FROM BETHEL TO EL-BETHEL

FROM BETHEL TO EL

FROM BETHEL TO El-Bethel Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Bethel is the house of God. El-Bethel is the God of the house of God. When we begin as a Christian we proceed to learn about Bethel, about the house of God. We learn the vocabulary, the values, the practices of the believers. Soon we become familiar and at home with our church and its family.

Then, according to our calling, I suppose, God decides we are to have a greater knowledge of Himself. We are to know the God of the house of God. This experience can be somewhat unsettling because much of what we had experienced previously may suffer change. It is a very personal intervention in our life. The result is a humbling of our personality and a greater knowledge of God.

FROM BETHEL TO El-Bethel

Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel though the city used to be called Liz. (Genesis 12:18,19—NIV)

Jacob and all the people with him came to Liz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. (Genesis 35:6,7—NIV)

Bethel is the house of God. El-Bethel is the God of the house of God. When we begin as a Christian we proceed to learn about Bethel, about the house of God. We learn the vocabulary, the values, the practices of the believers. Soon we become familiar and at home with our church and its family.

Then, according to our calling, I suppose, God decides we are to have a greater knowledge of Himself. We are to know the God of the house of God. This experience can be somewhat unsettling because much of what we had experienced previously may suffer change. It is a very personal intervention in our life. The result is a humbling of our personality and a greater knowledge of God.

The following essay is not for baby Christians but for those who have walked with the Lord for a while.

For the first years of our Christian life we experience trouble of various kinds. These problems and afflictions are for the purpose of roughing out our character, knocking off bumps and corners and straightening and smoothing crooked places.

During this period we are taught that Jesus loves us and cares for us. We learn the hymns and choruses of our group. We are instructed in the principles of salvation and encouraged to do what we can to spread the Gospel of salvation to other people.

Much of what we learn is composed of essential aspects of the Kingdom of God. Other values and activities are just those of our particular group and vary from one assembly to the next.

And so we proceed along our Christian way, rejoicing over our blessings and praying and standing faithfully and patiently during times of trouble, fear, and pain.

Then, for some of us at least, in one form or another, God decides to reveal to us the God of the house of God.

If such an experience has happened or is happening to you, you will understand readily what I have to say. Otherwise my words will serve, hopefully, to prepare you for the future and interpret what takes place at that time.

Prior to God revealing Himself to us we have a picture in our mind of what Jesus is like. Maybe we saw a painting of Jesus in a Bible bookstore. He may be a bit taller than average, shoulder-length wavy hair, wearing a white robe, carrying the staff of a shepherd, surrounded by sheep or little children. This no doubt is a true picture of the Good Shepherd of the twenty-third Psalm.

Perhaps this is the only Jesus most American Christians know.

But there is another side of the Lord Jesus, a side shown to those who are coming to know God in a greater way, who are about to bring forth much fruit.

Let us commence our study with Abram.

He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it." (Genesis 15:7—NIV)

Our story begins as God presents Himself to Abram. God had just informed Abram that his offspring would be as the stars of the heavens, and Abram had believed God. The Gospel thus was launched on the basis of Abram’s willingness to trust God for the impossible.

But there was a long way to go for Abram before he had seen all the sides of the Personality of Christ, for Christ is the God of the Old Testament, the God of Abram as well as the Seed of Abram.

But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know I will gain possession of it?" (Genesis 15:8—NIV)

When you think God has promised something to you there is nothing wrong with going back to the Lord for confirmation before you begin to talk about your revelation or act on it. If more Christians would do this there would be less deception taking place.

Christ will never, never be displeased when you seek to be assured that you are hearing from Him. The Bible commands us to test the spirits. Don’t handle the spirit realm fearfully, ask for proof. That which is from God will not be insulted.

So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." (Genesis 15:9—NIV)

We come to know the Lord through sacrifice. We are not properly aware of our salvation until it cost us something of value.

Under the new covenant the sacrifice is that of our whole personality. Until we present our body a living sacrifice to God we cannot know His will. God’s will is made known to us by His Word, by inner peace and joy, and by our circumstances. If one of these three elements is not present we need to wait a bit before we proceed.

But in every case, God’s will can be proved only as we present our body a living sacrifice, not being conformed to the spirit of the world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind.

Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. (Genesis 15:10—NIV)

Some who study the covenants of the Bible say the pieces of the animals were arranged in such a manner that an aisle was between them. The persons entering into the covenant passed between the bloody parts. One can see that this was a solemn ceremony, an agreement validated by death.

Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:11—NIV)

Birds that feed on carrion smelled the flesh and blood of the animal parts. Abram was kept busy keeping them off the sacrifice.

When we open our personality to God we become attractive to the demons. How many times fervent, new Christians are led astray by demonic deception! You probably have seen it happen and have grieved because of it.

