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Sermons in English
Typography

Introduction

Open with me, please, to Genesis 12. In Hebrew we call the book of Genesis “B’reshit” – “in the beginning”. This is about 2,166 years before Jesus was born.



Now the Lord said to Abram…

(This time “Abram” – not yet “Abraham”.)

“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai…

…which means “my princess” in Hebrew…

…his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.

Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev.

Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister…

…and in fact she was his half-sister…

…so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.” It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels. But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.” Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him. Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land.

So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other.

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It Began Before Haran


There were things known by the ancient Jews that were not written down in the Bible in the Old Testament but were later recorded in the New. In Stephen’s apology before his martyrdom in Acts 7 he tells us something about Abraham’s journey that Genesis doesn’t. In Acts 7:2 he says this…

… The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living.

The book of Acts tells us that God called Abraham in Mesopotamia – Ur of the Chaldees. Genesis picks up the story in Haran much later.

Abraham is the father of all who believe – Jews, Arabs, even Muslims look to Abraham. Arabs call him “Ibrahim”, Jews call him “Abba Abraham” – “father Abraham”. The “father of all who believe” means theologically he’s the prototype. His experiences prefigure what would happen to his progeny, his descendants.

The Typology of Egypt


Understand “coming out of Egypt”. In a famine Abraham goes into Egypt; he dwells there. God judges Pharaoh and Abraham comes out of Egypt and goes into Israel. Later on his descendants, the sons of Jacob, in a famine go into Egypt. God’s judgment comes on Pharaoh – a wicked Pharaoh, and Abraham’s descendants do what Abraham did: they come out of Egypt taking the treasures of Egypt with them into Israel. So what happens to Abraham happens to his biological descendants the Jews.

But then we’re told in 1 Corinthians by Paul it happens to us. Egypt is a figure of the world, the Promised Land is a figure of heaven, and as Moses made a covenant of blood sprinkled it on the people, bringing them through the Red Sea into the Promised Land is the way Jesus brings us out of the world through baptism into heaven. (1 Cor 10) We came out of “Egypt”. Pharaoh’s, of course, a figure of the devil, the god of the world but he’s also a major type of the Antichrist who is to come. So Abraham comes out of Egypt, his descendants the Jews come out of Egypt, and our salvation because he’s the father of all who believe – we come out of Egypt.

Now a lot of people would have a problem, particularly liberal theologians in Matthew 2:15 ….

…“Out of Egypt I called My Son”.

…when King Herod dies. Matthew quotes from the prophet Hosea 11:1, only Hosea is talking about the exodus of the Jews. How does Matthew take something that in its context applies to the Jews in the exodus and say it’s about Jesus?

Well because the Hebrew understanding of prophecy is “pattern”. Abraham comes out of Egypt, the Jews come out of Egypt, we come out of Egypt, and Jesus who’s the seed of Abraham therefore must come out of Egypt. He fits the pattern. God again judges a wicked king – Herod – and in the character of Abraham the seed of Abraham, Jesus, comes out of Egypt. Hebrew prophecy is a pattern. Ultimately the coming out of Egypt is the Rapture and resurrection of the church. Those judgments on Egypt in the book of Exodus are replayed in the book of Revelation: the darkness, the blood, etc. And the way that Pharaoh’s counterfeited the miracles of Moses and Aaron is the way the Antichrist and false prophet will counterfeit the miracles of Jesus and his witnesses.

They brought Joseph’s bones with them out of Egypt into the Promised Land because the dead in Christ rise first; we come out together. It’s a picture of the resurrection. That’s theultimate coming out of Egypt. Hebrew prophecy is always a pattern, multiple fulfillments. But each fulfillment is a “type” or a foreshadow of the final fulfillment. That’s Abraham. His experiences are replayed by the Jews and by believers: we come out of Egypt.

The Typology of Egypt


Understand “coming out of Egypt”. In a famine Abraham goes into Egypt; he dwells there. God judges Pharaoh and Abraham comes out of Egypt and goes into Israel. Later on his descendants, the sons of Jacob, in a famine go into Egypt. God’s judgment comes on Pharaoh – a wicked Pharaoh, and Abraham’s descendants do what Abraham did: they come out of Egypt taking the treasures of Egypt with them into Israel. So what happens to Abraham happens to his biological descendants the Jews.

