Witness and Watchtower


Genesis 31:42-55 gives the account of the truce between Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban. As signs of the truce made between Jacob and Laban, Jacob took a stone and set it up for a pillar and asked his brothers to gather stones and make a heap. Laban called the heap Jegarsahadutha which means “heap of witness” in Syriac (Gentile) tongue, but Jacob called it Galeed, which meant the same in Hebrew (Jew). Then in agreement, Laban referred to the witness heap as Mizpah, meaning watchtower in Hebrew, with God as their watching witness.

For peace between a Gentile and a Jew, a heap of witness / watchtower was assembled. A witness testifies of a person’s innocence or guilt. A watchtower is built to keep watch and guard of impeding invaders.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Faithful Witness (Revelation 1:5) – who made a truce (peace) between by God and man by his willing sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12-18). For all who believe in him, he testifies our victory over the evil one by his blood (Revelation 12:11) and declares us innocent, not remembering our sins and iniquities any more (Hebrews 10:17). His name, the name of the Lord, the name above all names, the sole name by which man can be saved is a strong tower, and the those made righteous (by believing in Jesus) who run into it are safe – safe from the invading forces of evil. 

In other words, Jesus Christ is our Jegarsahadutha, our Galeed, our Mizpah. He is our witness – the faithful witness and our watchtower. 

Points to ponder:
Have you made your truce with God? Have you believed in Jesus Christ? In other words, would his witness (testimony) of you be that you are innocent – that God is at peace with you. Believe in Jesus Christ. He is the Faithful Witness.
Are you safe? In other words, have you believed in Jesus, which imputes on you his righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:22) and as one who is righteous, do you run to him for your safety – safety from spiritual death and eternal enmity with God. He is the strong watchtower, watching out for you. Believe in Jesus Christ.

Genesis 31:42-55 (KJV)
42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.
43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?
44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
45 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
47 And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.
48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
49 And Mizpah; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.
51 And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee:
52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.
53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.
54 Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.
55 And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.

Revelation 1:5 (KJV)
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Proverbs 18:10 (KJV)
10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

The fear of Isaac


When Isaac’s son, Jacob left his father-in-law, Laban’s house, for whom he had worked twenty years, to return to the land of his father, Laban pursued and stopped him. Jacob told Laban that if it had not been for the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, he would been sent to return empty by Laban (Genesis 31:42).

The phrase “fear of Isaac” is intriguing. Why did Jacob not just refer to the God of Abraham as the God of Isaac as well? It is believed that the phrase fear of Isaac is to say, the God whom Isaac feared or dreaded. Some suggest that it was to instill fear in Laban that Jacob used that expression. However, from the statement that “if the fear of Isaac had not been with me”, we can infer that Jacob was referring to a person and not an emotion.

Many centuries later, the prophet Isaiah would write a call to trust in the Lord – the Lord of hosts (heaven’s armies) and sanctify him (set him holy). The prophet would warn that the Lord of hosts must be your fear, and let him be your dread (Isaiah 8:13), who will keep you safe as your sanctuary (Isaiah 8:14). God’s people were not to fear or dread the arising Assyrian army that would invade them.

Who is the Lord of hosts? Who is the commander and chief of heaven’s armies? Revelation 19:11-21 reveals to us that the Lord of hosts is Jesus Christ, the rider on the white horse.

In other words, the fear of Isaac, mentioned only in the first book of the Bible (Genesis),  who is to be feared and dreaded is revealed to be the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the last book of the Bible (Revelation).

Points to ponder:
Just like Isaac, the father of Jacob, who feared the Lord of hosts, so also must we set Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts to be holy in our lives and only him must we fear and dread, for only he can keep us safe – safe from death – spiritual death. After all, to fear God and keep his commandments is the sole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Is the fear of Isaac (Jesus Christ) your God?

