ABRAHAM BUILDING AN ALTAR
After Abraham arrived in Canaan, the Bible tells us that the first place he went to was Sichem (or Shechem). In Shechem he built an altar. The second place he went to was Bethel, and there he also built an altar. Later he left Bethel and went to Egypt. Then he went from Egypt to the south, and from the south he went back to Bethel, staying in between Bethel and Hai (or Ai), the place where he first built an altar. Later he went to another place, Hebron, and built another altar. In these three places, Abraham built three altars. All three places have an altar, and all three places are sanctified. The Bible shows us that God used these three places—Shechem, Bethel, and Hebron—to represent Canaan. In God’s eyes, Canaan carries the characteristics of Shechem, Bethel, and Hebron. The characteristics of these places are the characteristics of Canaan. Once we see these three places, we will see what Canaan is like. Let us consider the characteristics of these three places.
Shechem (Shoulder)—the Place of Strength
"And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh...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" (Gen. 12:6-7). Abraham arrived in Shechem. The meaning of the word Shechem in the original language is "shoulder." In the human body the shoulder is the place with the most strength. The shoulder can lift what the hand cannot pick up. Therefore Shechem can also mean "strength." The first characteristic of Canaan is strength. This means that God’s strength is in Canaan. Canaan is not just a place flowing with milk and honey; it is also a place of strength.
The Bible shows us that God’s power is not only a miraculous power, but the power of life; it is a power which satisfies man. The Lord said, "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall by no means thirst forever; but the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water gushing up into eternal life" (John 4:14). How powerful this is! This is the power of life! The Lord’s life has a power that satisfies! Once a man possesses the Lord’s life, he will never thirst again, because he will be inwardly satisfied. Those who are inwardly satisfied and who have received life within are the most powerful ones. They are Shechem, the shoulder, and are powerful to bear much burden. Thank and praise the Lord that one characteristic of Canaan is the power of life.
In Shechem there was the oak of Moreh (Gen. 12:6, ASV). The name Moreh means "teacher" or "teaching" in the original language. It has something to do with knowledge. The oak of Moreh was in Shechem. This means that knowledge comes from power and that knowledge is the result of power. In other words, genuine spiritual knowledge comes from the power of Christ. If we do not have the satisfying power of the life of Christ, we will not have genuine spiritual knowledge and will not be able to convey anything spiritual to others. If God is to have a vessel to recover His testimony on earth, such a vessel must be a particular vessel. With such a vessel, the first need is not to be taught doctrines; the first need is to be satisfied and to acquire the power of life. Then there will be real knowledge. There is a tremendous difference here. One is a matter of doctrine, while the other is a matter of life. One is the result of hearing something outward, and the other is seeing something inward. One results in forgetting what one hears, and the other results in receiving something unforgettable. If anyone says, "I no longer remember the cross, because no one has preached about the cross during the past few months," this proves that the cross he has is only in doctrine and memory; it is not in life. We have to remember that all genuine knowledge is found in the power of life. Christ’s power is our power. Because we have something within us, we can share the same thing with others. The Lord gives us inward power and inward knowledge. Moreh comes from power.
We have to be careful not to give to others just the doctrines that we have heard. We must have the spiritual thing itself before we can give it to others. In spiritual matters the clever ones end up taking the circuitous way. They trust too much in their cleverness, and as a result they wander farther away from the spiritual path. May the Lord deliver us from objective teachings.
(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)