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
It is interesting that we see this town, here, referred to as Bethel, before that name was bestowed on it by Jacob who came later. Is this not an illustration of HIM who “quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Rom 4:17)? Abraham believed GOD and embraced the PROMISE of GOD, even before he saw it completely fulfilled. Even as GOD has determined to save HIS people before HE is pleased to call them. HIS call of them is evidence of this determination.
In point of fact Abraham never actually possessed any of the land which was promised to him. (see Acts 7:5). Even though he was called out of Haran as a man mightily blessed of GOD, he was never anything more than a sojourner in a strange land. Yet he confessed, that “he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb 11:10)
In like fashion those who are called by the LORD rejoice in the PROMISE of GOD and yearn for a complete manifestation of the redemption which is promised, (see Rom. 8:23) yet they find in themselves such a paucity and weakness in their flesh that they almost despair of not being consumed by it. This is illustrated in the other “city” which was to the east of the spot where Abraham built his altar and pitched HIS tent.
This was the town of Hai or as it also called Ai in the book of Joshua. (see Joshua chap 7) It was here that the Israelites suffered a stunning defeat and here that Achan took the accursed bar of gold. Ai was a city which was near to the town of Bethhaven which literally means “house of vanity” or as some would say a “house of witches.”
Lest HIS children should be lifted up with pride, the LORD is pleased to give them a thorn in the flesh. Paul speaks of it in this fashion, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom 7:18-19) Then he describes the nature of this conflict, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal 5:17)
And so the children of GOD when called by the LORD, do indeed confess that they are strangers and sojourners in this world but they are also very much beset by the “sin that dwelleth in them”. They desire to be found among those who worship HIM in SPIRIT and TRUTH, yet they are made to lament the fact that even their repentance needs to be repented of. Though they are not “of the world” they are yet “in the world”. But they look for a CITY with FOUNDATIONS, confessing that JESUS CHRIST alone is their RIGHTEOUSNESS. They have pitched their “tent” between the House of GOD and the vanity of the flesh, with hope.
NOTHING GOOD TO SAY ABOUT YOU?
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so. 1 Kings 22:8
I often feel like Micaiah must have felt with regards to what I must say to men and women. Like him, I have nothing good to say ABOUT them. Why? Because God says that there is none good, no not one. Nothing good can be said about those who by nature are like Ahab. There is no good news about man in himself. The good news is TO men, for men! The good news is the gospel of grace, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a report of the only good Man, the Man Christ Jesus! People want to be told what to do but my message has to do with something that is already done, the finished work of Christ. They want to be told "how" to live a righteous life but my message has to do with an imputed righteousness, a gift from God accounted to the believing sinner. Men want me to praise their works but I must tell them that salvation is not of works lest any man should boast. It is not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy He saved us. They want advice on how to quit sinning but I am to tell them of Him who knew no sin and who bore the sins of many in His own body on the cross. I am sent to tell the truth about God but their carnal minds are enmity against Him. I am sent to speak of spiritual things but they desire to hear of things appealing to the flesh. They seek advice but rarely heed it because when I tell them what the Word says, what it commands them to do, it is contrary to what they WANT to do. It isn't appealing to them and before long they quit asking and often quit coming to hear me at all. They didn't want advice, they wanted approval! But Christ said, "My sheep hear my voice..." There are a few who listen to the preached word and to Bible-based advice and they, because of the quickening Spirit of God, are given faith and enabled to receive the Word of truth with gladness! I thank God for them and rejoice with them, knowing that it is God in grace who makes them to differ. They know that true gospel preachers can only speak good about them and to them in Christ! Let others say “Peace, peace” when there is no peace but I can’t. Men heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.” I don’t want to be one of them.