When you decide to present your body a living sacrifice to God you will become attractive to the demons who desire your worship. They will attempt to draw you away from God and toward themselves so you will worship them. If you are diligently seeking God you need to be careful how you respond to spiritual impressions or voices.

It is important that each believer attend an assembly of fervent believers, if at all possible. In such an assembly there are experienced elders. Submit yourself to them. Be accountable to them. When they tell you that you are going into error, listen to them. Listen to your wife or husband, because God often will use your marriage partner to correct you.

If you have Christian friends and they are concerned about what you are saying or doing, consider their warnings carefully. One of the quickest ways to get into serious deception is to harden your heart in pride, being unwilling to listen to people who are alarmed because of how you are acting.

One of the signs that a person is being influenced by Satan is pride—an unwillingness to listen to the counsel of other Christians. The deceived one charges straight ahead, accountable to no one, under no spiritual covering, sinking ever deeper into spiritual bondage.

If you think this has happened to you, seek out a Christian you trust, of the same gender as yourself (wife or husband is fine). Express your concern and ask him or her to pray. Deception often is highly subjective and the opinion of another person can be invaluable.

I understand well that you can be hearing from God and have the leaders of a church reject you. I know this is true. But there ought to be somewhere you can go for counsel, someone you trust. It is dangerous to follow impressions or voices when there is no other Christian in whom you can confide!

The moment you turn to Christ, whether as a new Christian or a believer of many years experience, the demons will seek to take advantage of your interest in the things of God. It is your responsibility to keep them off the sacrifice.

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. (Genesis 15:12—NIV)

The "deep sleep" reminds us of the deep sleep God caused Adam to enter when Eve was to be formed; also the "sleep" of Christ on the cross of Calvary as God prepared to make Him the flesh and blood we must eat and drink if we would have eternal life.

Perhaps God must "put us to sleep" before He operates on us.

What do you suppose the "thick and dreadful darkness" was? It was the Lord Jesus.

One of the purposes of this brief essay is to show you another part of the Personality of the Lord Jesus. He not only is the bright and morning Star and the Sun of righteousness. He also is the thick and dreadful darkness. We can’t really know God until we become familiar with this side of the Lord.

He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. (Psalms 18:11—NIV)

God is in the darkness of the storm as much as He is in the brightness of a sunny day. We must know both of these faces if we are to bear a true witness of the Lord.

It’s pleasant to walk with God during a morning filled with sunshine. It also is pleasant to walk with God on dark waters at midnight. But it takes a while to get used to this, to accept affliction and pressure cheerfully that the power of Christ may rest on us.

Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions." (Genesis 15:13,14—NIV)

These were not light matters God was referring to. The offspring that Abram had just been promised were to be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. That is a long time, longer than the entire existence of the United States of America. Therefore the occasion was one of dreadful darkness, not lightness and frivolity.

If God should choose to give us great fruitfulness, as He did Abram, then we can be certain the occasion will not be a merry party but an experience that will penetrate the marrow of our bones, laying bare the roots of our personality.

The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. (Psalms 18:15—NIV)

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (Psalms 42:7—NIV)

The mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. (Habakkuk 3:10—NIV)

Are you beginning to get a feel for what I am attempting to portray? The three verses above are all referring to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a side of Him that mature saints come to experience and then accept.

"Yes, Abram, your offspring shall be as the stars of the heavens. But they will be enslaved and mistreated before they are released into their inheritance."

We know that to the present hour the Jews suffer much rejection. But their day shall come. He who made a covenant with Abram by sacrifice is still in control. He is the Lord Jesus Christ—King of all kings and Lord of all Lords!

"But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves." God was speaking here of the suffering of the Egyptians. Although Egypt was made expendable in terms of God’s purpose in Israel, God loved and yet loves the Egyptian people. The Word to Abram was solemn indeed!

"You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (Genesis 15:15,16—NIV)

While God was saying all this to the sleeping Abram, the Amorite tribes of Canaan were honest farmers, just beginning to enter demon worship, apparently. God knew, however, that after four hundred years passed, the Amorites would be deeply involved in temple prostitution and human sacrifice.

We see from this how God moves in terms of His foreknowledge.

Let me emphasize once again that this is the manner in which God works with those who are to be fruitful in His Kingdom. It is not a case of some Christian becoming a great apostle, "God’s man of faith and power." Rather it is a dreadful darkness in which human anguish is involved. It runs deep until the foundations of the earth are laid bare, so to speak.

Abram was becoming acquainted with the heavy darkness that surrounds all God does, in preparation for the day in which he would be asked to present his only son as a burnt offering. Heavy fruitfulness requires heavy pruning.