But then we’re told in 1 Corinthians by Paul it happens to us. Egypt is a figure of the world, the Promised Land is a figure of heaven, and as Moses made a covenant of blood sprinkled it on the people, bringing them through the Red Sea into the Promised Land is the way Jesus brings us out of the world through baptism into heaven. (1 Cor 10) We came out of “Egypt”. Pharaoh’s, of course, a figure of the devil, the god of the world but he’s also a major type of the Antichrist who is to come. So Abraham comes out of Egypt, his descendants the Jews come out of Egypt, and our salvation because he’s the father of all who believe – we come out of Egypt.

Now a lot of people would have a problem, particularly liberal theologians in Matthew 2:15….

…“Out of Egypt I called My Son”.

…when King Herod dies. Matthew quotes from the prophet Hosea  11:1, only Hosea is talking about the exodus of the Jews. How does Matthew take something that in its context applies to the Jews in the exodus and say it’s about Jesus?

Well because the Hebrew understanding of prophecy is “pattern”. Abraham comes out of Egypt, the Jews come out of Egypt, we come out of Egypt, and Jesus who’s the seed of Abraham therefore must come out of Egypt. He fits the pattern. God again judges a wicked king – Herod – and in the character of Abraham the seed of Abraham, Jesus, comes out of Egypt. Hebrew prophecy is a pattern. Ultimately the coming out of Egypt is the Rapture and resurrection of the church. Those judgments on Egypt in the book of Exodus are replayed in the book of Revelation: the darkness, the blood, etc. And the way that Pharaoh’s counterfeited the miracles of Moses and Aaron is the way the Antichrist and false prophet will counterfeit the miracles of Jesus and his witnesses.

They brought Joseph’s bones with them out of Egypt into the Promised Land because the dead in Christ rise first; we come out together. It’s a picture of the resurrection. That’s theultimate coming out of Egypt. Hebrew prophecy is always a pattern, multiple fulfillments. But each fulfillment is a “type” or a foreshadow of the final fulfillment. That’s Abraham. His experiences are replayed by the Jews and by believers: we come out of Egypt.

Promises to Abraham


God gives Abraham five promises:

God’s judgment would have fallen on the United States of America a long time ago except for two reasons: three out of every five dollars spent on missions, evangelism, and charity come from North America; the other reason is America has treated the Jews better than other nations. Holland would be the same. The immorality in Holland is unbelievable but they protected the Jews in the Holocaust. I’m convinced that is the only things that has stayed God’s hand. If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam you wouldn’t believe it.

In any event He will bless those who bless the Jews and He’ll curse those who curse the Jews. When the Nazis took over Germany, if you saw the film Schindler’s List, they built walls around the Jewish shtetls, the ghettos. And any Jew climbing over the wall would be machine gunned. Then what happened? Once the Third Reich collapsed a wall was built around Berlin, the great capital of the Reich, and any German climbing over that wall was machine gunned. And that wall didn’t come down until Hess died in Spandau Prison. Not until the last Nazi responsible for what happened in the 30’s and 40’s was dead did that wall come down.

My grandparents were from Britain. Britannia ruled the waves. If you told my grandparents a time would come when the sun would set every 24 hours on the British Empire they would have laughed at you. Britain revoked the Balfour Declaration after promising the Jews the right to return and Jews went to concentration camps. Even after the war when the holocaust was known to have happened the British put the Jews back into detention camps in Cypress to prevent them from coming to Israel so as not to offend the Muslims. Now the sun sets on the British Empire every 24 hours. I know because I live there.

The Spanish Inquisition. You had the Spanish Main. Spain was the big world power, they were the preeminent ones in the New World until the Inquisition. In 1492 Columbus discovered America, right after that under Ferdinand and Isabella at the behest of the Roman Catholic church the inquisitions begin. It didn’t take too long before Francis Drake sunk the Armada then Britannia ruled the waves. “I’ll bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee.”

Abraham's Children


Now this is not anything to do with the Jews – it’s for the sake of God’s promise to Abraham. And you’ll also find this is true of the church because the believers are also Abraham’s children. Nations that have blessed the church have been blessed and prospered and nations that have persecuted the church have come under God’s judgment. Just look what happened to Eastern Europe.

There’s an almost hypostatic relationship between anti-Semitism and persecution of the believing church because born again believers and Jews are the only two kinds of people the Bible calls “God’s chosen”. (Ps 105:6, 2 Thes 2:13) In Genesis 3:15….

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed…

The “woman” being Israel but by extension and cooperation the church. You’ll find that the two kinds of people that Satan has always hated the most are Jews and born again Christians because they’re the two kinds of people who are descendants of Abraham and who are called “God’s people”.

