As pilgrims in this world, we need to stand out in our worship of the true God, just as Abram did in the land of Canaan.
Samuel C. Degner
There must have been no shortage of shrines in Canaan. The land we now call “holy” was filled with unholy sites dedicated to pagan gods.
An altar to the Lord
But this new altar was different. Its builder was a foreigner named Abram. He came from Ur of the Chaldeans, a people with their own gods. But it wasn’t for one of those gods that he stacked these stones. It wasn’t for one of Canaan’s gods either. In the ancient world, it was common for immigrants to adopt the local religion, not just because they want to fit in but also because they believe that each place had its own deity that had to be pleased.
Not this migrant. Abram knew that the God who had called him in Ur was still with him in Canaan. He trusted that his God could and would bless him in this new land, just as he said.
So, at his first recorded stop in Canaan, at the great tree at Shechem, Abram built an altar to the Lord. When he moved on to the hill country between Bethel and Ai, he built another altar, and “called on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8). This was a public act of true worship right in the heart of pagan country! These altars were beacons of light in the darkness.
Worship of an outstanding God
What’s the land of your pilgrimage? What god do the people there worship? In secular schools, Reason or Science may be the local deities—and their followers surely are persuasive. In the workforce, many people worship Money—and seem to be rewarded handsomely. Popularity has a devoted following, and people offer great sacrifices to Sports. The rituals in the religion of Pleasure seem quite appealing.
But you, dear pilgrim, were called to be different. That’s not easy, but it’s good, as Abram would tell you.
He and his family were vastly outnumbered in their new land. Other than the mysterious Melchizedek (Genesis 14), we are told of no other true believers there except those with Abram. Yet Abram trusted the Lord’s promise that one day the land would belong to his people. After just a few centuries, Abram’s descendants covered that land like sand on the seashore.
Several more centuries passed, but the Lord also kept his ancient promise to bless the world through Abram’s family. His Offspring was born and made his pilgrimage in the same land Abram once roamed, the only Holy One in a world full of sinners. In place of our crumbling and misdirected altars, Jesus sacrificed himself on a cross to please God on our behalf.
The same God who kept his promises to Abram and the world has kept the promises he made to you when he called you to faith. He has been with you everywhere you have gone. He has blessed you with more good things than you can count. He has reserved a place for you in the eternal land of his people.
Aren’t you glad to stand out in your worship of such an outstanding God? A word of kindness in a negative discussion. A tournament game skipped because it’s Sunday morning. Words that bring honor to God. Actions that reveal godly priorities. These are all acts of worship! With them we raise a beacon in a dark world that needs his saving light.
Contributing editor Samuel Degner is pastor at Bethel, Menasha, Wisconsin.
This is the third article in a nine-part series on Old Testament monuments and what they mean to us today.
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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017
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