Thursday, July 21

Because it's Hard

Leah was the older, less charming one. She never could hold a candle to her beautiful little sister. Rachel had it all. The beauty and the love of a good man. Leah had…

Her father. Whether he persuaded Leah to participate in his trickery or she was a willing accomplice we don’t know. But we do know that when Jacob woke up after spending his wedding day at the side of Rachel, it was Leah in his bed.

His anger must have been fierce and Leah’s embarrassment complete. Not only did Jacob not want her, he now had to be with her for the rest of the wedding feast and then her father would allow him Rachel as well. Would she never be rid of her pretty little twit of a sister?

Imagine her delight when she discovered she carried his child. She was about to give him a firstborn. I’m sure she prayed to Jacob’s God and every other god that she would have a son. And she did. She gave him what his precious Rachel could not: an heir.

Reuben, she named him. “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

But Jacob still did not love her.

Simeon came along next. “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved,” she says, “he gave me this one too.”

Another son. Levi. “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

With each son, her hope sinks. At first she hopes for love. With her third son, she hopes only for attachment.

Something happens between her third and fourth boys. What, we do not know. But we do know her perspective altered dramatically.

She named her fourth boy Judah. Judah means praise, and she says, “this time I will praise the Lord.”

Leah received four gifts from God almighty, and somewhere between Levi and Judah, she determined that they were gifts not payments. I wonder if she felt relief. A great burden is lifted when you look at your blessings rather than your pain. We talk about that a lot on this blog. We are learning to always be in a state of thanksgiving despite our circumstances.

The catch, of course there is a catch, is that this attitude of thanksgiving is something that must be constantly surrendered. A change in attitude rarely changes circumstances.

Leah had given Jacob, four times over what her sister could not. And even though she was adored by her husband, Rachel wanted more. Try as she might, she could not conceive. While her ugly sister cranked out baby after baby, Rachel’s arms remained empty. She finally grew desperate enough to send in the cavalry—in this case, her maidservant.

It sounds creepy in our culture to send in a servant to sleep with your lawfully wedded just so you can get a baby out of the deal, but the practice was not all that uncommon back then. The child became property of the wife. So Rachel was delighted when her servant bore a son on her behalf.

“God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” And she named him Dan.

Then Rachel’s servant had another son: Naphtali. “I have had a great struggle with my sister,” Rachel said of this boy, “and I have won.”

Rachel must have made it practically impossible for Leah. If it’s a struggle she wants, a struggle she will get! And Leah, whose womb had inexplicably stopped producing, sent in her servant.

“What good fortune!” She said of Gad. And “How happy I am!”

On the surface, the reactions are not so distressing, but add the exclamation marks and make them directly after Rachel’s snarky comments, and we have just added fuel to the fire.

Leah allows her sister to drag her back into the pit.

By the time Issachar arrives, she isn’t seeing things very clearly. “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.”

When Zebulon is born, she has twisted her praise and her disillusionment together into a depressing theology. “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.”

We know the rest. Jacob never saw Leah as anything more than a machine to grind out heirs. And even then, once Rachel gave him Joseph and Benjamin, Leah’s children meant little more than the hired help.

Leah’s heart changed for a while. But she gave up when it got too hard. She gave up and lived a very sad life, fraught with insecurity. I don’t want that out of life. Do you? To catch a glimpse of glory only to fall back into the pit because it’s easier and more comfortable?

Don’t give up! It is hard. And it’s likely to get harder. But do not give up and miss out on your inheritance!

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. 
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will 
through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 
so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: 
bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might 
so that you may have great endurance and patience
and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you 
to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness 
and brought us into the kingdom of the 
Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, 
the forgiveness of sins. 
Colossians 1:9-14


Aly sun said...

A really beautifully written and inspiring post. I loved reading it and am newly inspired by a story I had forgotten about. Thank you.

Rocky Mountain Homemaker said...

I have never read such an insightful account of Leah's and Rachel's story. We can all sink easily into despair and bitterness in so many areas. Lord, please search our hearts to see where bitterness might be hiding.
Bless you today, dear......Denise

Linds and Manda said...

Thank you for breaking down the story like you did. I agree, it was insightful and it made me consider Leah in a different light. I think I've always just seen her as a victim but she did have the opportunity to stay out of the pit. It must have been very hard with what happened to her but I'm learning that we need to be thankful in spite of our circumstances.