Who do the Communists hate the most in Russia before the Iron Curtain came down? Jews and born again Christians. Who do the Roman Catholic church persecute the most? Jews and born again Christians. Who do Muslims hate the most? Jews and born again Christians. The Eastern Orthodox Church would be the same. God will bless those who bless Abraham’s descendants, both his biological descendants and his descendants by faith. And He will curse the ones who curse. Those who curse the Jews or who curse the true church touch the apple of God’s eye. (Zech 2:8) But there’s more to it.

A Journey Like Ours


It’s Abraham’s journey. His journey is a journey like ours. The text of Genesis tells us the journey begins here in Haran when his father dies. That’s when he responds to God’s call. But the New Testament tells us that is not when God’s call began. God’s call began here in Ur of the Chaldees.

Ur of the Chaldees was where the tower of Babel had been built, approximately, and it’s where the Babylonian Empire would later arise. Abraham’s father was an idol-monger. We’re told in Jewish tradition, in the Talmudic literature, that his father was an idol-monger. And there’s a story in the Talmud – it’s only a story, that Abraham took a hammer (a “pattiysh”) and smashed all of his father’s statues – idols, except for one, and he put the hammer into the hand of the one remaining idol. And his father came in, Terah, and said, “Who killed all of these gods?” And Abraham said, “That god did, the one holding the hammer.” And his father said, “That’s impossible! It’s only a piece of stone with no life or breath in it!” And Abraham said, “Exactly, father – exactly.” That’s just a story from the Talmud. His father was an idol-monger.

Not until his father dies at a crisis point in his life does he respond to the call God gave him in his youth at a much earlier time in Ur of the Chaldees.

So often that happens to people. God is drawing them, God is calling them always, but not until a crisis point in their life will they respond to His grace and His call. Sometimes it isbereavement, other times it’s financial calamity, a crisis in health, a combination of things. God calls and calls and calls but when people don’t respond He’s out to save people. He’ll even use calamity for them to be saved.

You see, those whom He foreknew. (Rom 8:29) I’m not a Calvinist but God did know us before the creation of the world and He begins drawing us from conception, from childhood. When somebody is born again, when somebody comes to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, when you’re first saved, not only does your future make sense, not only does your present make sense, but even your past. It all clicks. Once you come to know the Lord you realize why your life was the way it was. Things you can’t really quantify, perhaps the kind of thoughts that went through your head in bed before you fell asleep at night, perhaps experiences you had, or just impressions, none of it made sense. It had some kind of a metaphysical aspect to it, perhaps, but you couldn’t quantify it. Yet when you get saved you realize, “That was God drawing me all along to this point and this time when I came to know Him through His Son”. When somebody’s born again not only does their future make sense, not only does the present make sense, but even the past makes sense. God is drawing us all along.

But just like father Abraham – Abraham our father, so often it takes a crisis for us to respond to His grace, His call. But then the real journey begins.

Leaving family is a difficult thing, but so often that’s what the Gospel requires. This is certainly true among Jewish people. It’s also true among Muslim people. But I’ve known Roman Catholic people, I’ve known people from Communist families, I’ve known people from Greek and Russian Orthodox families – it’s the same principle. Paul says that in 2 Thessalonians that even the Gentiles have the same kind of rejection as the Jews did from their own families. Jesus came to bring division. (Luke 12:51) It’s wonderful when families get saved but the fact is death separates and the only way you can be with your family is if they get saved, too.

So he begins his journey and the first stop on his journey after meeting the Lord is Shechem – “Shakem”. “Shakem” is a kind of word for “shoulder” in Hebrew. Not an anatomical shoulder but the idea of carrying a burden. It’s near the city of Nablus today. And at Shechem Abraham dwells under an oak called, “the oak of Moreh”. It’s the modern Hebrew word for “teacher” but it’s the ancient Hebrew word for “knowledge”, particularly knowledge of God.

The Typology of Trees


You have to understand something from Jewish midrash about dwelling under a tree.

If a Jewish Christian of the 1st Century was reading John’s gospel – John 1, 2, and 3 – he would have said that John’s gospel is a midrash on the creation in Genesis. The new creation in John 1, 2, and 3 is a midrash on the creation in Genesis 1, 2, and 3:

 

    • He would have said God walked the earth in the creation. (Remember Adam heard God walking in the Garden? That was Jesus.) Now God walks the earth in the new creation; the Word becomes flesh. (Jn. 1:1)

 

    • He would have said God comes to separate the light from the dark in creation in Genesis, but now God comes to separate the light from dark in the new creation in John.

