Jumping back into Genesis 31 today where, after a tricky and turbulent relationship, Jacob and Laban reconcile and go their separate ways. Phew. Laban has worked Jacob into the ground for 20 years and then, when Jacob leaves he chases after him across the desert like some crazed assailant. Finally Laban has to let go. He and Jacob reach an agreement and they build a pile of stones as a witness. Obviously they can’t agree on the name, Laban calls the monument Legar Sahadutha which is Arabic, while Jacob calls it Galeed in Hebrew but meaning is the same “heap of witness”.
“Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it is called Galeed. It was also called Mizpah, (meaning watch post) because he said “May the Lord keep watch between you and me while we are away from each other. If you ill-treat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me” Gen 31:49-50
I love this concept of inanimate objects watching and holding us accountable (it makes me giggle picturing them with funny little cartoon features). But of course that isn’t quite how this works… if I was reliant on a pebble or a stick or some other object to pull me up on my life choices or behaviour then I expect I would probably get away with a lot. The witness heap is a symbol that is actually there to remind us that God is watching. And it is God who will hold us accountable for our behaviour even when no-one else sees.
I have a necklace I like to wear with a key on it. It isn’t a particularly fancy key – in fact it isn’t a real key at all. It doesn’t open any doors (except for maybe conversational ones). But for me the key is symbolic – I wear it to remind myself to listen for God’s voice. Often times I forget that God wants to speak to me and that what He has to say is the key to opening up my circumstances and relationships. I like to wear it when I lead worship so that I am remembering not to just whizz through my song list but to stop and wait for the prophetic – to see what the Holy Spirit wants to say or do. Now my necklace is not a lucky charm. It doesn’t hold special powers and if I forget to wear it or choose to wear something else, because it matches my outfit better, then God can still speak to me (obviously.) For me personally it really does help to have something physical as a witness.
The same is true of my wedding ring – my wedding ring isn’t what makes me married – my vows and marriage certificate mean I am legally bound but the little gold band on my finger reminds me to live in the good of that covenant choosing to be faithful and loving to my husband. It’s probably why people committing adultery would remove their ring – not because it will see their behaviour and report back to their spouse but because it speaks to their conscience about their covenant and the fact that God is their witness.
Well Jacob and Laban didn’t have a key or a ring, they had a heap of stones but it served the same purpose, to remind them God sees it all. He sees when someone treats you unjustly at work or takes advantage of you. He sees when you steal or lie or conceal idols in your saddle bag. He sees how you treat your spouse and children when no one else is around (He is not fooled by your social media facade!)
I was also thinking about this verse as it applies to my family relationships. When my kids were tiny I would be with them constantly and be the director of their days, correcting their behaviour and keeping them out of trouble but now, as they grow up I have to let go. I can’t always be there to make sure they are safe and happy and making wise choices. It can be hard letting go. But I can be confident that God is with them. He will keep watch while we are away from each other. He loves them infinitely more than I ever could and is way more able to look after them and shape them. He sustains all things by His powerful word!
I went a bit crazy with the old spectacles acrylic stamp on this page (even though I know God doesn’t need glasses to see me). I love how creating a visual image on my bible page works like a witness heap reminding me of what God has said – today I remember He is with me and He sees everything. I hope you are reminded of that too. Thanks for reading. Much love Rach x
P.s. Sometimes when Katy and I journal a bible page God speaks something very similar to us both although we create in different styles. Other times what stands out from a story can be something quite different for each of us. This is one of those times but I love Katy’s post about this chapter – Being Fathered
Oh and if you want to another story about the role of rocks as witnesses then check out This stone – it’s one of my favourites.