Justin Tucker, LHBC Worship Pastor

Matthew 9:10-13
And as Jesus reclined at a table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

This song is one of my all-time favorites but believe it or not, it was a song that almost never came to be.Like so many ideas for songs are, this song almost became a trash-can three-pointer. It was originally titled “My Life Be An Altar.” The theme for the song and the title were given to another songwriter, Wade Joye, on the retreat and after 5 hours of trying to write something that fit, Wade had to come back and say that he just couldn’t make it work. The original idea sat on the shelf for six months and as the team of writers was discussing throwing it out someone said, “What if we made it ‘O Come to the Altar” instead?” That sparked another writer in the group to share what he had been working on and those words became the first verse. Four hours later the song that we have today was completed. This song has been one of the greatest invitation songs written in modern times. In 2018 it was the number 1 song on all Christian radio and even today, it is the 25th most used song in churches across America. 

This song serves as an awesome invitation to those who are far from God. It speaks to the broken, it speaks to the hurting, it speaks to the sinner and it tells them that Jesus is not only waiting for them with open arms but that He is calling them unto Himself. He laid down His life for all. Verse 13 tells us,For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” He didn’t come to make bad people turn into good people. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. He came so that through His shed blood, we could be in a right relationship with God. He loves us so much that regardless of our past, He is waiting to receive us with open arms. A new name and a new direction gave this song a new life. God wants to do the same to us. He desires to give us a new name as His sons and daughters and He wants to give us a new life that is complete in Him.

This song is also a reminder to celebrate what Jesus has done for us. In the bridge we sing,
Oh, what a Savior, Isn’t He wonderful? Sing Hallelujah, Christ is risen!
Bow down before Him, For He is Lord of all, Sing Hallelujah, Christ is risen!

It reminds us to celebrate His victory over death and the grave! It is a reminder to lay down our lives at the altar as an act of worship for all that He has done for us. This passage is also a reminder to us that if we are to be like Jesus, we can’t be like the Pharisees. We can’t live in a place of self-righteousness and judgement, we have to be a people of mercy and love. 

Lord, help us to be more like Jesus. Help us to live lives full of mercy and love. Help us to live outside of the cultural norms and the comfortability of our everyday lives and reach out to those far from You. You have called us to be your hands and feet. Help us to serve, to love, and to give the hope of Jesus to the world. Thank you for the sacrifice made on the cross for our sake. Thank you for creating a way that we could enter into a relationship with you. Let it burn in our hearts to lay down our lives each day in pursuit of being more like Jesus. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Exodus 15:2
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.