Genesis 31:42 (KJV)
42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

Isaiah 8:13 (KJV)
13 Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he shall be for a sanctuary;

Except the God …


When Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, accused Jacob of having stolen his gods (idols) and did not find them, for Rachel, Jacob’s wife, who had, unbeknownst to Jacob, stolen her father’s idols and hid them, Jacob was angry. He questioned Laban as to why Laban had pursued him?

Jacob had served Laban for twenty years, fourteen years for Laban’s two daughters (Leah and Rachel) and six years for the cattle (Genesis 31:38, 41). He had tended to the flock of Laban, in the drought of the day and the frost of the night, sometimes sleeplessly (Genesis 31:40). When a wild animal had stolen away one of Laban’s cattle, Jacob assumed responsibility and bore the loss of it (Genesis 31:39). In other words, whatever Jacob had left with, from Laban’s house, was rightfully earned because of his diligent service to Laban, by the labor of his hands (Genesis 31:42). Yet Laban felt that he owned it all (Genesis 31:43).

After Jacob had expressed his work (labor) and his wages (lot), he made a powerful statement, one that could easily be missed. Jacob said, “Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou (Laban) hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.” (Genesis 31:42).

What Jacob was saying was that if God had not been with him, he would have had nothing (even though what he had it was rightfully his). If God had not seen his affliction and intervened, he would have lost what he had earned.

Points to ponder:
God is always with those who believe in him, who trust him and who fear him reverently out of their love for him. The Most High God, the God of Abraham rules over all (Daniel 4:17) and watches over them that love him, both their going out and their coming forth, so no harm shall befall them. (Psalm 121:5-8). He sees our afflictions and intervenes for us, even if we dont know it.

Except the God of Abraham, the Most High God is with you and me, we will be empty and we will lose it all.

You can gain the whole world (rightfully so by the labour of your hands), but if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High ruling God, you will lose your soul and that would mean you lose it all (Mark 8:36).

Have you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord and King? In other words, can you say, “Except the God of Abraham is with me …”?

Genesis 31:36-42 (KJV)
36 And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?
37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.
38 This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.
39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.
40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.
41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.
42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

Hidden Idols


When Jacob flees from his father-in-law, Laban’s home with his wives and possessions, unbeknownst to him, his wife Rachel, stole some of her father’s idols (images) and took them with her. When Laban confronted Jacob of this thievery, Jacob impulsively responds that whoever is found to have stolen Laban’s gods would be punishable by death. In other words, he had unknowingly declared the death sentence on his wife. When Laban’s started to search the tents for his gods, before Laban entered Rachel’s tent, she took the idols and hid them in her camels furniture and sat on top of them. She avoided getting caught by using her monthly period as to reason to not have to get up. 

The Bible does not tell us the reason as to why Rachel had stolen her father’s idols and hidden them and trying to come up with reasons would be nothing more than conjecture. 

However, what is important to recognize is that the hidden idols could have led to death – Rachel’s death. 

Points to Ponder:
The Bible is very clear that we should have no other gods before the Lord God and that we should not make any idols and those who do will face the judgment of God for he will not tolerate our affection to any other god or idol (Exodus 20:3-5) He will blot them out of his book (Exodus 32:33).

Idols are anything that take the place of God – they are those that take priority and preeminence in our lives. In today’s context, an idol could be anything – power, position, popularity, prestige, pleasure, possessions.

Hiding idols in our lives is akin to declaring a (spiritual) death sentence on ourselves. What are the idols that we hide and sit on? 

Genesis 31:19-20, 30, 32-35 (KJV)
19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.
20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.

30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.
33 And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent.
34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.
35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched but found not the images.

Fear of men vs.


Genesis chapter 31 verses 17 and 18,  verses from 21 to 29 and verse 31 gives the account of Jacob fleeing from the house of Laban, his father-in-law with his family (wives and children) and possessions (camels, cattle, and all his goods) to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan. The Bible says that Jacob fled with all that he had.

