The life of a Christ follower is a progressing journey, an eventful pilgrimage, and at times a surprising adventure. There are places along the pathway when our clarity about God’s presence and purposes are intensified. These moments are usually unexpected, and they occur within the everyday, obedient lifestyle of a disciple. Paul had six of these experiences (“visions”) recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. Abraham had eight of these encounters and he built “altars” as a landmark, or a “faith-mark” for each of them. These are recorded for us in Genesis 11:27-22:19. Abraham (initially named “Abram”), was seventy five years old as we pick up the narrative, and it continues over a forty year period. These posts only allow a “bird’s eye view,” but the implications of the names, events, and places will multiply as avid pilgrims explore them more deeply.
God told Abram to leave the familiarity of his family and culture and to begin an expedition to Canaan, where he would witness God’s wildly significant blessings in his life. Initially, Abram’s obedience was immediate, but in route he lost momentum and settled in the city of Haran (Genesis 11:31). In Hebrew, Haran means “the state of the dead.” Could this reference the place each person must be in order to enter a life of faith… dying to our past and dying to self in order to advance?
At the prompting of God in Genesis 12:1-7, Abram continues his trek. He sets out for Canaan and travels as far as the great terebinth [oak-like] tree of Moreh at Shechem between the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. In the Hebrew, Moreh means “instruction with a view to motivation and mission. Shechem, meaning “to shoulder or bear the burden,” later became a crossroad of central Israel. Here God revealed His covenant to give that land to Abram’s offspring, and here Abram built his first altar to the Lord.
Dig deeply into these places, meanings, and history – fascinating! This will help you understand why God’s revelation came alive for Abram in a deeply personal way. And, even though he did not then fully understand God’s call and purposes for his life, this was the place he was launched into God’s glorious, life-altering, and mysterious unknown… the place he built an altar.