The Life of the Altar and the Tent, by Watchman Nee


Genesis 12:8 says, "And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord." This is Abraham’s second altar. The altar led to the tent, and then the tent led again to the altar. With the altar, nothing is ours any longer, and whatever is left from the altar is placed in the tent. Nothing can occupy our heart anymore; our conscience is at peace before God, and we can boldly say to Him, "I have not held back one thing from You." In this way, the tent leads us back to the altar. If our possessions have taken root and we cannot drop them or move them anymore, we become bound by these things, and there can never be a second altar.

When we offer ourselves upon the altar and consecrate our all to God, He leaves certain things for our use; but we have no choice as to what we can keep in the tent and what we have to take out of the tent back to the altar. Everything must first pass the altar. Whatever God leaves for our use, we can put in the tent. But we must still inquire of God concerning all the objects in the tent; we can only keep those that God allows us to keep. We cannot decide to keep anything for ourselves. Everything has to pass the altar first; we must first check with God about every one of them before we can put them into the tent. What has been placed in the tent may go to the altar again at any time. If at any time God says, "You do not need this thing," we should relinquish it immediately. If we cling to it and say, "This is mine," then in our heart we have forsaken the altar and are no longer consecrated. We cannot return to the second altar and say to God that our life is being lived for Him.

God demands that everything we have be placed on the altar and that we have placed what He has left for us in the tent. We can only have the second altar when everything is in the tent. The most precious experience is the experience of the second altar. It is easy for us to be stirred up, to become zealous, and to consecrate ourselves. But three or five years after this, we collect many things from the world again, and we cannot go back to the altar anymore. But it is very precious if we can always be tent dwellers and build a second altar. The problem is not with possessions. The problem is with how our consecration stands.


Abraham had his failures. In his history there was a forsaking of the altar and the tent; he went down to Egypt. But there was recovery. How did that recovery come about? Genesis 13:3-4 says, "He went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord." Recovery is a matter of returning to the altar and the tent. Have any of you failed? Have any of you slipped or betrayed your cause? Have any of you gone down into Egypt, so that now you have your own demands, your own hopes, your own interests, and your own aspirations? If you are seeking the way of recovery, you have to come back to the altar and the tent. God’s Word shows us that Abraham’s recovery involved his return "unto the place where his tent had been...unto the place of the altar, which he had made." Recovery is to return to the tent and to the altar.

What happened to Abraham after his recovery? Genesis 13:18 says, "Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord." Hebron is the place of fellowship with God; it is the place of eternal and continuous fellowship. Abraham dwelt in Hebron, and in Hebron he built another altar for God. If we want to be in fellowship with God, we can never forsake the altar. May He be gracious to us and cause us to see the importance of consecration so that we may live a life of the altar and the tent!

(The Life of the Altar and the Tent, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)