Devotional: August 20, 2020
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.’
Genesis 28: 18-22
How does a place come to be counted as sacred? This is a question which many people have asked, regardless of their faith. Yet it is a particularly important question for those who follow a Lord who said of Himself, “Foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58). That saying from our Lord seems to imply that any place can be sacred, and no one place can be more sacred than another.
However, some parts of the scriptures point to certain significant spots as locations to worship and honor the Lord. For instance, Jerusalem was counted as sacred, for Jesus knew that His life would end in that city.
Here in Genesis 28, we have a picture of how a location usually came to be regarded as holy or sacred. Jacob spent the night at this locale, apparently called Luz, on his way to Haran. Jacob did not think much about it as he fell asleep. However, God had a different plan that night.
Jacob dreamed a very vivid and memorable dream. He saw what looked like a ladder between earth and heaven. Along this ladder were angels, descending, and ascending. Here, Jacob is told that we have angels watching over us. The same truth applies to us: God’s angels are watching over us, as well! What a remarkable and vivid promise from the Lord!
When he awoke, Jacob exclaimed, “Surely God is in this place!” He took the stone “pillow” he had slept upon, and set it up as a pillar. He gave this nameless site a very special name, “Bethel”, which means “House of God.” Jacob also made a vow to serve the Lord there. Therefore, from that point forward, Bethel was regarded as a sacred place, first by Jacob, and then by others.
What places are sacred to you? How did they become sacred? What spiritual turning points occurred in those places to make them special and sacred to you? These are questions worth pondering.
For me and many others, Tall Timber is a sacred place, where lives are changed, and spiritual commitments made to the Lord. It was there at Tall Timber when I was going into 6th grade that I gave my life to the Lord. I remember it like it was yesterday, for it was and is a significant turning point in my life. It is a spiritual waypoint for others, as well as a place of wonderful memories, and great natural beauty.
I would encourage you to think about and share with someone the places which are touchstones on your spiritual journey. For in sharing, we remember anew. We keep alive the important turning points in our lives when the Lord has spoken to you, and you have felt especially close to the Lord. It is natural for us to treasure those memories, and the places associated with them.
Finally, it is worth noting that Jacob made an effort to mark Bethel as a Holy place. He set a pillar as a marker, so he and others could find the place in the future. Many seek to mark and celebrate places sacred to them through their actions, efforts, and their gifts. This is part of the reason why many churches, including our own, and places like Tall Timber have a memorial funds. By providing funds to remember and honor others, a memory to loved ones can be preserved.
We keep places sacred by sharing with others the story of when God touched at those holy places. So remember those stories, tell them to other, or even write about the special times walking with the Lord. By doing so, we preserve and maybe even expand the reach and ministry of that place as a holy location to glorify God.
Lord of all,
You speak to us in so many ways, through our dreams, through our observations, and even when we least expect to hear Your voice. We treasure the special memories of the places where we have encountered You, and been touched by the ministry of Your creation, Your church, and Your people. Thank You for leading us to those places where we recognize your presence. Help us to carry our memories of those experiences forever. Be with us as we share our stories about You, and how and where You have touched our lives.
We pray this prayer in the name of Your son, and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.