He built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el: because there God appeared unto him. (Genesis 35:7)
After Jacob’s first memorable encounter with God in the wilderness, he called the place Beth-el, which means “the house of God.” Many years later, after he had suffered and sinned and repented, and discovered the worthlessness of all earthly things, he renamed the place, El-beth-el; literally “the God of the house of God.”
Thus Jacob had shifted his emphasis from the sacred place to the God he had met there. God Himself now took the center of his interest.
We need to consider that many Christians never get beyond Beth-el. God is in their thoughts but He has not been given first place. Faithfulness to the local church is a good thing; but when the church becomes so large and important that it hides God from our eyes, it may become a good thing wrongly used.
Always God must be first—and we ought never forget that the church was never intended to substitute for God! What is our primary interest? Is it Beth-el or El-beth-el? Is it my church or my Lord? Is it my creed or my Christ?