Chapter Four

Bound in Canaan

When a young person leaves the family home at the usual age of 17 or so, alarms are sounded in heaven. It is the normal course, yet how frightening for the teen to live among strangers and apart from familiar sights and comforts!

The alarm bells need to be rung urgently when that teen becomes a freshman on a university campus in America. College in the U.S. is the microcosm of chaos.

Friends stumble together through the mine fields of moral temptations, at times interested to do the right thing, at times, curiosity seekers. It is a period of freedom— of searching for an identity, discovering new friends and learning to be an adult. The freshman frantically tries not to fall behind socially or academically— and never mind his or her spirituality. It may also be a time of great loneliness, but no one would admit to homesickness.

One may wonder: Would it be good to take cover under tradition and let matrimony set bounds for her or his social life and daily schedule? But then, matrimony sets so many bounds. After marrying, a man and a woman must travel life’s road in a yoke. Where before they were free to pursue the path best suited to their individual whims and interests, now they must go a new way that leads toward mutual goals. Before long they are drawing a wagon of children, and if one of them breaks loose from the yoke, what a heavy burden is left for the other to pull.

The full realization of what this new life will be like is never envisioned by the engaged couple. They are too busy delighting in each other’s charms, caught up in the momentum of the exhilarating wave that is carrying them from the more and more distant shore of their former alliances to the new beach of their union, which is sure to be a blissful paradise of unimaginable pleasures. For awhile, at least.


Jack and Mandy were in the same class even though he was four years older due to his years in the military and other pursuits before entering college. Being older and so handsome plus an accomplished sportsman and athlete, he was a great "catch." He had an ability to make things happen and was so opposite from her cautious approach to life. In fact, one time when he came to pick her up for a date he was with a friend who drove the car while he gripped the side of the undercarriage, standing on his hands while the car door was wide open as they rolled along. What strength!

He loved doing the impossible or at least, the dangerous, and freely confessed that his heart’s desire was to be a stunt man in Hollywood. Instead, he proposed marriage and became engaged to my sister when they were only sophomores. The August before entering their junior year, they married in the small Kentucky town where our parents lived, and even received some premarital counseling in the Presbyterian Church there before the time of the ceremony.

Our parents dutifully arranged for the festivities, though they instinctively felt a reluctance. Yet, what could they do? They knew Mandy was too young at 18 to make this monumental decision, but saw she was an adult of sorts, and if they refused to give their blessing, how might that affect their relationship with her? Or, if they influenced her to pull away from this unknown quantity, what if their meddling affected her view of her “marriageability”? What if she never again met anyone she wanted to marry?

The minister could see no barriers to performing the ceremony. Jack had confessed belief by acknowledging Christ’s deity. No one had asked if he had committed his heart and life to Christ.

Acknowledging Christ’s deity is something like agreeing that Abe Lincoln was 16th President of the United States. Even Mandy would not have understood the question if she had been asked, “Have you given your heart to the Lord?… Have you surrendered all to Him?” We were believers, but we were not fanatics. At this time, she had been marked to become a devoted believer, that was all. God has his devoted people and that will become clear.


So the Michiganders came to Kentucky, their expensive, large car stocked with a bountiful cache of liquor in its trunk to contribute to the festivities. They seemed powerful, confident and fun, more materially secure than we, and a lot less fanatical.

From that moment on, our Presbyterian bastion was never the same. Jack’s integration into the family gave us a new flair. I would not say we went from being black and white to full color, if I had to analogize. It was more that many new colors were added, some we never even dreamed existed.

The wedding ceremony was meaningful with Scriptures selected by Mandy and the minister, including one from I Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal… Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

These words would be floodlights for Mandy in days to come, though at the time they sounded more romantic than instructive.

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“Nor are we only kings and the freest of all men, but also priests for ever, a dignity far higher than kingship, because by that priesthood we are worthy to appear before God, to pray for others, and to teach one another mutually the things which are of God. For these are the duties of priests, and they cannot possibly be permitted to any unbeliever. Christ has obtained for us this favour, if we believe in Him: that just as we are His brethren and co-heirs and fellow-kings with Him, so we should be also fellow-priests with Him, and venture with confidence, through the spirit of faith, to come into the presence of God, and cry, “Abba, Father!” and to pray for one another, and to do all things which we see done and figured in the visible and corporeal office of priesthood."

- from The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther

Comment on the Westminster Confession

There are different styles of worship: “The regulative principle of worship is a Christian theological doctrine teaching that the public worship of God should include those and only those elements that are instituted, commanded, or appointed by command or example in the Bible; that God institutes in Scripture everything he requires for worship in the Church, and everything else is prohibited.

“The regulative principle is often contrasted with the normative principle of worship, which teaches that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship, so long as it is agreeable to the peace and unity of the Church. In other words, there must be agreement with the general practice of the Church and no prohibition in Scripture for whatever is done in worship.”
- from Answers.com

The Westminster Confession promotes the regulative principle.

Westminster Confession Chapter 21
Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day
21 - 5. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

21 - 7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

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Time for Worship

Let us resume our study from the passage where we had rested, in Genesis 12, when the promises of the Lord to Abram are recounted: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Had Abram shared these exact words with his family, or did he simply say, “I must move from here. God has told me to do this—”? If he did tell them all that God said, did his family consider him deranged or self-important, or did they recognize that he had been chosen by the Lord, called out for a special mission and role in human history?

