Why are there so many names for God? Why is it important that we know what they are and what they mean? Our finite, human brains cannot fully comprehend the majesty and glory of who God is. Yet through the various names of God, He chooses to reveal Himself to us so we can come to understand the many personal characteristics of God. His names reveal His power, authority, and holiness. The better we understand and know the names of God the more personal He becomes to us and as we pray, we can call on His name that corresponds with our need. Finally, because the Bible instructs us to honor, fear, and respect God and to not use His name in vain, we need to know exactly what His names are and what they mean. Today, we look at the name El Bethel
Today’s Name: El Bethel
An encounter with El Bethel:
In Genesis 28, Jacob has cheated his brother out of his birthright and stolen the blessing from their father. His mother overhears Esau planning to kill his brother and so she gets Isaac to send Jacob back to her family to find a wife. So Jacob leaves his home and on the way, he lays down with a rock for a pillow to sleep and dreams of a ladder that extends between heaven and earth. Angels ascend and descend the ladder. Above, the LORD stood and said to Jacob:
“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Jacob’s vow with El Bethel
When he woke up Jacob said, “Surely the Lord is in the place, and I did not know it. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” He then took the stone he had used for a pillow and set it up and poured oil on top of it and called the place Bethel. He then makes a vow, saying that if God will be with him, provide for him, and bring him back to his father’s home in peace then the LORD will be his God and the pillar that had used as a pillow and now stood as a memorial for his encounter with God would be God’s house. He also promises that he would give a tenth of all he had to God.
Encountering El Bethel today:
Do you remember where you first encountered El Bethel? Take a moment and remember what that experience was like. Since that moment have you had other encounters with God? That might sound like a weird question and you say, “Of course! I go to church every Sunday and read my Bible everyday.” But do you encounter Him? The psalmist said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). Does you soul thirst for the living God? Has God seemed silent lately and you more or less go through the motions but you long for a true encounter with the living God?
When God feel silent or distant
In the moments when God feels silent or distant, it is not because God is hiding or being elusive. Rather, it is because we are not looking in the right places or we are not truly looking at all – or maybe just halfheartedly looking. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Are you looking with all your heart?
God is inviting you over for a visit
When we want to spend time with someone we might invite them to our home. God wants to invite us to His home to spend time with Him. We often refer to God’s House as the church building, but God owns the whole earth and wherever you encounter Him, is His home. Whether it’s out under the stars with a stone for a pillow, or under a beautiful sunrise, or in a pew at church or kneeling beside your bed, God wants us to be able to find Him and He’s inviting you over today.
In His Word we can find eight guaranteed places where we can encounter the Living God, hear His voice, and have our souls refreshed, renewed, revived, redeemed. Whenever we have an encounter with the living God, we are never the same. So if you are longing for an encounter with the living God – if you are looking for your “El-Bethel” then here are eight places where He can be found:
1. You will encounter El Bethel in His Word.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Scripture is God’s written revelation about Himself to humanity. If you’re looking for a place to start reading, start with the book of John in the New Testament. It’s an eyewitness account of the life and ministry of Jesus.
2. You will encounter El Bethel in Prayer.
In Luke 5:16 we find, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” He had to go to “lonely places” to be alone, away from the people longing to be healed or see a miracle. He needed to be away from distractions that could draw His attention away from communicating with His Father. Authentic prayer is a way we encounter El Bethel because we are having a dialogue between us and Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” No relationship thrives without communication and we communicate with God through prayer.
3. You will encounter El Bethel within a community of believers.
In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul told the early church, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” God never meant for being His disciple to be just you. Notice he called 12 disciples – not just one. We need each other for fellowship, accountability, for spiritual growth and encouragement. If you are not attend church or you just attend without really getting involved in the missions and ministry of the church, you are missing out on much more than human relationships and friendships. You are missing out on God Himself. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” But when you are both attending regularly and actively involved in your church, you’ll find El Bethel there.
4. You will encounter El Bethel through genuine worship.
In John 4, Jesus waits by a well for a Samaritan woman with whom He has a divine appointment. In their conversation about living water, they have a conversation about where to encounter God. Jesus tells her: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Do you notice that God is seeking out those who worship Him?
We will always find Him through true worship. However, God doesn’t want worship to Him to be forced or a sense of obligation or duty. It isn’t a box to check off on Sunday morning. It isn’t a ritual. Worship involves the heart and spirit. Because God is a Spirit, we must worship in spirit. Worship occurs when we come with a heart of thankfulness for who He is and what He has done for us. We express worship with joy and with a whole heart. Worship occurs as we abandon the world around around us and enter the presence of God. When we experience a broken and contrite heart and then completely surrender to God, we experience worship.
5. You will encounter El Bethel through our total and complete obedience.
Jesus promised in John 14, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who love me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (verses 21, 23) Reading God’s Word consistently and daily is important, but reading isn’t enough. We can even agree with what it says and highlight important scriptures. But if we’re reading to just check a box on our to-do list, we’re missing the point of reading it.
Total and complete obedience is doing what God says in His Word as He speaks to us through it. If we don’t, then there is sin in our lives. Isaiah 59:2 tells us: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” So be sure that you start your time of reading God’s Word with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin in your life and confess it. Ask for God to forgive and cleanse you from any unrighteousness. Then as you open your Bible, as the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you through God’s Word. Finally, ask for His help to be obedient to whatever He reveals to you as your read.
6. You will encounter El Bethel when we take time to get alone with Him.
After sending the disciples out they came back excited, but weary. Jesus knew they needed some time to refresh and renew and replenish their souls. So He invited them to get alone with Him for a while. In Matthew 11:29, he says to all of us who are exhausted and weary: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
If we don’t slow down and take time to get alone with Him, we can easily miss His still small voice as He whispers across our souls. We can think that God is far away when He’s standing right in front of us. God knew we would need a time of rest. It is why He instituted the Sabbath. If you need an encounter with El Bethel, that take a Sabbath and get alone with Him – away from the noise and business of life where you can focus on Him.
7. You will encounter El Bethel when we give Him our praise
Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of Israel. We feel God’s love most keenly when we are focused on His will and have devoted ourselves fully to His praise and purpose for our lives. We are instructed to abide in God, which means that we should live and move to worship His Name. The word “abide” carries with it a sense of habitation; we are commanded to live in the presence of God. In John 15:4 Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
8. You will encounter El Bethel when we go about the business of God and make disciples.
Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave us our mission: “God and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Wherever we go, we are on mission for Him and we should be making disciples. The last part of the Great Commission says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God is always at work to make disciples, so if you want to encounter Him then make disciples.
El Bethel, thank you that you do not hide from us, but you are our hiding place. May we encounter you today and every day as we seek you with all our hearts through reading your Word, prayer, at church, in our worship, praise, and obedience, and as we make disciples. Help us to recognize when you are calling us to slow down and to come alone with You for a time of refreshing and renewing so we can simply focus on You.
Father, show us who You are as we discover and learn about your many names. Reveal to us why You are worthy of being called the One True, Living God. Teach us to unabashedly love you, respect Your name, and serve only You. Make your character known to us so we can live and walk in your image. Amen.
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