 

    • He would have said the Spirit moves on the water and brings forth the creation in Genesis. Born of water and of Spirit, God brings new life from the water in the new creation.

 

    • He would have said in the creation in Genesis you have the small light and the great light, but in the new creation you have “Johannan Hamadvil” – John the Baptist the little light and “Yeshua HaMashiach” – Jesus the great light, one bearing witness to the other, reflecting light of the other.

 

    • He would have said on the third day in the creation in Genesis God does a miracle with water. Lo and behold in John 2:1, the wedding at Cana, it says it was the third day. God does a miracle with water.

 

  • He would have that said God began his plan for the creation of man with a wedding, a marital union between Adam and Eve. Hence now God begins His plan for the new creation for man with a wedding at Cana, Jesus’ first public ministry is at a wedding.

That’s how he would have looked at it that way. The new creation is a midrash on the creation.

But then in John 1 Nathanael asks Jesus, “How did you know?” and Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree”. (John 1:48) Whatever literal fig tree Jesus saw Nathanael under, that fig tree in midrash is known as the “peshit” – “the simple meaning”. (This is not Gnosticism now. Gnosticism uses symbolism as a basis for doctrine, in midrash you use symbolism toillustrate doctrine.) The peshit was, “I saw you under the fig tree”. But the “pesshur” – “the deeper meaning”, was “I saw you from the Garden, from the creation of the world”. In Judaism the Tree of Life, the “Ets Chayim”, is represented by a fig tree. So Jesus was saying to him, “Creation or new creation, I know you because I knew you from the Garden, from the foundation of the world. I saw you under the Tree of Life” – the Ets Chayim, the fig tree.

So here Abraham is under an oak tree. “Oak” in Hebrew is called “elon”. It’s a very hard wood; it’s a strong wood; it’s a wood of strength. Whenever you see someone dwelling under a tree in the Bible, typologically it means something in Jewish midrash. Before King Saul was killed he was under the Tamarisk tree. (1 Sam 22:6) When he was in a state of despondency Elisha was under the juniper tree. (1 Kings 19:4) But here Abraham is under the oak of Moreh – he’s in a place of strength due to the knowledge of God.

“Shechem” is where you lay your burden down and you come to your first knowledge of God. And there he builds an altar and sacrifices. At any turning point in our relationship with God He will require us to build an altar. In Hebrew we call an altar “mizbeach” and it has only one purpose, to sacrifice something. No sacrifice, no progress.

From Shechem to Bethel


So far so good – he comes to Shechem. But then he moves on to his next stop. His next stop is called Bethel, in Hebrew “Beyth El” – “the house of God”. After somebody comes to know the Lord the first thing they should normally do is come to church. Now Bethel is on the west, a place called Ai is on the east. “Ai” in Hebrew meant “a heap of ruins”. Abraham builds another altar at Bethel and he turns his back to the east where he came from where the tower of Babel was, where Babylon was. His past, the east, where he came from becomes a heap of ruins and he faces the house of God. It is the same pattern the high priest would have to sacrifice on. He’d have to turn towards the east, towards Babylon, and face the west. There he builds another altar. Once more, sacrifice.

When you come to church it costs you something. I don’t just mean what you put in the collection basket. It means you turn your back on your past. Your old friends become acquaintances who your only interest in having any dealings with is to witness to them. Maybe some of your old interests are things you have to give up, at least for awhile.

For me I couldn’t listen to any kind of music except for traditional hymns because I associated music, especially rock music and classical music, I associated that with taking drugs. I used to listen to the stuff when I was stoned. I couldn’t listen to that music for a couple of years. A few years later as I grew in my faith it didn’t bother me anymore, it didn’t disturb my focus anymore, but it had to go on the altar for awhile because it took my eyes off Jesus. After I grew in my faith it doesn’t matter now. To me it’s just music now. I grew and now it doesn’t matter, it’s just music, but at one time it would have caused me a problem. It’s not the same things that have to go on the altar for everybody but something will have to go on the altar. We turn our back on the past. Now obviously this means turning from sin, but it costs us something.

So far so good. But you know, there are people who never make it to Bethel. I call them “Shechem Dwellers”. They understood the Gospel and maybe made a profession of faith, but that’s as far as they went. They go no further.

