Behind the Scene

Genesis 31:43-55

43Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”

45So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.

48Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50If you mistreat 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.”

51Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there. 55Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.

Introduction

Have you heard about the saying: “Behind a great man is a great woman?” During awarding ceremony, awardees would recognize the woman behind their success. Shouldn’t the great woman behind the success of a great man be given recognition instead? Or, the great woman behind the success of the great man should received recognition together with the successful man, right?

For the sake of argument and discussion, if it is proper to give recognition to the great woman behind the success of the great man, who should take the blame behind the scene if a hopeless man fails?

Anyway, if you’ve been successful in life, you must have been grateful. Who is the recipient of your gratitude? Who should receive your thankfulness?

It says in Ephesians 2:10, 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This verse may inspire us to interpret that God has a wonderful plan in our life. True! But we can’t imagine or know everything that God has prepared for us.

For most us, we despise and hate things that are considered failure, why? It is because we cannot perceive what God is doing in our life. We want a perfect lifestyle so that we may have something as proof to show spectators that God has a wonderful plan in the life of believers. Yet, most often than we expect, God allows us to encounter tragic or terrible experiences, why?

To live by faith in Christ includes unpopular things that we may encounter, even things we don’t like to happen in our life. We have in mind an ideal lifestyle of Christian but God has an ideal lifestyle unique for each believer.

Jacob set an example of a believer’s lifestyle. He did not have an ideal life that we hope to have. He had fears of the future. He had no great relationship with his brother Esau, even his wives complained about him, his father-in-law thought that he was a deceiver. Nevertheless, Jacob kept on trusting the Lord.

Previously, Laban admitted his plan to harm Jacob but God warned him in a dream to be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad. Laban understood it that anything he said or did to Jacob have consequences. After Jacob expressed his sentiment about Laban’s unfair treatment, Laban accepted that he cannot do the things he planned to do against Jacob.

43Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 

When he declared, “All you see is mine—the women, the children, and the flocks,” Laban claimed that all belonged to him, things that Jacob accumulated. He bluntly disregarded that Jacob worked 14 years for his daughters, and the flocks were Jacob’s wages for 6 years of service. That was inconsiderate, corrupt and unethical mindset of Laban. He was only concerned about himself.

Nevertheless, Jacob may not be aware that God was also working behind the scene for his favor when the Lord warned Laban not to harm him. God has touched Laban’s heart so that he proposed a covenant favorable to Jacob.

1. Covenant

44Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.” 45So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.

Jacob agreed to Laban’s proposal of covenant between them. Jacob and his relatives gathered stones and built a monument as testament, a tangible sign to the covenant between him and Laban. Laban who was from Paddan Aram used an Aramaic term “Jegar Sahadutha” and Jacob who was Hebrew used Hebrew term “Galeed” when they named the covenant monument they set up.

Both terms “Jegar Sahadutha” and “Galeed” could mean “heap of witness” or “monument of witness.” It was a tangible symbol that a covenant between Laban and Jacob has been agreed upon in that place. The “heap of witness” that Jacob and Laban set up was also a boundary marker to separate their territories.

They agreed that it will be illegal for both Jacob and Laban to trespass beyond the boundary marker that they set up. It is similar to illegal immigration.

Illegal Immigrants

Many non-US citizens entered the US illegally. When caught trespassing on the US soil, illegal immigrants will face legal proceedings or undesirable circumstances.  Countless illegal immigrants have successfully entered the US which encouraged others to try entering the United States illegally.

Anyway, is it proper to say that illegal immigrants have no respect of the law? This illegal method of immigration is a reflection of mindset of those who claim that there are many ways of entering heaven.

The Lord Jesus said in John 14:6, 6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

If a person claim or insist to have another means of entering heaven aside from Christ, such person has illegal idea on how to enter heaven. Can anyone enter heaven illegally? No! Those who enter heaven were already certified by the Holy Spirit as children of God. Only God’s children can enter heaven.

It says in Romans 8:14-17, 14For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory…

“Abba Father” is a Hebrew term used by Jewish children to affectionately address their father. It reflects the closeness between a child and father. How do you affectionately address your father? Dad, Pops, Tatay, Itay? Check and sense it for yourself, if you affectionately long or yearn to address God as your Father.

If indeed, you sense such closeness of affection with God as your Father, the Holy Spirit is actively at work in your life and certifies you to be God’s child.

2. Certification

48Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 

“Mizpah” is a Hebrew term for “watchtower” which may suggest that the “Galeed” or the “heap of witness” that Jacob and his relatives built must have been huge enough for anyone to observe the surrounding and beyond.

Handshake was not enough for Laban and Jacob to certify the covenant they agreed upon. They arranged and piled a “heap of stone” as tangible marker and certification for them and their relatives to remember that the covenant they have agreed upon was not simply word of mouth but with sincerity of the heart.

