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, and called upon the name of the Lord. ~Genesis 12:8
The altar was a place established for the worship of God. The altar was identified by sacrifices that offeror burned at this location. The altar identified the offeror with his worship of God. It was a place that was meant to stir the devotion of the person. It was also a place where important decisions were made. Our devotion this morning centers on the first altar that Abraham made as a pilgrim. He built this altar between Bethel and Hai.
We see Abraham’s faith.
He built this altar between two locations: Bethel, which means “house of God,” and Hai, which means “heaps of ruins.” When he was a pagan, he made sacrifices to the moon god. As a true believer, he publicly made it known in the land of the Canaanite that he was a worshipper of the God of Heaven and earth. His altar identified his prayer time with God: “he called upon the name of the Lord.” His altar identified his sacrifices and devotion to God. His altar also was to be the place where he received his orders from God.
We see Abraham’s fight.
Standing between Bethel and Hai, Abraham was facing spiritual conflict. Bethel was pointing him to faith in God. Hai was pulling him to faith in the world. Hai always looks tempting, but we must remember that it leads to a heap of ruins. Wherever you establish your altar, expect to be in a fight. The goal of our enemies is to get us away from the altar.
We see Abraham’s flight.
Abraham journeyed, going on still toward the south. The altar beckoned him to stay and trust God. However, the pressure of taking a stand for God among pagans and a famine in the land made him trust his heart more than God. The hardest thing to do as a Christian is learning to stay and wait on God. When things look bad around us, we want to keep going on. The problem is always with which direction we should be headed. Abraham was going away from God.
We see Abraham’s flesh.
After being away from his altar for many days, he arrived at Egypt. Egypt was the gateway to success and all that the world had to offer. He’d made up his mind that he was going to sojourn for a while in Egypt, but, in doing so, he resorted to his old ways of thinking. Abraham instructed Sarai to lie about her relationship with him. He told her to do this for his personal safety. His dishonesty was eventually discovered. Even though he prospered materially while he was in Egypt, that did not mean that he made the right decision. By living in the flesh, he sinned by lying, by deceitfulness, and as a stumbling block to the Egyptians and his own family.
We see Abraham’s finding.
The king of Egypt sent him away. Abraham had enough of going south. He decided to go home. He journeyed back the same way he came and, in doing so, he came to a familiar place: the altar that he had built between Bethel and Hai. His soul was stirred once again to prayer and sacrifices. He called on the name of the Lord there once again. Abraham realized that God was not in his prior decisions, and that it was important that the altar would be the place where he would build his faith and find his leading. Many people “pray about decisions” when, in reality, they are just looking for affirmation and not to be led.
Stir up the fires that need to be burning on your altar. Keep your face pointed at Bethel and not to Hai. Stay at the altar until God is the One Who tells you that it’s time to move on.
Have an altar-intense God Morning!
Bible Reading Schedule: Judges 6-7