Never ask God to make you some great one in His Kingdom unless you are prepared to walk in dreadful darkness, to suffer much. We relate to God by fire, by His sword that pierces the soul. God is much more than a teacher and philosopher under whom we can study and then skip forth to amaze mankind with our theological knowledge. Jesus Christ is the Furnace of Israel, and whoever would walk with Him must learn to dwell in the Divine Fire.

Why do we need such heaviness, darkness, and fire? Because we are as filled with guile as the ocean is with water. God has to grind, grind, grind us in His mortar in order to pound the guile out of us. We cannot see God until our heart is that of a child.

Yet we are not to be a child in understanding but a true son of our Father. And He creates the storm as well as the sunshine; the alligator as well as the minnow; the panther as well as the kitten; the eagle as well as the sparrow.

The beautiful and the ugly, the productive as well as the destructive—all come from our Father through His Christ. The bat is from Him as well as the butterfly. After we have been a Christian for a while He may decide to teach us more about Himself that we may bear much fruit, becoming a true witness of God.

You do not have to worry about all of this. When your time comes, you will know it. And do not expect anyone else to understand what is happening to you—no, not your closest friend.

But know for a certainty that God who called you in Christ Jesus will never forsake you. If you do not quit but remain faithful to God, He will see you through every storm, every danger, and you will come forth from the fire safe and sound, not having lost a thing but that with which you had been bound.

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. (Genesis 17:17—NIV)

Abram had asked God how he could be sure that God really had promised him many descendants. God certified His Word by passing between the pieces of the slain animals.

Yes, it is Jesus Christ who is the Firepot with a blazing torch. How different from the pictures of the Bible bookstore, but the same Lord Jesus.

Would you like to know Him in a deeper way? Tell Him about it right now. Why should you remain a lightweight in the Kingdom of God when so much more of Christ is available? True, we have to share His sufferings, as described in the twenty-second Psalm. But this is the path to the fullness of resurrection life, and to live eternally in such glorious life is well worth the brief suffering that is required.

Then there was Job.

The story of Job is that of a person who changed from being merely a righteous man to a man who knew God. Although Job was wonderfully restored with numerous blessings after his terrible experience, the greatest blessing was the knowledge of God.

Notice how God is blessed, the individual is blessed, and countless others are blessed, when God is successful in bringing an individual through the thick and dreadful darkness. How many believers who have been brought into intense suffering have been comforted by the story of Job!

If God at the present time is taking you through a season of darkness, read the Book of Job. It is such a comfort. The same is true also of the Book of Lamentations. Let these two books be your daily bread while you are walking through the night with God.

There are several lessons we can learn from Job.

Job was a righteous man doing everything possible to please God. It was a kind of self-righteousness, to be sure, but God regarded Job as being righteous—and that is all that counts!

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." (Job 1:8—NIV)

How many times are we told that if we will do what is right we will never have a problem?

But when God is preparing someone to be a tree of life, the rules of the game change.

Satan fell into the trap. God allowed Satan’s evil nature to accomplish God’s purpose in Job. This is always true when we are serving God.

You can read through the Book of Job and see that the struggle was between Job and God. Although Job’s afflictions came from Satan, Job did not waste time "rebuking the devil." Job sought to discover why, when he was doing all he knew to do to please God, he was being destroyed.

When the Apostle Paul was afflicted by Satan he went to God. He did not attempt to rebuke the devil, as we do today.

The name Israel means "he struggles with God," not with the devil.

It is true that we are being opposed by the fallen lords in the heavens. Nevertheless, the New Testament does not advise us to go about rebuking the devil. It is the Lord Jesus who is our problem, not Satan. When a man’s ways please the Lord He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. When we please Jesus, Jesus will take care of Satan.

Then Job replied: "I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?" (Job 16:1-3—NIV)

We notice that Job’s friends were of little help to him. If God decides to bring you through the thick and dreadful darkness, people will not understand you. Being one of God’s conquerors is a one-on-one interaction with God. You cannot bring your closest friend with you. You are in the hands of your Creator. If other people have not been there as yet they will not understand what you are talking about.

Instead, like Job’s friends, they may give you a lot of well intended advice. But it will be of little use. In fact, God, addressing Job’s counselors, told them they had not spoken to Him the thing that was right, as Job did, and they had better have Job pray for them!

Job’s wife, who certainly suffered from many of the tragedies that came upon Job, was ready for Job to abandon his integrity and curse God. So she was no help, the poor thing. She had lost her children as well, as Job did also. Job’s wife experienced much of the suffering but did not receive the fame or the knowledge of God that Job did, as far as we know..

The end result of Job’s affliction was a humbling of himself and a great increase in his knowledge of God. This shall be true of us if God is pleased to bring us through such an experience. As was true of the Apostle Paul, the strength of Christ will be increased in us because of the weakness that has come upon us.

