When we mention Jacob and Rachel in the Bible, it’s usually about how he worked 14 years for her. She’s the woman of promise – the one we should wait for.
But I’ve a fascination with the story of Leah, Jacob’s first wife. Her story moves me – I pitied and felt bad for her, yet somehow, when I began to read about her life again this year, I saw the goodness and sovereignty of God.
Because of the greed of Leah’s father and his manipulation and deceit, Leah was thrown into a living hell.
She was put into a situation where she married a man who not only did not love her, but found that her very own sister was her husband’s one true love.
The final verses of this passage are the most plaintive I know of, hardly anywhere in the Bible, because, each time she names a child, she says, “Now maybe my husband will love me. Now maybe I’ll have some meaning in life.”
She named her firstborn ‘Reuben’ because it means ‘I’m seen’. Then she had another child, ‘Simeon,’ meaning ‘I’m heard’. And yet another whom she named ‘Levi – ‘Now I’m attached’.
Each time a child comes along, she says, “Now maybe finally I’ll be visible to him. Now maybe finally I’ll be heard. Now maybe finally he’ll cleave to me.” And each time she’d tell herself, “Surely my husband will love me now.”
But it never happens.
What we have here is a form of idolatry where you put your hope in something or someone to give you a sense of being loved, valued, and meaning in life. The idols of this world are not just made with hands, but are good gifts given by the Lord which we’ve made the ultimate things in our lives.
Even Jacob remarked, “If I get this gorgeous wife on my arm, then I finally will have happiness.” But it doesn’t work this way.
And poor Leah turns and says, “If I have sons, if I’ve this wonderful family, then I’ll be worth something. Then I’ll be loved.”
What’s so fascinating when we read this passage is that she keeps turning to her husband for validation until the very end. At the end however, something changed. Something radically changed in her heart.
When she finally stopped looking to man and started praising the Lord, something happened.
At the instance where she finally said to herself, “I’m going to praise the Lord”, she got her life back. All those who used and abused her didn’t matter any longer.
Somewhere through the process, she encountered the goodness of God. She finally had the revelation that, even amidst her pain, Yahweh had heard her, He had seen her – and He had always been close to her.
When she finally stopped looking to her husband for the things that only God could give, her worldview changed. God came to Leah and gave her a seed in Judah that would bear the Promise of the Messiah. Little did she know that her son would be the forefather of King David and eventually, Jesus.
Leah the outsider. Leah the ugly. Leah the rejected. Because she grabbed hold with faith, she got her life back from those who had ruined it for her. What a glorious picture it was!
At the end of the year as we reflect upon our lives, let’s make a decision to be grateful and praise. When we do that, something happens in our hearts.
We can stop looking at the good gifts God has given us to feel validated. That can only happen when we stop looking at our present circumstances and fix our eyes on the Lion of Judah.
I pray that you’ll realise God sees beyond your circumstances and, even in your valley season, He has heard and seen you and He has always been close to you.
And, by the grace of God, your desire for the approval of men will be redeemed to become the desire to praise the Lord, no matter your circumstances.