I knew one “Shechem Dweller” in London, England in Speaker’s Corner where I will sometimes still preach the Gospel on a Sunday afternoon and get heckled by the Muslims, etc. This one guy’s name was Robert – a nice guy, he has a big board front and back they call a “sandwich board” in England. And it says, “Christ died for our sins” on the front and the back and he goes around Speaker’s Corner. And the Christian preachers there all know each other so I said to him, “I have to go now, Robert, it’s time for the evening service in my church”. And he asked me what church I went to and I told him what church – it was a Baptist church in London at the time, and I said, “I have to go”. And I said, “What church do you go to?” And he said, “I go to a High Anglo-Catholic church”. I said, “Why don’t you go to an Evangelical church?” He said, “Well, I went to an Evangelical church once but everybody was already born again. There was nobody to preach to. “ He was totally sincere; he meant it. He knew the Gospel, but that’s about all he seemed to know. He never came to Bethel.

Well, Abraham makes it to Bethel and he builds that altar and he turns his back on his past. But then something goes wrong.

Going to Egypt


Matthew 13 tells about the seeds falling on different kinds of soil. If the devil cannot get somebody to backslide or fall away with the passions of the flesh or the lusts of youth or something like that, if he can’t get you to fall away for those reasons he’ll try something else: crisis – calamity. He’ll make you think you have to take your destiny in your own hands, or that God has somehow abandoned you when things become difficult. And you have to begin making your own decisions. And it’s easy for a young Christian to be dissuaded.

You see, when people are first saved they have their first love and they think they’re going to be Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the first day and go out and do miracles. They think they can do everything. They have their first love, they have a lot of zeal, but they don’t have a any experience, a lot of knowledge, and they don’t know anything although they think they know everything. But after they’ve had their first trials a few months later they realize they know very little. They have their first love – we have to give them that, that’s something we tend to lose, but they don’t have any wisdom or experience or knowledge. And that’s when they get in trouble.

So what does Abraham do? He goes to Egypt. What is Egypt a picture of? The world.

Look at Isaiah 30, what Isaiah says about going to Egypt. King Hezekiah was a good king but he was being badly advised. He was in a strategic crisis. He had the Assyrians infringing on one side on his east and he had Egypt on the other. He was caught in the middle between two superpowers. And he was being advised to go to Egypt for help. And the prophet Isaiah warns against these people who were telling him to do that, to act in a crisis by his own wisdom by going to Egypt. Look at Isaiah 30:1

“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord, “Who execute a plan, but not Mine, And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,

Again, when you  see people into things like Ecumenism, they’re making alliances that are not of God’s Spirit. They’re going to Egypt, the religions of the world.

In order to add sin to sin; Who proceed down to Egypt Without consulting Me, To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!

Notice it’s not that they go to Egypt but they go without consulting the Lord. Whenever you get involved with the world you must have the Lord’s wisdom and guidance in it. You get involved in the world’s legal system? You must have the Lord’s guidance in it. You get involved with the world’s financial system, the world’s health system, it’s school system – whenever you get involved with the world you need to consult the Lord. I wouldn’t advise so much as swallowing an aspirin without praying first. Whenever you get involved with the world you need to consult the Lord. But he didn’t. In a crisis the flesh will tend to gravitate to what the flesh considers strong: the world.

Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.

Whenever somebody goes to the world they wind up in a state of humiliation. Backsliders always do. They wind up in a state of ultimate humiliation. Look what happened to Abraham. He went so low he was actually willing to give his wife over sexually to another man and apparently it happened.

You Can Never Be the Same


You see, you can never meet Jesus and be the same. Once you’ve come to know Him you’re either going to be better or you’re going to be worse, but you can’t be the same. If you go back to the world you will sink to a level of moral depravity that was worse than anything you did before you were first saved. You can’t meet Christ and be the same; you’re either going to be better or you’re going to be worse. If you go back to the world you’ll become more depraved than you were before you first came to know Him. You’ll sink to a level.

Not only that but you’ll wind up in a state of humiliation. Look at Isaiah 31:1…  

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord! Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster And does not retract His words, But will arise against the house of evildoers And against the help of the workers of iniquity. Now the Egyptians are men and not God, And their horses are flesh and not spirit; So the Lord will stretch out His hand, And he who helps will stumble And he who is helped will fall, And all of them will come to an end together.

There’s no help in Egypt! The strength of horses were flesh not Spirit. The old creation will always look to the flesh; it will always look to the things the world considers strong: money, political power, influence, prestige. Whenever you get involved with the world, if God is going to use the things of the world, it will be on His terms, never on the world’s terms. Whenever you get involved with the world you need the mind of the Lord. But the flesh wants to trust the things of the world; the flesh wants to trust what the world considers strong.

