Bethel: The Place of Divine Presence
At Bethel, God gives men and women the ability to see Him, not with natural eyes, but with spiritual eyes. “And he built there an altar, and called the place El-Bethel: because there God appeared unto him’ (Genesis 35:7).
The World Can’t Satisfy Us
Many of us have our eyes on things. For example, we are guilty of comparing ourselves among ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12). When we go to Bethel, there’s so much glory from God that it’s impossible to see anybody else. We must go up to Bethel and look upon the Holy One. One glimpse of Him makes all the changes in our lives that ever need to be made.
Moses was in God’s presence forty days and there was such glory on his countenance they had to put a veil over his face. Was Moses changed? Yes! When Paul talked of being in the presence of God, he spoke of being changed from glory to glory by simply being exposed to the presence of God. He said, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
God takes the scales off our eyes and gives us the capacity to see what the natural eye cannot see, to hear what the natural ear cannot hear, and to feel what mortal men cannot feel. We must bury the foreign gods of this world, move out from under the shade trees of Shechem, and move into the glory of God at Bethel.
People who are enamored with the things of this world have not seen the glory of His presence. Once our eyes behold His glory, we will never again be satisfied with what this world has to offer. If we only catch a glimpse of the glory of God, the things of this world will no longer capture our attention.
Bethel is a Place of Brokenness
“But Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth” (Genesis 35:8). “Allonbachuth” means the place of weeping. I love to talk about the glory of God, about Bethel where God defeats our enemies, where angels ascend and descend, about where we can build an alter, but Bethel also is a place of brokenness.
Bethel is a place of weeping, sorrow, hurt, a place of deep feeling, a place of tremendous surrender and death. As surely as we move to Bethel, God will put pressure on us in the midst of the glory and there will be tears. When I read the scriptures glory and tears go together. Every place in scripture when you see glory you also see tears. The Master Himself wept with strong crying and tears (Hebrew 5:7). When I read of Paul’s experiences, he talks of the tears he shed, the burden he bore and the pressure that was upon his life. It caused him to be broken before God.
Bethel will not be all a bed of roses because when you go to Bethel, you will find out it is a place of weeping. “A broken and contrite heart, oh God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Perhaps as we face toward Bethel it is necessary for us to let something happen that would cause us to weep, cry and be broken. It’s in that pliable time, that time of weakness and desperation that God has a way of doing a work in us. If we’re going to Bethel we must be ready and willing to face a time of brokenness.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalms 30:5). The degree to which we know hurt and suffering is the same degree to which we are capable of knowing the glory of God. Paul said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18).
Peter said, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). He said again, “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Peter 5:10).
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4). Though we are called to Bethel where we experience hurt, brokenness and despair, we can be assured that at Bethel God will do a work in our heart. We can testify we’ve been to Bethel where God broke my spirit and dealt with my heart. We will no longer be hard and resistant, but at that time we will be pliable in the hands of the master potter (Jeremiah 18).
Bethel Changes Everything
“God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel” (Genesis 35:9-10). Did God merely give Jacob a new name? No, much more than that, because in the Old Testament the name always described the person’s character.
Jacob meant deceiver, cheater, conniver, supplanter, the dishonest one. Study the entire narrative of Jacob’s life. He deceived his father, his brother, his uncle, and more. His entire life had been one big deception. That was his character but at Bethel all that changed. Jacob became a new man. You see, its at Bethel, the place of divine presence, that everything is changed.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We spend so much time and effort seeking change. We manipulate, seek out help from therapists and self-help groups, when if we’d simply go to Bethel, where we catch a glimpse of God in all His glory, we would experience real and lasting change.
God spoke to Jacob who had a foul, miserable character and said, “Jacob, move up to Bethel.” When Jacob arrived at Bethel, God so worked in his life that he was changed from deceiver, cheater and supplanter to Israel which means “prince with God.” God can change a person completely, from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, and from the inside out. God can make an honest man out of a thief, a truthful man out of a liar, a good man out of a bad man, and a holy man out of a heathen. It’s at Bethel where God is in the name changing business.
Bethel Sets us Free
God can take a person from the dregs of sin and depravity and make him a new creature. The Word of God is powerful and sharper than any sword (Hebrews 4:12). It is mighty through God to the pulling down of every stronghold (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). “It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes” (Romans 1:16).
Has something fastened itself onto your life and you have tried to get free from it to no avail? Is it a habit, a spirit, or addiction? You simply can’t do anything about it. You appear to be free from it for a time and then it constantly raises its ugly head over and over again. There is a place called Bethel, the place of divine presence, where you can be free from all that binds you. God is waiting for you. Run to Him and He will make you a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).