Between A Holy Place and A Heap of Ruins: Part 2
“Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.”-Genesis 12:6
When Abraham finally stops, he does so in Shechem. He sets up camp beside the Oak of Moreh. The names given to places in scripture often have a significant meaning.
Shechem means shoulder
Moreh means to teach or direct.
It is here, that Abraham hears from God once again. It had been weeks since he had received God’s last instruction. Where Abraham chooses to pitch his tent is significant. He sets up camp by the oak of Moreh. Remember, Moreh means to teach or direct. God once again speaks to Abraham, but what is God’s instruction?
“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”-Genesis 12:7
Here God reminds Abram of the promise, but did you notice anything about what God tells him? He says, “I will give this land to your descendants.” Nothing about Abraham.
He doesn’t promise that Abraham will find a home here, but that his descendants will. That’s it. He receives no further instructions. He is only reminded of the promise God gave him in Haran. This all happened in Shechem. Shechem, if you recall, means shoulder. Abraham is once again given the promise to shoulder. Have you ever had to carry something heavy a long distance? If you are carrying something substantial you can lug it for a short distance, but if you are going to have to carry it awhile you will shoulder it.
God’s reminder of the promise at Shechem, may not seem like direction, but Abraham would leave there knowing he was going to have to shoulder this promise for a while. He was going to have to bear up under it until his descendants were ready to carry it.
However, rather than complain, Abraham worshiped. He builds an altar and dedicates it to God, before moving on. Abraham didn’t try to put down roots there. He didn’t attack the inhabitants and attempt to overthrow the people to take the land. He simply trusted that if this was God’s will, He would make a way. Then, Abraham moved on.
“After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord. Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev.”-Genesis 12:8-9
As Abraham is traveling south, he stops to set up camp once again. This time between Bethel and Ai. These two towns have significant names.
Bethel means a holy place
Ai means a heap of ruins
Abraham is just coming off hearing God’s voice once again, yet he is still left to wander the hill country. Abraham is literally stuck between a holy place and a heap of ruins.
How are we to respond when the conditions surrounding us don’t match the promise? What do we do when we are stuck between a holy place and a heap of ruins?
We worship! Abraham didn’t hear from God as he was camped between Bethel and Ai, but he worshiped as if he had. He built an altar, dedicated it to God, and worshiped the Lord there. Abraham building an altar in Shechem, after hearing from God makes sense. We tend to memorialize the moments when God shows up or speaks into our lives. However, the altar between Bethel and Ai represents Abraham’s faith in God even when he couldn’t hear His voice or see His promise coming to pass. His path forward was not going to be easy. He was facing the Negev.
“Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev.” -Genesis 12:9
Negev means dry land. Abraham was about to move through some stages of dryness on his way to the promise. Being able to worship in those moments is critical to our success. Worship reminds us of who God is and what he has promised when we are wandering through dry places. Going without knowing means learning to worship when the conditions you are walking through don’t match the promises God has made you.
Dayspring Community Church