Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
– Genesis 12:6-9
“Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard it for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded (see Exodus 16:20). God will never allow you to keep a spiritual blessing completely for yourself. It must be given back to Him so that He can make it a blessing to others.
“Bethel is the symbol of fellowship with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abram “pitched his tent” between the two. The lasting value of our public service for God is measured by the depth of the intimacy of our private times of fellowship and oneness with Him. Rushing in and out of worship is wrong every time— there is always plenty of time to worship God. Days set apart for quiet can be a trap, detracting from the need to have daily 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 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 our Lord and in perfect harmony. It is a discipline that must be developed; it will not happen overnight.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Notice that everywhere Abram settled along his journey, he built an altar to the Lord. Abram could have focused on pitching the tent, cooking a good meal, or simply relaxing. I am sure he was exhausted after a long day of travelling. No, the important thing was to worship God. This gives us a glimpse into why God chose Abram, later to become Abraham.
I think that Chambers’ observation of the church 100 years ago is still true today. Chambers did not have to put up with cell phones ringing during the service or people texting in the pews. I remember when pagers came out. One supervisor in a local plant, and a member of a church that we attended briefly, had one of his employees page him during the church service every Sunday. It let everyone in church know how important he was and that he was one of the few who had a pager.
I can relate to the hurry in and hurry out that Chambers mentions. There are many people who leave during the final hymn. Are they needed to have the coffee ready for everyone else? Or do they want to beat the traffic?
Chambers mentioned pitching tents in the right place. That got me on a tangent.
I slept through the only exciting campout of our family campouts in the Smokey Mountains. Most years, we would meet our cousins from Florida there. One year, my uncle had 10+ pounds of bacon, locked in a stainless-steel ice chest, a sturdy chest, not one of the flimsy ones. The families, all except me, were awakened by a bear ripping the ice chest apart like it was made of cardboard. Everyone was yelling and shining flashlights in the bear’s face. My mother’s mother, MawMaw, was brave (or crazy) and got close enough to the bear to grab some pots. Everything was in my uncle’s trailer. She started banging the pots. With the bear having eaten all the bacon and looking for the lunchmeat we had for lunch sandwiches the next day, my Dad took a broom handle. He walked up to the bear, that was bigger than he was, and he swatted the bear across the nose. The bear howled and then ran into the woods. This was at Cades Cove Campground, all the action while I slept. A camp ranger greeted us the next morning before we broke camp, partly to investigate the complaints of noisy campers. He told my Dad that the bear’s normal reaction would have been to swat back. But with the bacon eaten and a full belly, my Dad got away without a fight.
My second campout as a boy scout was the coldest I had ever been. I learned not to wear socks in my sleeping bag. They cause your feet to sweat, and then the sweat gets so cold that your feet will be in pain from the cold all night.
I once camped on the upper peninsula of Michigan. The next morning, we were eaten alive by deer flies.
I once camped on the shores of Florida Bay in the Everglades National Park in Florida. A cloud covered the early morning sun, making it as dark as night. My cousin told me to run for the tent. We got into the tent and zipped the insect screen closed just in time. The cloud wasn’t a cloud. It was a swarm of mosquitoes.
When I was a scoutmaster, briefly, one of the patrols in my troop pitched their tent the wrong direction. I told them to sleep with their heads toward the front so that their heads were above their feet as they slept. Of course, they knew better. You always sleep with your feet toward the front of the tent. Right? Hmm. An Eagle Scout with countless nights of camping versus 11 and 12-year-olds that might have two or three camping trips under their belt. That sounds right. The boys ‘knew’ so much more than I did (as long as you say ‘knew’ with quotes around it). We were at a Camporee. The next day was filled with competitions between our patrols and the patrols of the other scout troops in that part of South Carolina and Georgia. My patrol that slept with their heads below their feet all night came in dead last in everything. Their headaches were so bad, they threw up at the least amount of exertion.
For my three years in the Army in Germany, I went on maneuvers at least six to eight times over the first two of those years. Since we were construction engineers, we did the military training in winter. It never failed. We always had snow, sometimes feet of snow. They don’t call it ‘camping’, but you still pitch tents.
But possibly the most memorable camping experience was my wife’s and my unofficial second honeymoon. After the wedding in February, we went to Walt Disney World for our official honeymoon. The company I worked for gave me a few unofficial vacation days since I had not been there long enough to have vacation, but once I had two full weeks of vacation that summer we went from SE Texas to Colorado Springs. We then followed the east side of the Rockies all the way to Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. We backtracked to Yoho National Park where we crossed the continental divide into British Columbia. We then went along the west side of the Rockies to the Grand Canyon and finally to San Antonio, TX. All in ten days, while visiting seven USA National Parks and three Canadian National Parks. The last four days were spent in San Antonio relaxing, sort of, at least not driving. We got there just in time for the Texas Folklife Festival, and she sang folk songs in a variety of languages with her mother and sisters. I sold Dutch cookies at the Dutch booth.
We stayed in hotels almost every night of that trip. At the Grand Canyon, we had a cabin. But one night as we were driving through Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada toward Jasper National Park, we could have stayed at Lake Louise (photo above) in a hotel room frequented by honeymooners, but no. We drove into a fog bank. Since we could not see anything, and with the thought that we might be missing something, we pulled into a campground. I pitched the tent and we zipped the sleeping bags together to make one big one. Hey, we were newlyweds, but that action saved us from something we were not prepared for. As the night came upon us, it got cold. Understand, just a few days before we were in SE Texas with near 100 degree temperatures. It wasn’t cold, it was freezing. We clung to each other, conserving body heat and praying that the sun would come up soon. There was an ice-cold breeze blowing against the front of the tent all night. There was never a break in the constant flow of ice-cold air.
The next morning, we cooked a hearty breakfast, struck camp and drove to the highway. As we turned onto the highway, heading north, we looked at where we had camped. Understand that we arrived in the fog. There was a glacier that extended from the top of the mountain down to the river, right where we had pitched our tent. As the glacier cooled the moist foggy air, the cold, wet air sank to the lowest part of the valley and blew against our tent – all night long.
So, be careful where you pitch your tent and learn from Abram’s example. Worship God first. He’ll give you plenty of time to get the tent pitched, and maybe in the best spot.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.