable part of his body. You can cut off your hand, and while it may cause problems, you cannot live if you get cut off at the neck. With a head bent low, you cannot see what is going on around you. You do not notice if someone is going to do something unawares. The very act of bending your neck is an attitude of trust, surrender, submission, and placing your life completely in another’s hands. This is one of the reasons when another king was captured, he would be forced to bow low before the other.
Christians apparently picked up on the symbolism and incorporated it. You realize when you come to an altar and bow down, you are not only exhibiting an attitude of worship, love, and prayer; but perhaps even more so, by bending your neck, you are physically giving an outward and visible sign of your trust, surrender, submission and dependence on Jesus. You are placing your entire life in His hands, allowing Him full and total access into your life to do with you whatever He so chooses.
I want to spend today with a bent neck. But this new year, the year 2010, I want to spend every moment with the attitude of a “neck bender.” Would you too embrace Him and bend your neck? Psalm 95.6-7 declares:
Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…