Sunday, April 24, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Mitspah, God our Watchtower

Do you know how many times the nation of Israel was attacked by Palestinian forces in 2021?

In the month of April 2021 alone, the following attacks occurred: "On 15 April, one rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip.[1]

On 23 April, 36 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, of which six were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. Although there were no injuries, property was damaged in several communities in Israel. The Israeli military responded with military strikes.[2]

On 24 April, two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, of which one was intercepted by the Iron Dome, and the other fell in an open area near the border fence.[1]

On 25 April, five rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, of which two was intercepted by the Iron Dome and the others fell either in uninhabited areas or inside the Gaza Strip.[1]"

Israel is under constant threat from surrounding nations in the middle east, but they have a defense system called the iron dome. The iron dome system protects the entire nation of Israel from rocket and artillery shell attacks by launching missiles called Tamir interceptor missiles that are able to lock onto fast moving targets and destroy them in mid-air. The system functions through a radar system able to detect targets within 70 kilometers of each iron dome battery.

Just as Israel is protected by this iron dome defense system, so we as Christians find ourselves protected by our own defense system, God almighty, who the Bible describes as our “watchtower” or our “strong tower.”

This brings us to our Hebrew word for today which is mitspah (mits-paw').

Mitspah means “watchtower” in Hebrew. It comes from the book of Genesis chapter 31 verse 49 which says, “It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.”

So Mitspah is meant to indicate the concept that God will watch over us and protect us if we are indeed His people. Of course, if we are not his people, he does not promise to watch over us. But from the Hebrew word we see that this concept is really meant to be seen in the context of relationship.

Really, what you see here is even more deeply, a covenant agreement. The Israeli iron dome system was set up with certain costs and agreements and contracts and it was installed and is functional and active right now. In the arrangement the system protects Israel from danger.

We as Christians are in covenant relationship with God. It’s a sort of written contract, in which we’ve signed on the dotted line saying, yes I’m a follower of Jesus. I accept and receive Christ as my savior. And I agree to live by the commandments indicated in the New Testament for believers in that covenant.

We are part of it. And we’ve agreed to.

It’s somewhat like a marriage. You marry your wife, or your husband, and you’re making a binding agreement to love them, to share your finances with them, to not cheat on them, to discuss decisions you make with them, and so on and so forth. And marriages can fall apart, even leading to a contract cancellation, in which divorce takes place.

So when we enter the grace of Jesus Christ, God agrees to wipe away our past sins, and he becomes our Lord, and we become his servants. And God agrees to be our protectors, in which he watches over us, he becomes our Mitspah, our watchtower.

A watchtower in ancient times was a powerful defensive structure that was usually constructed from stone or blocks, and a soldier or several soldiers would be stationed inside of it, at the top, to watch for enemy troops or dangers. They could then fire their weapons from the tower, to protect their lands from the enemy.

Similarly, the Creator is our protector as Christians. He is our watch tower, watching our lives from above, protecting us, and watching our fields grow into beautiful harvests for Him.

How many times in your life have things worked out just as they should, even when it seemed unlikely that it could work out? How many times have you been in the right place at the right time to get just what you needed? That is God orchestrating our lives, by being a watch tower over our lives.

But it’s not just a weapons platform, or an iron dome protecting us from death or destruction, God instead is in covenanted relationship with us, covenant, agreement, written agreement with us, and it’s built on deep, love-rich relationship, like marriage, or family. But it’s also a contract, with stipulations and mutual agreements. God agrees to do this, we as his people agree to do this. That’s how it works. And in the context of Genesis 31 we see this playing out.

Here we see Jacob and Laban. Jacob works for Laban. Jacob married Leah his daughter. But the problem is Laban keeps cheating Jacob, over and over. So one day God says to Jacob, leave this place, and I’ll protect you.

But Jacob leaves without telling Laban he’s going. And his wife steals some of his stuff as they leave. So Laban finds out and he’s mad, and he chases after Jacob. But God spoke to Laban in a dream, telling him to deal fairly with Jacob.

So Laban and Jacob argued back and forth. But eventually they worked it out. And they decided to make an agreement between each other. They built a pillar of stones, as a written agreement to say that they were at peace, and that though they would be separate from each other, in different directions, they were swearing before God that they would stay true to each other in the agreement.

Much the same occurs when two businesses work together, they sign a contract, and agree to help each other. When I served in an internship with the salvation army St Louis treatment center, we had entered into a written agreement with local radio station K-love, to do a Christian rock concert together. It was great, it went really well. And the written agreement kept us both honest in our dealings with each other.

We Mitspah each other, we watched over each other. In a similar way, God watches over us, as a lover, guarding our hearts, to help keep our hearts true to Him. And God agrees to love us and guide us and be with us in the struggles of life.

Often we will see friends who have a heart necklace and one friend each takes half the heart on separate necklaces. And it’s a reminder of their friendship toward each other.

We are in relationship with God, and our faith in Jesus Christ makes us part of the written covenant, that if we follow Jesus by faith, God agrees to wash away our sins and give us eternal life with Him in paradise.

Then again, if we renounce Christ, and or are unfaithful to our commitments, and get drunk or commit sins and commit adultery, we violate the covenant, and it can also be cancelled by God, if we do not repent and return to Him.

So, in conclusion today, God is our Mitspah, our watch tower. He watches over us, if we obey Him. He agrees to lead us, guide us, love us, and grow us through our lives, all the way to eternal life with Christ in paradise, forever. Amen.