Abraham finds out the hard way it doesn’t work. And there he goes. He goes all the way in what ancient times was known as the Wilderness of Shur. The Wilderness of Shur, roughly speaking, was the eastern area of the Sinai Desert and the western area of the Negev. It is a long, hot journey all the way down to “Mitstrayim” – Egypt. (In Hebrew we call Egypt “Mistrayim”.) And then all the way back to Bethel in Genesis 13:1.

Resuming the Original Journey


You see, you pick up where you left off. He could have been further on his journey to where God wanted him to be but instead he wasted his time. Backsliders waste their time, they waste their life. Compared to eternity what’s 10 years or 20 years? Nothing. But compared to the 80 or 90 years at the most probably you have in this world, 10-20 years is a long time to waste. Backsliders are wasting their time, they’re certainly wasting their youth. And it will all come to nothing. They’ll wind up in a state of humiliation. They’ll either get out of Egypt or they’ll die there, and you pick up where you left off. All that time wasted for nothing. Back to Bethel.

Then he resumes the journey he should have came on to begin with. From Bethel he proceeds further south. He goes through the hills of Judah, from the mountains of Samaria to the hills of Judah. It is a long, arduous journey from Bethel to Hebron, but not nearly as difficult as going all the way to Egypt and all the way back. He comes to Hebron. “Hebron” derives from the Hebrew word for “fellowship” – “heet ha brut”. The Hebrew word “heet ha brut” for fellowship means “bricks held together”. Now Peter draws on this in 1 Peter 2:5: we are the stones of the temple, the church being the temple. We’re the “living stones”.

On Palm Sunday when Jesus comes into the Temple Mount from the East Gate and the people are singing the Hallel Rabbah to Him (Ps. 113-118) – “Hosannah to the Son of David”, the Sanhedrin says to Jesus tell the people to be quiet. And Jesus says, “If these remain silent the stones will cry out”.(Luke 19:40) What He was saying in Jewish midrash is that if the Jews don’t proclaim Me as Messiah the Christians will. John the Baptist said God could raise up Abraham’s children out of the stones (Math 3:9) – Christians as the children of Abraham.

Hebron is the place of fellowship – stones cemented together.

Suppose I came into a building and I said to the pastor, “This is a nice church you have – quite a building, but there’s a lot of bricks missing in the wall. Where are all these missing bricks?” Well there they are – they’re stacked up in the middle of the floor. What good are the bricks stacked up in the middle of the floor? For the bricks to be any good they have to be placed into the wall, fastened to the other bricks. It is one thing to come to church; it is another thing to come to fellowship.

Hebron was a long, arduous journey through the mountains, and upon getting to Hebron Abraham had to build an altar. If you want to come to fellowship it’s going to cost you something. Anybody can come to church, sing the hymn, pay a tithe, bring their offerings – “Hello, brother, how are you? See you next week.” Anybody can do that.

Now it’s not wrong to do that. When you’re a new Christian you come to Bethel but it’s wrong to stay in Bethel. You have to come to Hebron, you have to come to fellowship. Because at the place of fellowship Abraham dwells under some other oaks, the oaks of Mamre. (This is near the place today called Kirath-Arba on the West Bank, a very troubled area. It has the cave of Machpela where the Patriarchs are buried.) “Mamre” in Hebrew means “firmness” or “vigor”. The “oaks of strength”. And it’s only when he gets to Hebron, dwelling under the oaks of Mamre, that he’s in a strategically strong position to rescue his kinsman Lot. He couldn’t rescue his kinsman Lot if he’s up in Bethel, he had to be down in Hebron close to where Lot was.

From a Church to a Fellowship


You see, we want to see our families saved, our neighbors saved, our friends saved, we want to see our countrymen saved from the pagans – the Canaanite in the land. From New Age, from Islam, from occults, from false Christianity, but you’re never going to do that by going to church.

I was a missionary in the Middle East for years – listen to me. There is not a church in the world – I don’t mean in the Greek sense of “eklesia” but in the sense of “congregation” – there’s not a church in the world that can take on a mosque and win. You hear what I said? There is not a church in the world that can take on a mosque and win. If you want to take on a mosque you better be a fellowship. If you’re going to take on Islam you better be in the place of firmness, vigor, real strength.

There’s not a church in the world that can take on the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses – they’re too committed. They’re more zealous for a lie than most Christians are for the truth. No church can take on a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall or a Mormon temple. None. Not a church in the world can take on those places; a fellowship can – not a church.

