Sacred Space

Abraham created sacred space

Abraham was a man who listened and responded to God. When God told him to go to a land God would show him, Abraham responded and went, not knowing where he was going. At God’s direction, Abraham left his father’s household, his community and his homeland.

When Abraham first entered what we now call the promised land, he built an altar to God between Bethel and Ai. He, Sarai and Lot continued traveling down south into the Negev desert. Because of drought, they went further south into Egypt. Then, they came back up through the Negev desert to the promised land again:

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Genesis 13:3-4

Abraham and Lot accumulated many animals and possessions in their travels, and they both had many herdsmen to tend the animals. When their herdsmen began quarreling with each other, Abraham took action to address the situation.

He told Lot it wasn’t good that their herdsmen were quarreling, and he offered Lot his choice of land. Abraham said, “If you go left, I will go right. If you go right, I will go left.” Lot chose the plains of the Jordan, so Abraham went the other direction:

So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.

Genesis 13:18 

From this portion of the story of Abraham, I am impressed today by a couple of things. First, Abraham is ever the hospitable man. He offered Lot his choice of direction first.

I believe Abraham did this because he trusted God, and he was content that God would take care of him. Thus, he was able to be hospitable and kind. He didn’t need to compete or vie with his nephew. He did the right thing and let God do the rest.

The first point is most important: Abraham trusted God. Abraham listened and was responsive to God’s voice. He went when God said to go.

When he got to the promised land, he did not seek to possess it by his own will. He held it loosely. He came and he went, and he returned again trusting that God would guide him and settle him where God desired him to be.

When he first entered the promised land, he built an altar to God. The first thing he did was to create sacred space and to seek God. Abraham created sacred space, but he did not seek to possess it.

When drought came, Abraham was quick to move, wandering through the Negev desert to Egypt and back again. When he came back, he returned to the sacred space he had previously created.

Even then, he did not seek to possess the land, as if it were his. He was content to allow Lot his choice. After Lot chose his direction, Abraham struck out to a new location. Where he settled he created an altar to God, and he made sacred space at the new location.

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