Monument To Peace
“Located in the southwestern region of the United States is a tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors every year. It is a six-hour drive from the nearest airport and 33 miles from the nearest town. It claims no majestic rock formations or redwoods. Resting in unremarkable landscape, its focal point is nothing more than a small brass disc, roughly three inches in diameter—a government survey marker designating the point at which four different state boundaries meet: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Tourists pose for photographs on all fours—feet in two states, hands in two more—faces beaming with delight of being able to boast that they are in four places at once.
But the tourist fascination with The Four Corners Monument reveals something about us human beings: we cannot be in more than one place at one time. We can move from one place to the next, but we cannot occupy two places simultaneously. Yet God, who is spirit, is able to be everywhere fully present. God, unbound by a body, is not limited to one place. He is not merely big, he is uncontainable, able to be present everywhere.”
Source: Adapted from Jen Wilkin, None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing), (Crossway, 2016), pages 93-94.
Judy and I still have our unity candle from our wedding
The candle is a monument to our covenant of two becoming one flesh
When our dog, Socks, was hit and killed on the road in Ohio, we buried him in the woods on Judy’s parents property and I stuck a stick in the ground, so we would remember where he was buried
When our cat Clyde-Barney-Skittles (CBS) was hit and killed on the road in front of our current house, we buried him in the woods by the pond and put a large flat stone over the place where he was buried
These are markers/monuments that help us remember
I have a baseball trophy from when I played Little League in Shippensburg
Our team went 14-0, if I remember correctly
We were undefeated that season
It was a monument to our success
How many of us had some kind of unity representation as part of our wedding ceremony? (candle, sand, tied ropes, cross, etc.)
How many of us still have that item in our possession?
How many of us have that item prominently displayed in our homes?
Most us have a loved one that has passed away
My guess is that every person who has passed away has some kind of marker or headstone at their burial plot
How many of us visit the cemetery to remember our loved one?
Many of us have probably lost a pet and perhaps buried them on our property with a marker showing where they are buried?
How many of us have trophies from the sports we have played?
How many of us have deer heads, deer antlers, fish, or other wild animals on our wall as a monument to success? (I’m still lacking a set of deer antlers on my wall, but I have deer meat in mason jars)
These are like monuments to our marriage, loss of a loved one or family pet, or success in sporting events and/or outdoor endeavors
As we learned last week, Laban suggested that he and Jacob make a covenant of peace. Today we will see how they marked that covenant with a stone monument and heap of stones. Their monument was not marking a marriage or a death, but rather peace. They were calling on God to be the judge between them while they were separated from each other. We will learn today that . . .
BIG IDEA – God is our witness to living at peace with others.
GOD (Genesis 31:45-55)
Attest (vv. 45-47)
To mark the covenant between himself and Laban, Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar
This is not the first time that Jacob has set up a stone as a pillar to remember something significant in his life
When he left Beersheba for Haran, he spent the night in a place, that he then called Bethel
He placed a stone under his head, and that night he had an incredible dream from God
Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. (Genesis 28:18)
He not only set up a single stone as a pillar, but he encouraged his relatives to gather some stones
Jacob’s relatives gathered smaller stones and placed them in a pile
After heaping up these stones, they sat down and ate a meal together
Presumably the author is referencing the meal that Jacob prepares following the sacrifice in verse 54
Keil & Delitzsch believe the stone heap may have served as a table for the meal [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 192]
“Both families gathered stones and ate a meal together on those stones as a symbol of the agreement they had reached. Eating a meal together is an Eastern custom when creating a binding agreement (26:26-33).” [Wiersbe, The Bile Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 130]
Isaac prepared a meal for Abimelech and his two advisors when they came to make a treaty with him (Genesis 26:26-33)
Most scholars believe the heap of stones was used as a boundary marker, because that is what the narrator explains in verse 52
“That the narrative specifically includes that they ate ‘there’ (šām) anticipates the role of the heap as a boundary marker (v. 52).” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 1:27-50:26, 532]
Both Laban and Jacob gave the heap the same name, but in two different languages
Jegar Sahadutha (yegar’ sah-had-oo-thaw’)
It means “witness heap” or “heap of witness”
It is significant that after 20 years of living in Haran with Laban that Jacob chooses to use his native tongue (Hebrew) to name the heap of stones
This helps us understand that Jacob had not forgotten his vow to the Lord at Bethel when he was traveling to Haran (Genesis 28:20-22)
Jacob had not forgotten or forsaken his ethnicity, religion, or culture
“This symbolism reminds us that these men came from two different ethnic groups, two different religions, and two different cultures.” [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 266]
The heap of witness was significant for both men
What we see next is Laban explaining “the purpose of the stones and the conditions of the treaty” [Mathews, 533]
Agree (vv. 48-53a)
This is what Laban and Jacob are agreeing to
The pillar and heap of stones would serve as a witness between Laban and Jacob
God was going to be the witness between them both as to how Jacob treated Laban’s daughters and how Jacob treated Laban
God would be the witness to whether or not Jacob and Laban would be living at peace with each other
God is our witness to living at peace with others.
