23 From there he went up to Beer-sheba. 24 And that very night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
Now Isaac, son of Abraham, was on the move due to famine in his homeland; he had taken his family to the land of Gerar. In this unfamiliar territory, there were conflicts with the Philistines over the land and water. At first, Isaac did not trust the people and they did not trust him. Fortunately, Isaac did trust in the Lord God as he heard God’s reassurance given to him.
Whether Isaac heard God’s direct words or just sensed where and how he should turn, Isaac knew to follow God’s lead. When a location led to conflicts among the herdsmen, Isaac moved his family from place to place, stopping eventually at Beersheba, the “Well of the Oath.” There, the Lord appeared directly to Isaac, giving further reassurance and saying, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” The Lord’s blessing would be for Isaac and his offspring. In turn, Isaac built an altar and worshipped the Lord.
Later, other people sensed the bond Isaac had with the Lord and wanted to make a covenant with him, but Isaac knew to make his covenant with God the priority. Like his father, Abraham, Isaac responded by giving reverence to the Holy One. We are all the spiritual children of Abraham and, as with Isaac, an active God comes to offer us comfort and blessing, even when we feel we are in unfamiliar territory.
It is up to each of us us to pause in reverence and to make our own covenant with God. We may not see or hear an actual vision or the voice of the Lord, yet when we pause in thanksgiving, we are answering God, “Yes, Lord, I am with you, just as you are with me.”
God goes with each of us to the unfamiliar territories of our lives, wherever and whenever those may be. The covenant we make is our answer to an active and loving God, who helps us to find and celebrate in all altars of the world.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
As with Isaac, we too must pause to give thanks and reflect. It matters not whether we create an actual altar, but that we respectfully seek the presence of Our Lord in spaces and ways that are “holy” to us. In her book An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor finds the holy in everything around us. She says, “Whoever you are, you are human. Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.”
While we cannot be in a church today, name the places and spaces around you that feel like altars in your world. This may even be an action or experience that helps you connect to our active, loving and pursuing God. Whether right there with you, or only in your memory, offer a prayer of thanksgiving for those holy spaces in your life.
Prayer: God of our fathers and mothers, we are grateful for your Holy Presence among us. We recognize that we often feel in unfamiliar territory and therefore miss the chance to connect to you. We pause to purposefully see to the holiness all around and through your Living Word. We give reverence for your creation and ask that you help us to feel comfort in knowing that all the territory of the universe is familiar territory to you. We are thankful to find your Holy Spirit in relationships, spaces and places such as….. Thank you, God for each blessing. Amen.