Bethel Will Come to Trouble


Do you dwell in Bethel or do you dwell in Hebron? Well if you’re dwelling in Bethel you’re going to have a problem. Turn with me to Amos 4:4… 

“Enter Bethel and transgress; In Gilgal multiply transgression! Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened,

…(sin, false doctrine)…

And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known.

Enter Bethel and transgress? Oh, you bring your tithe and your offerings, but you bring a sin offering from that which is leavened.

For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,” Declares the Lord God.

For so you love to do, you Plymouth Brethren! For so you love to do, you Pentecostals! For so you love to do, you Presbyterians! For so you love to do, you Baptists!

“Oh, I come to church! I pay my tithe!” It is leavened. Spiritual pride, sin, false doctrine. “Oh, I come to church, alright! I do my bit! I pay my tithe! I’m alright!” The flesh loves religion. The old creation will always try to justify itself by rule-keeping, by going back under the Law. Look at Amos 5:5

“But do not resort to Bethel And do not come to Gilgal, Nor cross over to Beersheba;

(All these things mean things in Hebrew.)

For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity And Bethel will come to trouble.

You see that? “Bethel will come to trouble”. The church will let you down. If it hasn’t happened already, sooner or later I absolutely guarantee – I promise you, the church will let you down. The reason the church will let you down is because the church is made up of people who are just like you and just like me. The church will let you down. A church can’t stand. “Bethel will come to trouble”. It’s a fellowship that will stand.

We have some believers here who were Christians under the Communists in Romania. Churches meant nothing. The Communist police would get rid of any church; it’s fellowship that stood. People who have a sense of commitment, community, family; people willing to stick their neck out for each other, those are the things that stood under the persecution. And persecution will return before Jesus comes even to countries we consider to be democracies. “Bethel will come to trouble”.

There’ s no security in the church; there’s security in Hebron – that’s where the strength is. That’s where the oaks of Mamre grow.

Bethel Dwellers


What is a “Bethel Dweller”? There’s a lot of ways to pick them out. One way, of course, is people who come to church Sunday morning but they won’t come to the evening service. Not for any good reason like work or sick children or something like that. Just because they’d rather watch the football instead of video recording it and watching it when they get home. That’s the “Bethel Dweller”. Today you can video tape the game if you like sports, but those people have a problem. Or people who will come on Sunday and do their bit but they won’t come to the mid-week meetings, people who consistently do that. Not for valid reasons like sick children or responsibilities of work or things like that, I just mean people who make excuses not to be there. Those people have a problem. Their priorities are wrong.

But there’s a sure way to tell a “Bethel Dweller”. I’ll tell you how to pick out a “Bethel Dweller”: they’ve been saved 5 years, they’ve been saved 10 years, they’ve been saved 60 years or more and they don’t know if they are an “eye”, a “foot”, or a “hand”. They don’t know what their gifts are, they don’t know what their ministry is, they don’t know if they have the gift of teaching, they don’ t know if they have the gift of evangelism, if they have the gift of helps – they don’t know what their gifts are. They don’t know where they fit into the wall so they just stay a brick on the floor. They come to church, they pay the tithe, they sing the hymn, and say, “I’ll see you next week”. That is a “Bethel Dweller”.

Most Christians in the Western world are “Bethel Dwellers”. In most of the churches I go to in the Western world it is 15% of the people who do 85% of the praying. Call a prayer meeting, see how many people come. It is 15% of the people who do 85% of the ministry. It is 15% of the people who do 85% of the giving. I don’t mean in terms of the amounts, I mean in terms of ability – portion. It’s 15% of the people who are in fellowship; the others go to church.

“Bethel will come to trouble”. I shouldn’t be laughing about it. But “Bethel will come to trouble”. I’m telling you the church will let you down. And in the Last Days it will let us all down.

You never get anything just coming to church. A young Christian? Fine, come to church, but then you have to come to fellowship and build that altar. It will cost you something to come to fellowship. It costs: time, finance, spiritual attack – there will be a price. No altar, no sacrifice; no sacrifice, no progress. stacks image 1657

We're All Somewhere On This Map


Take a look at a map of Abraham’s journey. Everyone is somewhere on that map. Even those little children out there in the nursery or Sunday School – they don’t know it yet but they’re in Ur of the Chaldees. Through the faith of believing parents they are already being drawn by the Lord to the way of salvation. God is already calling them. We don’t baptize babies but God does see the children of Christians different than He sees the children of the world.

