It was a weekday afternoon during my junior year in college and my inner introvert was screaming. I needed some time alone – away from school, away from people and away from commitments. So I went where I often did when I needed some time alone and snuck away to find my familiar seat in the bleachers. My secret getaway may sound a little unusual, but to me it was a hallowed space. I attended college baseball games at my alma mater. I know, I know, it might sound just flat out weird to people that I would go to baseball games alone, but truly, I loved it. When I needed time alone, there was no better thing than to drive over to the baseball stadium on a weekday afternoon during a game and couch myself in an obscure location and watch some baseball. I loved it. As odd as it may sound, it was a bit of a sacred place for me. My guess is that many of you have those sacred places too.
Several people from the Bible had sacred spaces, but their sacred spaces were set a part for a much more significant reason – they encountered the Holy One there.
Gideon was one of the individuals who encountered God and built an altar to commemorate the occasion.
We meet Gideon in a time when the Israelites are facing consequences for their sins. They had chosen to worship idols so God gave them into the hands of the Midianites to be oppressed for seven years. An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon to relay the message that God will use Gideon to deliver the Israelites from their oppression. After presenting an offering to God and receiving confirmation that it truly was God speaking to him, read Gideon’s reaction:
“When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’
But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’
So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” -Judges 6:22-24
I love Gideon’s exclamation when he realizes who’s communicating with him, he says, “sovereign Lord.” Sovereign referring to God being in complete control. This acknowledgement is especially significant in light of what God has just called Gideon to do – to lead the liberation of the Israelites from the Midianites. Recognizing that God is in control is especially important for Gideon in order to obey God’s calling.
In his awe and amazement of this encounter, we see him create an altar. He sets aside this specific piece of land to memorialize his interaction with the one true God. For Gideon, that altar forever served as a reminder of the specific calling God had laid out for Gideon’s life.
Have you had a moment similar to Gideon’s where you felt God laying a calling on your heart and you were confident in your interaction with the Lord? The beautiful takeaway from scripture is that these holy encounters with God are not just for the biblical patriarchs or heroes – they’re for you and me too. Jeremiah 29 simply explains how we can encounter God:
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:13
God can be found and He’s waiting to have a divine moment with you. Seek Him, friend. Pray to Him, wait for Him, be still for Him and He will be found. Who knows that you too may soon have your own sacred altar or space where you encountered the great I AM.
Have you had a notable encounter with God in a particular place that serves to mark the divine occurrence? Share your answers in the comments section below!