When Laban his father-in-law found out about Jacob’s fleeing, he pursued him for seven days and caught up with Jacob. But God divinely intervened in a dream and came to Laban in the night and warned him to be even keel with Jacob. When Laban confronted Jacob, he expressed that he had the power to hurt Jacob but because the God of Isaac (God of Jacob’s father) had appeared to Laban and warned him, he restrained himself from hurting Jacob. Laban questioned Jacob as to why he had fled in secret and told Jacob that he had acted foolishly.

To this Jacob responded that he was afraid – afraid that Laban would take his wives (Laban’s daughters) away from him by force.

Jacob fear is evident because he feared man instead of fully trusting in the Lord God who had promised him that he would be with him (Genesis 31:3). Had Jacob trusted completely that God was with him as he said he would, he would not have had to flee in secret.

Points to ponder:
Before we go about passing judgment on Jacob, let us realize that many a times, we also fear men, because we fail to take and trust God at his word.

The opposite of fear is not courage but instead it is faith in God. When the disciples feared for their lives in the storm, Jesus did not question them by asking them “Where is your courage?”. Instead, he asked, “Why they were so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? (Mark 4:40) Faith that is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). By faith, we can see the protecting and providing invisible hand of God in all of life situations and that is all that is needed to dispel fear – the fear of man and not act foolishly.  Fear of men vs. Faith in God.

Jesus said, to all who are in his flock, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) and we can take him at his word. This is what will make us bold to be able to say, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4) for God (Jesus) is with me, (as he promised he would), always.

Genesis 31:17-18, (KJV)
17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
18 And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.

21 
So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead.
22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.
23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.
26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?
27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?
28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.
29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.

Genesis 31:3 (KJV)
And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

Family Consultation (for Confirmation)


Jacob told his wives, Rachel and Leah, that God had asked him to return to the land of his fathers and his kindred – meaning that they would need to leave theirs father’s place. He consults with his family.

Rachel and Leah, both in unison, expressed their grievances against their father, Laban, in whose home, they felt that they were treated as strangers, as a commodity who had been sold. They then told Jacob to do whatever God has asked him to.

From this account, we can see that through family consultation, Jacob gets confirmation of God’s word to him – to do whatever God has instructed him to do.

Points to ponder:
When it comes to divine matters, one resource that the Lord God has given to us is our families. Families can confirm what God wants us to do and reaffirm what God’s will is for our lives.

Genesis 31:14-16 (KJV)

14. And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?
15. Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
16. For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children’s: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do

And then I thought of Job …


May 9-13, 2018, as a family we were in Oklahoma City, OK as our beloved 12 year old Reuben was competing at the 2018 Men’s Junior Olympic USA Gymnastics Nationals Championship competition. Reuben did not do as well as he wanted to and missed qualifying to the final round of competition. While the result was heart breaking for him and hard for us as a family, the outcome from this experience far outweighs any medal he could have earned.

Given below is the writeup by Reuben, who penned down his thoughts, after he felt heart broken. It is a a little long, but take the time to read and be blessed.
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Reuben Paul on his knees before GodOn Friday, May 11th, I competed in the 2018 Men’s Junior Olympic Gymnastics USA Nationals competition in the Level 8, age 12 category in Oklahoma City, OK. I was hoping to qualify for the final round on Sunday, May 13th. I had trained very hard for this event – more than 20 hours a week and I really wanted to qualify and win. My coaches, Greg Dolittle and Lee Ho, had put so much time into training me. Also many friends from church like Suja aunty & Josh uncle were praying for me. Santhosh uncle from India wished me well and was praying for me. Even on the morning of the competition, Suresh uncle prayed over me. I personally went on my knees and pleaded for God to give me success, and I went trusting that God would show up to help me do well.

