Parasha With Passion – Torah Reading Cycle – Week #7
In Parashat Vayetzei, Jacob experiences an open heaven at Bethel, falls in love with Rachel, marries Leah, builds a family, deals with rivalry and conflict in his home, outwits Laban, flees Padan-aram, makes a covenant with Laban, and is escorted by angels. Wow, this is a power-packed Torah reading.
Today, let us focus on the subject of dealing with conflict. As we read (Genesis Chapters 28-31), we notice that Laban is a huge mirror of Jacob’s own flawed character. They were cut from the same cloth. The only difference between Jacob and Laban was that Jacob was destined to become the man in whom God would build a nation.
Dealing With Conflict
Let’s begin our study with the declining relationship of Jacob and Laban in Genesis Chapter 31. In Genesis 31:1-3, we read that Laban’s household had become envious of Jacob’s prosperity. Yet, as Jacob’s relationship with Laban weakened, his walk with God strengthened. The word of God stirred in Jacob’s heart that it was time to return home to Canaan.
Now Jacob heard the words Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belongs to our father, and from what belongs to our father he has made all these riches.” Then Jacob saw Laban’s face, and he noticed that his expression wasn’t the same as it was just a day or two before. Then Adonai said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
After many years of dealing with Laban’s cheating ways Jacob decided to pack up his family and return to Canaan. Jacob fled from the presence of Laban, but Laban pursued him. Hot on Jacob’s trail, God appears to Laban in a dream. In the dream, the Lord warned Laban to be careful how he treated Jacob – not to even speak a harsh word to Jacob. The anointing of “touch not my anointed ones” was upon Jacob’s life. When we belong to God, He will go to extreme measures to keep us safe.
Finding Peace at Mizpah
“May the Lord watch between me and you while we are absent one from another.”
These words have become a benediction that has been recited among Christians throughout the ages – but to Jacob and Laban it was more than a benediction – it was a WARNING.
Why were these words a warning? God sees EVERYTHING. At times we think that we know it all. But, at best we only see through a glass darkly. Yet, God sees it ALL – and he calls into account both sides of the story. Let’s go deeper…
Mizpah was the name of the watchtower that Jacob and Laban built before they parted ways (Gen 31:49-52). The watchtower was erected as a buffer between these two extremely conflicted men. Mizpah represents the presence of God watching over their hostile situation. Mizpah became the place where these two men called upon God to intervene in their conflict.
At this point in their relationship Jacob and Laban knew that it was best that they part ways. They’ve both done things that made it impossible to trust the other. They would have loved to kill one another, but they chose to bless one another and move on instead.
So, the two men drew a line in the sand – they built a watchtower. As they walked out of each other’s lives they uttered these famous words:
“May the Lord WATCH between me and thee while we are absent one from another.” (Genesis 31:49)
The covenant that both Laban and Jacob entered at Mizpah protected not only Jacob, but also his wretched father-in-law, Laban. And this is how Laban described the terms of Mizpah in (Genesis 31:52):
“I will not go past this watchtower to your side to harm you, and you will not go past this watchtower to my side to harm me. May the Lord watch between me and thee.”
…And if either side chose to come against each other – it was the presence of the Lord that they would face. From this we learn that inviting God into our conflicted situation brings lasting victory.
Sometimes We Just Have To Let Things Go
Life is constantly moving and progressing. Our life journey is being weaved into a beautiful tapestry of relationships that God will bring in/out of our lives. Season change and people change. When a relationship ends we must know when the purposes of God have been accomplished in that relationship – in that season. In the prophetic words of the famous country singer, Kenny Rogers: “You got to know when to hold ‘em; know when tofold ‘em; know when to walk away; and know when to run…” We must know when it’s time to walk away.
That doesn’t mean that the person that we had to walk away from is a bad person – it just means that their chapter in our life has either ended or come to a pause. Sometimes we just have to let things go. Sometimes we will have to let some people go.
Your Next Level
After the confrontation with Laban, along his journey, Jacob stumbled upon a company of angels. Now how cool is that!
Jacob calls this place, Mahanaim, which means “the two camps” or “two worlds” (spiritual/natural). This was a place where the veil between the two worlds became thin and God allowed Jacob to see the bright-harnessed angelic escorts that were traveling with him.
Jacob needed this reassurance because he knew that eventually he would have to resolve the twenty-year conflict with his brother Esau. From there Jacob is escorted into the very presence of God on the banks of the Jabbok River – Peniel. There Jacob is changed forever.
In order to move forward into the destiny that God had for him, Jacob not only had to deal with the conflicts in his life, Jacob had to deal with HIMSELF. At Peniel, no longer defined by his past, Jacob walked into his destiny. Jacob’s identity was changed. He was transformed in the presence of God. Jacob became the man in whom God would build His nation and his people: ISRAEL.
Like Jacob, the desire to change is often the catalyst that will push us into our purpose. God desires for His children to live our best life. Like Jacob, we too can experience change and walk in the highest expression of who we are as children of God. Let us go forward today, committed to live our best life for the glory of God! Amen!
Torah: Genesis 28:10 – 32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 12:13
Next Torah Portion: Vayishlach