Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”—Genesis 12:6-7, NLT
In his pilgrimage to the place God would show him, Abram penetrated deeply into the land of promise. He faced only one problem: others already lived there. The Canaanites had already established themselves there, well-armed and fortified. Abram’s family encountered a situation similar to the one faced by the family of the soon-to-be-born Jesus, when there was no room for them (Luke 2:7).
The good thing for Abram, Joseph and Mary, and for your family now is that God is able to open up spaces. He promised Abram: ”To your offspring I will give this land.” Have you sensed divine direction to leave your land and enter another? Those who move forward, obedient to such a call, can expect the promise Abram received. Just like the Lord made a way where there was no way so you could arrive in your new place, God will create space where you think there is none. Maybe you emigrated without consulting God at all. Even in that condition, you can receive a promise from God, whose hand knows how to guide both believers and unbelievers.
After receiving God’s promise, Abram built an altar. For the rest of his life, those old stones served as a memorial of what God had communicated to him. If you have heard the promise of God, what altar will you build? It doesn’t constitute idolatry to create a symbol or a reminder of the promise of God. Perhaps you might dedicate a wooden bench to kneel at, a ring on your finger to pray over, a note in the margins of your Bible, or an annual feast to mark the promise of God and remind yourself that God is faithful. Maybe. But your own knees, bent in daily prayer and thanksgiving, constitute the best altar you can dedicate to God. On them, you can always find encouragement as you continue in conversation with the God of the Immigrants.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.