When Israel’s son, Joseph, related to his brothers the dreams that foretold his eventual rule over them, it compounded their envy and hatred of him. To Lot’s credit, if he knew God’s exact words to Abram, the Bible does not charge him with jealousy. And if all he knew was that Abram felt a call from God to move away from their homeland to a place not yet revealed, he embraced the adventure.

These deductions help to define for us who Lot was. Obviously, he was open to change, and though he may have compared his own understanding of the Lord with Abram’s, it did not become a festering need for a similar experience. He was content to consider his uncle someone special who actually could hear God’s voice, someone deserving of loyalty and support. But though a follower, Lot was not unambitious. He was an industrious man with his own flocks, herds, tents and servants (Gen 13:5). He tended to his possessions and Abram to his, as they journeyed together.

God had a crucial objective in this call to Abram. The “Westward Ho!” quest of Abraham was the most significant movement of people in history since it marked the unique beginning of Israel. God was leading Abraham to a land which would become the home of the covenant people, and he intended to make Abraham the father of this nation, from which would be born the Christ.

The journey was a test of Abraham's faith. At times God tests our faith by revealing where he is taking us, but the faith of Abraham was tried and cultivated because he did not know where he was going. Blinders were placed on his head, and he was led day by day to a new home. "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." (Heb 11:8)

The people of the Lord will be led one step at a time. We will thus look to Him for daily guidance, not monthly or annual instructions. Abram had not been perfected in this knowledge, but he was making progress, while Lot was advancing in his role as an adherent, a follower.

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Genesis 12: 6-8
6. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. 7. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. 8. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

How can we know when we have found that which is ours? The obedient and faithful shall know, for the Lord will show them. Abram knew he had arrived in the Promised Land because God appeared to him and said, “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” Sichem was in the heart of Canaan.

Abram responded to God’s promise by worshipping, though at that time the Canaanites were in the land. He built an altar to the Lord so that he could worship.

From Sichem, he went on to a mountain east of Bethel. There, he not only built an altar but also called on the name of the Lord.

The way of Abel—offering an acceptable sacrifice— was Abram’s first method of worship; the way of Seth’s generation, his second, as he called on the name of the Lord along with setting up an altar.

Perhaps he did not think of calling on God’s name at first, being nearly in shock to have finally arrived in The Land! Did he feel a reverent fear that prevented any gesture of addressing the Lord in a personal manner? Or, was the first place of worship too much “in the open”? Perhaps he withdrew to a mountain for a sense of privacy and security.

One thing is clear: Abram set up the altars, not Lot. God has his chosen shepherds, and this will be made plain.

A time was coming when God’s people would be required to sacrifice in very specific ways at their tabernacle and then, their temple, but in these early days the Lord accepted, in fact, inspired the worship of his chosen shepherds in various places. In every generation, God accepts the worship of his own, offered from obedience in sincerity based on an atonement of his ordination.


We are covering only a few verses of our study today, in order to focus on the topic of worship. Intercession is deeply related to worship, and for each, we need to understand what God requires. God forbids us to intercede for the dead or for any “of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.” (WC 21-4; I John 5:16) With discernment and the help of our pastor, we can figure that out, but it is not quite as simple to know when, for what and for whom to intercede— or when to stop praying for particular needs and people. Yet, as we worship God in spirit and in truth, we will be on the right path to enlightenment in all matters of our lives. Discernment will be given to those who seek and obey the Lord, but— “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9)

Moses warned the Israelites that if they did not obey the commandments and statutes of God, many which concerned worship, the LORD would smite them with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart; “And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.” (Deut. 28:28,29)

God’s commandments and statutes were not to be twisted or amplified. Christ quoted Isaiah when pointing out that the Pharisees did not worship properly: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:7-9; Is 29:12-14)

Effective prayer is tied to discernment which is the result of righteousness that is linked to the careful observance of God’s commandments. This is underscored in James 5:16— "Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."


When Abram worshipped, he was not inventing a new way. The significant first mention of animal sacrifice is in Genesis 4, Abel’s offering of the firstlings of his flock, and the first mention of an altar is in Genesis 8. Noah was instructed to take seven pairs of clean animals, but only a pair of all others, to enable proper worship after the great flood. The aroma of the burnt offerings prompted God to say in his heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man.” (Gen 8:21) Thus, obedience in worship secured a marvelous promise for all mankind. What might our correct worship of the Lord furnish to our fellow man?

The significant first mention of the word “worship” is in Genesis 22:5 when Abraham is taking Isaac to sacrifice him on Mt. Moriah. He announces to the servants that he and Isaac are going “yonder and worship.” This act of obedience to an unexplainable command sealed God’s sevenfold promise, “for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (vss 16-18)

This story illustrates that God tests our faith and reaffirms his promises. We need to understand: the maturity that God sought to build in Abraham, he seeks to confirm in us as well.

For further study, go here.

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KEY VERSE: Genesis 19:29 "So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived."

Introduction

About

Chapter One

What About Lot?
Further Study

Chapter Two

A Type of Christian
Further Study

Chapter Three

Westward Ho!
Further Study

Chapter Four

Time for Worship
Further Study

Chapter Five

Severing Ties
Further Study

Chapter Six

The Rescue
Further Study

Chapter Seven

The Promise Sealed
Further Study

Chapter Eight

Nearer to God
Further Study

Chapter Nine

The Covenant
Further Study

Chapter Ten

To Whom Much Is Given
Further Study

Chapter Eleven

God Remembered Abraham
Further Study

Chapter Twelve

A Good Ending
Further Study

Afterword

He Draws the Unwilling