Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.Genesis 12:6
This is more than just a record of what happened to Abram when he first entered the land. It is also a very accurate picture of the conditions of a Spirit-filled life. The first thing we are told is that Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. These names are most revealing. Shechem means
shoulder. and to the Hebrew, the shoulder is a symbol of strength. We think of the shoulder of a mountain in the same way. The name Moreh means
instruction, and when we combine these two words, we get our first glimpse of what it is like in the land. Only as we are taught the Word of God by the Spirit of God do we find strength to live.
The second picture we have here is that life in the land is to be a life of constant conflict. These Canaanites were the pagan tribes that afflicted Israel all through their history. They are, thus, an accurate picture for us of those manifestations of evil we live with and continually wrestle against. They are named for us in the New Testament in many places: lust, envy, jealousy, impatience, intemperance, irritability, and touchiness. They are our enemies—these manifestations of self that make our existence a life of continual conflict.
Third, it is also a life of continual cleansing, for we next read,
So he built an altar there to the Lord. We think of an altar as a symbol of worship, which it is, but that is not the essence of its meaning. An altar is first a place of cleansing, which provides the basis for worship. The reason for a daily altar is the urgent need for cleansing in the pilgrim life. All pilgrims need the cleansing of blood, the cross of Christ, to which they can come and judge themselves throughout their lives. Therefore, a life of the Spirit's fullness must be continually cleansed by the cross of Christ.
The fourth point is that this is a life of unending choice. Abram pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means
the house of God; Ai means
ruin. This is just where we must live the Christian life, ever looking either to the things of God or to the ruin of the flesh. We can choose to go to Bethel or to Ai, to Christ or self—it can never be both.
The tent represents the last characteristic. He lived in a tent because he was a pilgrim in the land. All through the New Testament, the Christian pilgrim is exhorted to walk in the Spirit. Walk, walk, walk! You have not ended your walk when you have learned a lesson from God. Tomorrow there is another step to be taken, and another the day after that, and another the day following. How the flesh resents this. We are always delighted when the Spirit of God drives us to the place where we achieve some victory, overcome some habit, take some needed step. And then we want to settle down there. We say to the Lord,
You go on for awhile and leave me here. I want to enjoy this for a bit. But He will not let us stop. Life in the land is a life of continual progress, a never-ending journey.
Father, use these lessons from Abram's life to lead me out, that I may rise up to go into the land of the fullness of blessing in Christ.
We see God disallowing any possibility for boredom in the biblical record of the life of Abraham. Have we settled for the status quo, or are we boldly adventuring with God?