Moreover, involving their relatives to gather and pile stones into monument marker made that occasion of their covenant more formal and significant.

50If you mistreat 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.” 51Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 

Laban may not easily know how Jacob would treat Leah and Rachel after that occasion but he expected Jacob to be faithful to them, and he invoked God as their witness. The heap of stones they built served also as boundary marker to remind them that they should not plan on attacking each other in the future.

When their relatives helped Jacob and Laban built the monument of witness, they were also included in the covenant of agreement between Jacob and Laban. So, what can we learn from Laban and Jacob’s covenant?

How significant is it to our spiritual life? When they invoke God as witness to their covenant, can we relate it to our personal covenant with the Lord?

It says in Ephesians 1:13-14, 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

When Christ promised eternal life to all who believes in Him, God sent the Holy Spirit into our life to certify and guarantee that the promise eternal life has been given to believers who have received the Holy Spirit. So, how do we practically know that we have received the Holy Spirit and eternal life?

When we receive the Holy Spirit, He certainly makes significant changes in our life. Why? No imperfect human can enter the perfect heaven of God and Christ’s Spirit transforms and set us apart to be holy, perfect and flawless child of God. We can practically sense and notice the changes that the Holy Spirit made in our life, How? We obey Christ’s instructions cheerfully and without reluctance.

By our human effort, we would never obey God cheerfully. God requires cheerful obedience. Our human sinful nature always resists the will of God.

Psalm 14:2-3 says, 2The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

It is proper to say that when one obeys reluctantly, it practically exhibits that the sinful human effort is at work, and Christ is disregarded as Lord. When we forces ourselves to obey Christ’s instruction there’s no cheerfulness. When Christ’s Spirit inspires us, we obey God cheerfully.

Cheerful obedience to God is the kind of holy lifestyle acceptable to God. When God’s grace at work in our life through the transforming empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we will acknowledge wholeheartedly that obedience to God’s instruction benefits us, and it’s automatic to cheerfully obey the Lord.

Car Horn

Cheerful obedience to God is like enjoying your driving and following the road speed limit carefully. But there are times when other drivers don’t drive according to the speed limit. Some are fast, some are very slow.

Have you ever been annoyed while driving next to slow moving vehicles? Have you blown your car horn to signal a slow car ahead of you? How do you normally react when the car tailing you blow its horn?

Imagine yourself driving according to the road speed limit but the car ahead of you is far slower than the speed limit. And, you cannot overtake because you were in a single lane. You are forced to drive as slow as the car ahead of you, right? What would you do? Will you blow your horn?

There are consequences for violators of traffic laws. Experts or beginners, all drivers should follow traffic laws. Similarly, the instructions of Christ are the standards of Christian living for both for long time believers or new believers. When your lifestyle is not in accordance with the teachings of Christ, somebody may blow their horn, and you could be irritated or annoyed.

It says in Hebrew 6:4-8, 4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Just as the monument of covenant serves as symbol and reminder to Jacob, to Laban and to their relatives, of what they agreed upon, God sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to guarantee and remind us that when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we become God’s children with godly lifestyle.

Celebration of Christmas is more meaningful because of our salvation.

3. Celebration

53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there. 55Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.

It’s interesting to notice that Laban mentioned the God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of the father of Abraham and Nahor. He recognized Jacob as his relative eventually. The message that Laban wanted to convey was fairly clear to Jacod so that after he offered a sacrifice. Jacob invited his relatives to a farewell celebration. And the following morning, they parted ways.

Celebrating the covenant Jacob and Laban had agreed upon could be a biblical example for us to celebrate our covenant with the Lord. When we accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, it was some form of covenant. Christ is our Lord, and we follow the instruction of our Lord.

So, if you haven’t done yet, it would be great if you regularly celebrate the time when you decided to accept Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

Not a few are excited to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries but it is more meaningful for believers to celebrate the time when they were assured of eternal life. Are you grateful that you have become God’s children?

How do you express your gratitude that you have been thankful for the assurance of God’s gift of eternal life to you? If you really are very thankful, is it not more proper to celebrate your spiritual birthday than your biological birthday?

As you celebrate Christmas, take time to celebrate your spiritual birthday. The day you accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour is the day you were born spiritually. Can you remember that day? If you cannot remember it, it’s alright. Set a definite date to celebrate your spiritual birthday regularly, year after year.

Do you celebrate Christmas because of your salvation, because you have been assured of eternal life? If you remember and celebrate your spiritual birth regularly, you’ll experience a greater outlook about your relationship with Christ.

Everyone agree that the message of Christmas is love. Indeed, as it says in 1 John 5:1-5, 1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas, we also celebrate that we were born of God spiritually when accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

From now onward, remember to celebrate your spiritual birth regularly.

Have a great and joyous celebration of Christmas!

><(((‘> … ><(((‘> tmec\2018 <‘)))>< … <‘)))><

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