In the Jewish mindset, “Bethel” has always been a symbol of fellowship with God, while a city lying to the east of it, “Ai,” is the symbol of the world. When I was looking at the life of Abraham, I noticed something in Genesis 12:8. It reads that Abraham (who was still Abram then) “pitched his tent” between these two cities. And amazingly, this has deep significance for us today. To have any lasting value in our public service with God, we must maintain private time with Him alone.
Bethel and Fellowship
The effectiveness of our service to God is measured by the depth of our intimacy with Him, an intimacy forged in times of private fellowship and union. This is notably the source of all true anointing. Imagine, it’s not how hard we work in our service, but that we bear His Life through our service by maintaining direct, intimate fellowship with God! Unfortunately, this reality escapes many who serve God, which makes us act more like drones than loving servants of Christ.
So, what do Bethel and Ai have to do with this reality? Well, Abram proceeded into the world from the hills of Bethel (hills of fellowship with God). He wasn’t in the city; he pitched his tent out in private to meet with God. Abram acted from out of that holy place where he made camp and an altar to the Lord. We, too, must engage the world from our own place of private, holy fellowship rather than from duty.
All service must emanate from our dwelling in Christ. If it doesn’t, it’s just effort. Most of us are tempted to rush in and out of worship, but this is wrong every time. There is always plenty of time to worship God. And when our daily focus is to satisfy Christ in fellowship, then we will carry the seal of God’s approving Life. From our union comes Life.
Fellowship with God
Knowing that the only actual fruit comes from relationship, some go all in to produce this. They even set apart days for quiet, but beware, this can be a trap. It can detract from the need to have daily, moment-by-moment quiet time with God. That is why we must “pitch our tents” where we will always have quiet times with Him, however noisy our times with the world may be.
There are not three levels of spiritual life—worship, waiting, and work. Yet some of us seem to jump like spiritual frogs back and forth from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together as one. They were always together in the life of Jesus and in perfect harmony. It is a discipline that must be developed; it will not happen overnight.
If we want to be effective in our lives, we must rely on the indwelling Life of Christ. And how we foster that is through intimate fellowship with Him. Our God is a relational God. He looks for those who long for relationship. Jesus isn’t looking for a mob of workers; He desires family. He looks for those who would be lovers, not slaves. Putting work and interaction with the world before our relationship with God is like putting the cart before the horse. It just doesn’t work.