“Then Laban said, “This mound is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore the place was called Galeed and also Mizpah, for he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight.” Genesis 31:48-49 CSB
Does anyone else remember Service Merchandise stores? When I was a teenager, Service Merchandise was “the choice of the catalog showrooms,” as the jingle used to say. We would get the catalog in the mail, and I would pore over it and all the swank swag that was there for the low, low, catalog price.
And when I got interested in girls, I thought, “What could prove my undying devotion to the girl of my dreams more than a piece of jewelry from… SERVICE MERCHANDISE!!! So I switched from obsessing over the home stereo pages to obsessing over the jewelry pages in the 1982 catalog.
And there it was: The Mizpah Coin. A pendant in two pieces, each with a Bible verse on it. A Bible verse! I went to church, she went to church, this would be PERFECT! While she was at cheerleader practice and I was in my basement playing video games, she could feel the pendant around her neck and remember our promise: The Lord keep watch between me and thee while we are apart from one another.
Cue the love theme from An Officer and a Gentleman.
Years later, after the cheerleader blew me off for the quarterback and Service Merchandise went bankrupt, I started to get serious about studying the Bible. And when I read Genesis 31:49 in context, I realized that this was not a promise made between lovers when one went off to war. No, this was an agreement two old con men that they wouldn’t cross into each other’s territory. Jacob and Laban had spent decades trying to cheat and swindle and outsmart one another. They weren’t asking God to watch over them until they could finally be together again. They were each telling God to keep an eye on the other because they never wanted to see each other again:
“This mound is a witness and the marker is a witness that I will not pass beyond this mound to you, and you will not pass beyond this mound and this marker to do me harm.” Genesis 31:52 CSB
At one point, Laban goes positively Liam Neeson on Jacob:
“If you mistreat my daughters or take other wives, though no one is with us, understand that God will be a witness between you and me.”” Genesis 31:50 CSB
Friends, there are people who know God’s Word well enough to make it say anything they want it to say. Satan tried it and succeeded with Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1). He tried it and failed with Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple (Matthew 4:5-6). He will try it with you. Your best defense against deception is knowing what the Bible means, and not just cherry-picking your favorite verses.
Understanding the Bible in context may never win the heart of the cheerleader. But it will draw you near to the heart of God.