This kind of experience burns away that which is chaff in our life. We may think we are a great one in the Kingdom of God because we are so well known and loved in our assembly. But then God decides to bring us from the knowledge of Bethel, the house of God, to the knowledge of El-Bethel, the God of the house of God.

During the time of darkness we come to know God better and ourselves better. Job discovered that he knew nothing at all, and also how awesome his Creator is. This is exactly what happens to us. We discover that while we thought we were a burning and shining light in our assembly, we actually knew nothing at all about God. And we learn, as did the Apostle John, that the Lord Jesus Christ indeed is more majestic than the carpenter’s weary Son who trudged through the land of Judea.

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, And among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man,"~ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last." (Revelation 1:12-17—NIV)

The above description says nothing of the size of the revealed Christ. He might have been as a snowcapped mountain. Of course, the actual Lord Jesus is probably larger than the Milky Way galaxy.

Through his experience Job was changed from someone who believed in God and feared God into a person who knew God and whom God accepted as a personal friend. May God be pleased to bring you and me through such an experience that we might know God and be the friend of the God of the house of God.

Jacob’s wrestling match with God contains some elements that are common to the experiences of all who learn to struggle with God.

When Jacob changed the name of Luz to Bethel he was fleeing from his enraged brother. Esau was angry because he had been tricked out of his birthright.

Jacob was a supplanter, and yet God loved him. God loves us even though we are deceitful and manipulative. Then God brings us through experiences that reveal our scheming nature and teach us concerning God’s pure Nature.

After a period of time Jacob sought to return home. By now Jacob had two wives, also two women who served his wives. The wives and their servants had provided Jacob with many children.

As Jacob left Padanaram to journey to Canaan, Laban came after him.

Then Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war." (Genesis 31:26—NIV)

Sometimes when we decide to leave the area where we have been deceitful, our past attempts to follow us.

But God was with Jacob, and so Laban was unable to harm him.

Now a new element of Jacob’s deceitful past was approaching—Esau accompanied by four hundred desert warriors.

Jacob, the old supplanter, was in deep trouble and he knew it.

Whenever we decide to come closer to God we may find that our tricky past catches up with us.

Jacob did what all true saints must do when the thick and dreadful darkness approaches. He went alone to the place of prayer.

All night Jacob wrestled with God. It is absolutely true that God could in one instant have squashed Jacob like a bug. But God will never violate a person’s integrity.

As long as Jacob was unwilling to let go of God, God was compelled by His own Nature to continue the struggle.

Something remarkable took place. Jacob seemed to forget about his own life and the lives of his family. He became interested in God.

Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. Genesis 32:29—NIV)

The lesson we learn is to never give up. Let the pressures that come upon you drive you to God. Keep praying and hoping. Keep praying and hoping. Keep praying and hoping. The morning will come if you do not quit.

Jacob was weakened as a result of the struggle, but his name was changed from "Supplanter" to "he struggles with God."

The trumpet of war is sounding in the spirit realm. The war-drums of Christ as well as the war-drums of Satan are beating to the attack. Some of the believers, who are not living godly lives because of the prevailing Christian doctrine of "faith alone," suppose they are ready to drive out the fallen lords of darkness who govern geographical areas of the earth.

I think we had better be careful. Unless the Lord clearly directs us to attack the forces of Satan we would be wise to wait until we know what we are doing. Otherwise we are going to be deceived. Our struggle is against wicked spirits who have had centuries of experience dealing with human beings.

Before we are ready to appear with Christ and bring the Kingdom of God into the earth, the self-will must be destroyed from us. We must lose our "Jacob" nature. We must learn to struggle with God instead of with man.

We need to become acquainted with the Consuming Fire of Israel. We have been saved and we speak in tongues. But many of us are lightweights because we know only Bethel. We know Jesus who loves the little children but we are not as well acquainted with the Lord, strong and mighty in battle; with the heavy darkness, the furnace of Israel. But it is this Power who will enable us to be more than conquerors throughout the age of moral horrors that is approaching.

It is time for us to become acquainted with El-Bethel, the Holy One of Israel. Then when we are confronted by Death and Hell we will have perfect peace and confidence, because God Himself will be our Fortress and the Horn of our salvation.

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalms 18:5,6—NIV)

"O God, help us. We in America are proud, puffed up, knowing nothing at all. Satan has deceived us in many ways. We think we can attack Death and Hell but we are making fools of ourselves in the spirit realm.

"We pray we will cease our foolishness, our spiritual arrogance and pride, and call on your Name. Our nation is in peril. We are crying 'peace' while every flimsy wall is held together with whitewash. We have been deceived. We think we can go forth and say the name of Jesus and the wicked will faint away. We know little of the depths of God or the artifices of Satan.

"Lord Jesus, bring us back to Yourself before our nation is destroyed and we Christians are brought before an angry God. We are not prepared for the great and terrible Day of the Lord.

"Amen."