PB routine as Coach Lee Ho watches

During the practice and training sessions, I ‘hit’ every routine. A hit in gymnastics means – no fall during the routine. But at the preliminary qualifying competition, I fell on my first event and then there were more falls. I came 68th in place and felt a little disappointed. However I thought that I had qualified to the final round on Sunday. I was happy at one moment, thinking that I had a chance to do better in the finals, but then the next moment, when my coach informed me that because of a change that the USA gymnastics organization had made, he was sorry, I did not make it, I felt crushed. According to the USA Gymnastics published information, the top 72 in my age and level category would qualify for the finals but they changed it to take only the top 60 to the final round. I missed qualifying to the final round, because of this change.
Joel Montgomery with Reuben and Ittai

It was heart breaking. Emotionally, it was very very hard. I cried. I cried and felt like my dreams were shattered and my heart was broken. Coach Greg felt so sorry and bad for me. My teammate, Joel (Level 10, 16 year old gymnast), tried to console me and said it was okay. My dad said he was helpless watching me crumble and weep bitterly. I think this was the first time, I had cried so much. My mom hugged me tight and said that she was proud of me. Even my sweet little 6 year old brother, Ittai, who was sad for me, wanted me to feel good and said “Maybe the judges did not see me all the time and gave me bad scores.” (I think the judges were fair though).

Olympic Medalist Raj Bhavsar with Reuben - a mentor and friendI know they all meant well but I just wanted to get away from there and go back to the hotel room and hide. We were walking back to the hotel room, when Olympic medalist, Raj Bhavsar, who had some of his own team’s gymnasts competing in the next event, texted my dad, asking if we were still in the area. He said he was in the back gym. I reluctantly walked back to meet him. He encouraged me saying that, he once did not qualify and that it was hard, but to get to the top sometimes you have to hit the bottom. He said I was a brilliant kid. Thinking back now, I am very grateful to Raj for taking the time for meeting with me (even when he had his own gymnasts who were getting ready to compete) and his encouraging words.

We got back to the hotel and my mind was raising with many emotions and questions. I cried more, holding on to mama and dada. My parents let me weep. Ittai, tried to help – he said that “if God wanted me to qualify, he would have made it happen.”

The next day, we drove home. During the 6 hours drive, my dada was internally sad and wrestling with God with many questions. He was questioning God as to “Why he would not raise his child up, who is shameless and bold to share about his faith, be it as a cybersecurity conference or at a gymnastics competition?”, “How could God be so mean?”, “Does not the unbeliever mock God, when God does not show up to the aid of his own children?”

I had many questions of my own – questions about the event, the training, and even my faith. Questions like “What if I had not fallen?”, “Why did I not get better scores?”, “Was my training not enough?”,  “How can this be?”, “Why did they change the cut off level?” and most importantly, “How can God do this to me?”, “Why did God not show up?”, “Why, Why, Why …” We reached home and went to bed.The next morning on the way to church, my dada shared with us, that he was angry with God and questioned Him. Then he realized that maybe God was trying to teach us something. He said “Diamonds are rough and not good to look at when they are in the ground, they are formed under intense pressure and heat and with the careful chiseling of a gem-smith, they are shaped into beautiful items – items fit to go into the crown of a king.” He said, “Heartbreaks make your heart grow stronger, but what is important is that your heart is one that seeks after God’s own heart”. “God may be trying to teach us something”, he said. I replied, “Dada, I had my questions too… I felt God did not show up and was not with me, even though I wanted to give him the glory… and then I thought of Job”

See, the Bible teaches us that Job was a good man, an upright man, a blameless man and yet he lost everything — his property, his health to the point of death, and even his children. When compared to what Job had to grow through, me missing the final round was nothing. My dada reminded me that even more than Job, Jesus had to suffer pain and anguish on the Cross to death. See, there is no crown without the cross.

I have a year to train harder and try again next year. Next time, I am down and feel like questioning God, or feel that he did not show up, I hope I remind myself, to think of Job (and Jesus). Coach Greg Dolittle making sure Reuben is all set

 

P.S: I want thank my coaches, Coach Greg and Coach Lee, for their time and effort in training me. I am very thankful to mentor and friend Raj Bhavsar for his encouraging words. I want to thank Josh uncle, Suja aunty, Santhosh uncle and Suresh uncle, for their prayers. I love my mama and dada and my brother Ittai very much and thank God for them in my life. To God alone be the glory… not my will, but his be done in my life. Let me always think of Job.