When I was a child, I came across half of a gold Mizpah necklace that my father gave my mother. A Mizpah coin is a traditional Jewish gift and on it is an Old Testament verse: “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from another.” The coin itself is cut into two jagged parts. My mom had one half of it, and I am sure my dad carried around the other half, so it was indicative of their love for each other and very special to me.
In Hebrew the term “Mizpah” means “outlook” or “watchtower” and was first used in the book of Genesis. One of the Old Testament patriarchs, Jacob, fell in love with his uncle Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and served his uncle for twenty years, primarily so that he could marry Rachel. Because of some trickery that Laban did, Jacob ended up marrying Rachel’s sister, Leah, as well. But after two decades of labor, Jacob was ready to go home and didn’t want his persuasive uncle to delay him any further, so he and his family stole away in the middle of the night without Laban knowing.
When Laban discovered that Jacob and his daughters had fled, he pursued them and overtook them seven days later at Gilead. After a heart-to-heart conversation with his son-in-law, it was there at Gilead that Laban relented and decided to let Jacob and his family go. The two came to a truce, and this place of covenant was also known as “Mizpah” when Laban said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other” (Genesis 31:49).
For many of us in the midst of isolation and social distancing, we are away from our families and our friends, who are like family, but until we see them again, we don’t need a necklace to remind us. We can pray the Mizpah over them.
There is evidence of something like a Mizpah prayer found in the New Testament. Before Jesus went to the cross, he celebrated Passover with his disciples. In Luke 22:15, it says he eagerly desired to eat this Passover with his twelve disciples before he suffered. This Greek word for “eagerly desired” also means “longing” or “craving.” Jesus had an intense desire to be with his disciples because he knew his time on earth was short. It may be the way we are feeling now. We are longing to be with family during this important season of remembrance.
After this intimate Passover meal between Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room, our Savior spent time at the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed this over his friends: “Holy Father protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11). Jesus understood the power found in praying the Mizpah, calling upon our heavenly protector, God the Father, to watch over loved ones.
Today, we have been given that power as well. As we prepare to celebrate the risen Christ, let’s spend time in God’s presence, lifting up our family members and friends who because of the “shelter-at-home” order we are separated from this Easter. They may be miles away or just a few minutes down the road—still apart—because of this period of isolation. Let’s pray the Mizpah together: “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.”
I pray you have a beautiful Easter celebration, and may the LORD watch over you.
Categories: Devotion of the Week