Man’s Effort Not Required
In Exodus chapter 20 we have the 10 commandments listed for us and then at the end of the chapter we read an interesting command from God about an altar used for worship: 25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. Why would God prohibit the people from making an altar out of “hewn” or cut stone? After all, couldn’t the altar look nicer of the stones were the same size or cut in a pretty pattern? In this case I think God was trying to help His people understand something about worship. The altar was a place where sacrifices were given and it was a symbol of the presence of God. I think that God specifically kept human effort away from this process to help His people understand that their effort could not contribute to the significance of their relationship to God.
Now, I know that later on God gives great detail and specificity to how the tabernacle was to be constructed and the altar for that was to be carefully crafted. So I don’t want to take this too far, but in these very early days of establishing His relationship with His people, could it be that God was teaching them an important lesson? Man has always wanted to add something of his effort to his worship of God. So many other religions rely almost exclusively on what man brings to the table. Here, God wants them, and us, to see that our effort is not required. When we worship God it is to be done out of an understanding of total and complete dependence on Him. That doesn’t minimize who we are but it certainly maximizes who God is.