Genesis 28:16 – Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
In Genesis 28, Jacob has left home, running for his life from his brother, Esau, who wants to kill him because Jacob tricked him out of their father’s blessing. He stops near Bethel, where his grandfather Abraham first stopped to build an altar to the Lord and has an encounter with God where the Heavenly realm comes to earth.
This is the first time we see Jacob worship – both with wealth and witness. He says in verse 22, “And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you”, which is also known as a tithe (10%). He also builds an altar of stone and oil to worship God.
The area was originally called Luz, the Hebrew word for “almond tree” and it may have been a place of pagan worship. This area, which became the ancient city of Palestine just north of Jerusalem, was renamed to Bethel, meaning “house of God” and was ultimately where the Temple was built.
It would seem that this place is a sacred place, but the big idea is that it’s sacred because it’s where God showed up, in fact, to multiple generations of Jacob’s family. Places on their own are not sacred but the presence of God there makes it sacred. Churches themselves are not sacred on their own but are sacred because it’s a place where God’s people come to meet with Him.
I, of course, do attend and preach in a church, Trinity Church in Scottsdale, AZ, most weekends and love the Church very much. In fact, the Church is known as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23-24). But, for me, a place I have encounters with God each week is way out in the wilderness, walking on a trail in the mountains, or sitting by a lake far away from any other people. The place itself is not sacred, but God showing up wherever we go to meet with Him makes a place sacred.
Where have been sacred places for you that God has shown up?
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