Summary: The Significance of the Personal Alter

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Abraham, a man Challenged

a man of Faith, a man of Promise.

The Significance of the Personal Alter

Reading: Genesis 12:7+8; 13:1 - 4 + 18

Abraham, this great figure of the scriptures who is seen as the father of the nation of Israel and in the broader context, of those who are of the household of faith. He is a man who was willing to shun the social and cultural conventions of his day, in the pursuit of the call and revelation of God to himself. He do have in this man a case study of the struggles that can and do arise in the rising to the challenge of our Lord to depart from the world and enter into the fullness of the light and life of the Kingdom. This process is not an easy one, but it is nevertheless one that when we walk in faith and obedience, is not some hopelessly distant target that is always just out of reach, but is well within the grasp of any who would set themselves to learn and grow in Him who is our God.

If there is one thing that any believer has problems in maintaining, it is the area of the place of personal prayer and devotion to their Lord. It is also the area which suffers the most when things are starting to go wrong between the child of the King and the King Himself. It is an area that one will grapple with for most of not all of our time here on earth, it is one that suffers the most vicious and ongoing attack of the enemy to kill it off, because it is vital to our growth and entry into the greater life flow of the Kingdom with the King. It is also the place where the challenge of our God will be tested and worked out.

It is a relatively easy thing to respond to the challenge issued in a gathering such as this, whilst there is the struggle to over come the intimidation of pride and fear, nevertheless, all too often the only person who witnesses the personal and private outworking of that commitment, is our Lord. For those who are in supported ministry, it is so easy to become busy with the affairs of the Kingdom, yet neglect the King Himself. It is an easy thing to become absorbed in the tending of the flock and all the trappings that go with that, and yet not tend ones own soul. The reason why this personal place of prayer and devotion is not an easy one, is it our personal alter, the place of sacrifice, the place of commitment, the place of death into life.

In these opening chapters of the recorded life of Abram, we find that he builds three alters. They are places of special encounter with self and God. The first is at Shechem (12:7), they had left the lands of the Chaldeans, and they had now entered the land of the "HUMILIATED". They arrive at Shechem, which holds the sense of the "taking of burden." The name means "NECK / SHOULDER", but it has the sense of the place where burdens are supported, the place where the yoke is placed. It is very reminiscent of the words of our Lord in Matthew 11, when He said: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

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