Maybe you’re in Haran, you’re at that crisis point. If you’re reading this and you have not been born again and have not accepted Jesus, you’re reading this for a reason. Not your own reasons, God’s reasons. Your life doesn’t make sense, but if you turn to Jesus it will because becoming a Christian is very easy. Perhaps the things you’ve read today are complicated, but when you’re born a baby doesn’t know too much – he learns. When you’re born again it’s the same thing: you learn more as you go on. But being born is easy and so is being born again.

I’m not talking about the hype or nonsense you see with the con artistry like you see in the preachers from America or on TV, that’s not born again, that’s con artistry. I’m talking about the Gospel. The Gospel is simple. The same kind of love you have for your own baby, if you have a baby, God created that kind of love to teach how much He loves you. And the same as you would give your life willingly to save the life of your baby, that’s what Jesus did when He went to the cross for your sin. That’s what He did. You see, we’ve all rebelled against God’s love and rejected His authority. We’ve gone under the influence of someone called the devil, the god of this world. That’s why none of man’s political or economic systems will ever work, that’s why we destroy the environment, that’s why marriages fail, that’s why we want to be good and do good but we all do things we know are wrong because we have a fallen nature and the whole world lies in the power of the wicked one.

To God one man without sin is worth more than all the men with sin. That’s how Jesus could die for everybody because one without sin is worth more than all with sin. God becomes a man and He takes our sin. All the wrong things I did, all the wrong things you did, God puts them on Jesus. And then God takes His righteousness and gives it to us. And as He rose from the dead He will raise us from the dead unto eternal life. That’s the Gospel.

You have to turn from sin. Ask God for the power to turn from sin and He will give you that power. He delivered me from cocaine addiction when I was in University, a terrible addiction. The devil had a grip on my life but Jesus was more powerful than the devil, He was more powerful than the cocaine. What He did for me He can do for anybody. He’ll do it for you. He’ll give you the power to turn from sin if you ask Him. He’ll take your sin and give you His life.

If you don’t know Him you’re in Haran, you’re at the point of crisis. You can go from death to life today. You don’t have to go to hell, you don’t have to go to judgment, you can become a child of Abraham today.

Perhaps you are in Bethel where you come to church. The devil comes to church every Sunday. He’s very religious. The devil gets more people into hell with religion than he does with all the dope, all the substance abuse, all the compulsive gambling put together. Religion’s a drug.

You know, the two most influential people in history were both Jews: Karl Marx and Jesus Christ. There’s one thing they agreed on: religion is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on humanity. Religion will get you nowhere; it’s Jesus Christ that will get you someplace. Religion is not the solution to the world’s problem. Look at Northern Ireland – that’s religion. Religion is not the solution to the world’s problem, religion is the world’s problem, Jesus is the solution.

But perhaps things went wrong. Perhaps it was the law of the world, the things the old nature liked, passions of the flesh, sexual immorality, ungodly relationships, drugs – whatever it is – love of money or perhaps things just went wrong. You felt God abandoned you. He didn’t, but you felt like He did and you began to wander and assume the management of your own existence no longer as the junior partner but as the senior one and you went to Egypt. You’re back in the world.

There’s no hope for you there; you’re only going to wind up in a state of humiliation. You’re either going to come out of there or you’re going to die in there. There’s no such thing as a “successful” backslider. It’s a theological impossibility. You are wasting your life, you are wasting your youth – just wasting it. You’ve got to come back to Bethel, come back to the Lord and His house and pick up where you left off.

That’s where most people are – Bethel, but that’s not where God wants us to be. He wants us to be in Hebron. He does not want us to be bricks in the floor, He wants us to be bricks cemented into the wall. He wants you to know your place in the body, He wants you to be in the place of firmness and vigor so you can rescue your kinsmen from the kings of darkness. That’s where He wants you to be.

Where are you? The little kids are in Ur of the Chaldees – that we can agree on, but are you in Haran where you’ve never accepted Jesus? Are you at that crisis point? You could begin your journey today. The Bible says, “Boast not about tomorrow for you know not what tomorrow may bring”. (Pr. 27:1) Now is the appointed time, today is the day of salvation. If you don’t know the Lord, you contact us. Don’t continue without coming to know Him.

Maybe you’re in Egypt. Please – God doesn’t love you any less, this life is too short, stop wasting it. Youth flees; don’t waste it. We’re told in Ecclesiastes, “Youth flees”. (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Don’t waste it.

But most of you are where most Christians are – at least in the Western world, most of you are in church. Most Christians are in Bethel. I have one hope and one prayer for your church. This is my hope and my prayer for your church: that soon it will no longer be a church. My prayer for you is that your church will become a fellowship.

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