Then Laban declared, “This pile of stones will stand as a witness to remind us of the covenant we have made today.” … It was also called Mizpah (which means “watchtower”), for Laban said, “May the Lord keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this covenant when we are out of each other’s sight.” – Genesis 31:48-49 (NLT)
For his own advantage, Laban exploited the services of his son-in-law, Jacob. After retaliating with some manipulation of his own, Jacob leaves Laban’s compound without notice, along with his wives and the sizable household and livestock he accumulated for himself.
After pursuing Jacob with indignation and catching up with him, Laban is determined to prevent any further deceit on either of their part. So a covenant between Laban and Jacob is made, binding both of them to honest interaction and setting the boundary for the separate development of their households.
Recognizing their shared penchant toward opportunism, Laban orders stones to be piled up. Laban then declares the stone heap to be a witness and a symbol of the covenant of mutual respect made between Jacob and himself. That stone heap is called mizpah.
Of course, the mizpah itself could not monitor or enforce the covenant between Laban and Jacob. So a prayer was added: “May the Lord watch between us … when we are out of each other’s sight.”
In a world of lies and rumors, contractual loopholes and selective memory, we need more mizpah in our lives. The conviction of a righteous God, and the acknowledgement of a standard of justice, can move all of us toward the common ground of truth and fairness.
Lord you are watching me, so help me to watch and monitor my own biased inclinations. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.