Laban gives the pillar and stone heap another name
He calls it Mizpah (mits-paw’), which means watchtower
Laban was calling on God to keep watch between them both while they are away from each other
Laban knows that he will no longer be able to keep an eye on Jacob, since he will be in Canaan and Laban will be in Haran
We see the conditions of the treaty/agreement
Treat daughters well
Laban reminds Jacob that God is watching how he treats Leah and Rachel
God will know if Jacob mistreats them
God will know if Jacob takes other wives besides Laban’s daughters – that would potentially lessen the inheritance that his daughter’s children would gain
Even though his daughter’s felt like their father did not care about them (treated them as foreigners), that was not necessarily true
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is all seeing and all knowing!
Laban emphasized the fact that while they were apart, God would see and know how Jacob treated his daughters
Nothing would be outside the purview of God
The same is true for us
There is nothing we can think, say, or do that God is not aware of
He sees everything we do (how we treat others, what we look at, etc.)
He hears everything we say (whether it lifts others up or tears them down)
He knows every thought we have and the intention of our hearts (whether we are truthful with others or deceptive, whether we genuinely love others or not, etc.)
God is our witness to living at peace with others.
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Confess to the Lord anything I have thought, said, or done that displeases Him.
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Acknowledge that God sees and knows whether I am living at peace with others.
Laban was not just concerned about the conditions of his daughters, but he was also concerned about his own well being
Treat Laban well
The pillar and heap of stones would also serve as a witness and boundary marker against hostilities
Laban would not go southwest past the pillar and heap to harm Jacob
Jacob would not go northeast past the pillar and heap to harm Laban
God as Judge
Laban calls on the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor to be the judge between them
“The verb judge is plural, indicating that Laban has two deities in mind . . . In context, this should be translated ‘the gods of their father’ (see Josh. 24:2).” [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 434]
Laban is still entrenched in polytheism
He obviously believes that the God of Abraham is separate and unique from the God of Nahor
PRINCIPLE #2 – God is our Judge!
There is only One God
Isaiah 44:6, “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”
1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 43:10-11, “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.”
Deuteronomy 6:4, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
He is our Judge
Psalm 7:9, O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.
Psalm 75:7, But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
Psalm 50:6, And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge.
2 Timothy 4:8, Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
James 4:12, There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?
God is able to judge us righteously and fairly, because He is all seeing and all knowing
Laban calls on the gods of Abraham and Nahor to be the judge between them
He wants to be treated well and he wants his daughters to be treated well in his absence
What we see next is Jacob taking an oath to the only true God
Affirm (vv. 53b-54)
Fear of his father Isaac
This is the second and final use of this name for God
As was mentioned last week, this name of God can also be translated as the “Awesome One of Isaac”
Jacob will not take an oath by the gods of Nahor, only the God of Abraham
Jacob made a sacrifice to the Lord in the hill country of Gilead
It can be assumed that he used some the animals from his flock, though it is not stated here
He invites his relatives to a meal following the sacrifice
This would have included his own family members and Laban’s family members also
“A meal subsequent to the sacrifice would normally mean that the meal consisted of the animals that were just offered.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 315]
“A sworn oath and a meal commonly accompanied a peace agreement.” [Mathews, 536]
Genesis 26:30-31, Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace.
Exodus 34:15, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.”
With their bellies full and their hearts united, it was time for sleep
“With the treaty established and the witness heap built, the combatants became relatives once more so they ate and slept in the same campground.” [Gangel & Bramer, 267]
Peace had been established between Laban and Jacob
They were relying on God to be their witness and judge so that peace would be maintained
God is our witness to living at peace with others.
Adieu (v. 55)
The time has come for Laban and his relatives to return home
The evidence that peace had been established is how Laban treated his grandchildren and daughters
He kissed them
He blessed them
He returned home
Since God is all seeing and all knowing and therefore judges perfectly, are there any thoughts, words, or actions that you need to confess to Him?
Since God is our witness, is there anything you need to change in order to live at peace with others?
As a body of believers, we need to make sure that our thoughts, words, and actions are pleasing to the Lord
We also need to acknowledge that God sees and knows whether or not we are living at peace with other churches and our neighbors
“As 2020 draws to a close, much of humanity appears to agree that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has turned the year into chaos. One company is now selling ornaments, which embody the feeling.
Manufacturer RexRoi specializes in 3-D printing, and one of their original pieces is proving to be quite special in the way it captured the mood of the moment. The popular ornament is a literal dumpster fire, complete with battery-operated flames lighting up one side. The description sums up many feelings on the matter: ‘What a year 2020 has been. The perfect way to commemorate 2020!’
RexRoi CEO Amir Fakharian says that his wife gave him the inspiration for the holiday ornaments. ‘My wife suggested we start making ornaments for Christmas, so we decided to start a line of ornaments representing the year we all had.’”
Source: Hannah Frishberg, “Dumpster fire Christmas ornaments are ‘a perfect way to commemorate 2020,’” New York Post (11-13-20).