Old Testament stories communicate to our hearts thousands of years after the story has taken place. They give us extraordinary examples of God’s goodness in the midst of chaos, unfairness and shame.
The story of Leah and Rachel, in Genesis, is a shining example of God’s understanding in the midst of one of the most bizarre, twisted and unfair situations a lady could possibly find herself in.
Life dealt Leah a most unfair hand. She was not as beautiful as her sister, Rachel. The Bible even brought this to everyone’s attention:
“And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.” (Genesis 29:17 NASB)
Leah was forced to marry a man who did not want her. She was not chosen and loved by her husband. In fact, her father deceived the man she was made to marry. Leah spent her first night with her husband under the disguise of being someone else. Can you imagine the shame, pain and rejection that Leah would feel?
That was only the beginning of many rejections Leah would encounter during her life’s journey. She lived in a culture where a husband could have many wives. Leah lived knowing she would never be the love of her husband’s life. Her sister, Rachel, was her husband’s chosen beloved. Jacob made his feelings well known about this and forced Leah to live day in and day out rejected and unwanted by her husband.
Leah’s life was spent in a marriage where she and her sister were rivals vying for the attention of Jacob. One incident in Leah’s life vividly stands out as being the ultimate in bringing shame on oneself. Oh the desperation Leah had to have Jacob’s attention.
“One day during the wheat harvest, Reuben found some mandrakes growing in a field and brought them to his mother, Leah. Rachel begged Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” So that evening, as Jacob was coming home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him. “You must come and sleep with me tonight!” she said. “I have paid for you with some mandrakes that my son found.” So that night he slept with Leah.” (Genesis 30:14-16 NLT)
To have to pay to have your own husband sleep with you would make the person feel so ashamed and so unwanted. To have to buy the attention of your husband for one night in the hopes of getting pregnant so you could have another child to bring favour on your life … oh the shame, pain and rejection.
In reading the entire story, I believe that God understood Leah’s pain and shame. He didn’t change her situation; but, He blessed her with many children. Leah struggled and contended for Jacob’s attention all of her married life; but, often we catch glimpses of where Leah took her eyes off her situation and saw the goodness of God and praised Him for blessing her in the midst of her mess.
God understands what it is like to be rejected. He understands when people have to live in the midst of a family situation that is just messy. He understood the pain Leah carried, and I am sure He understood the shame she felt in not being the ultimate woman of beauty that her husband desired.
God sees and knows when a person is treated unfairly. God saw Hagar when she was rejected and sent away unprotected by Abraham into the desert at Sarah’s request. Although God had plans for Abraham and his descendants, God never overlooked Hagar in her predicament. He sent help and provision to Hagar when she gave up and left her son to die.
Life may not always give you the best of situations to live in. You may feel rejected, scorned and ashamed because …
- You are not as beautiful as society or a person wants you to be
- You are not as smart as others
- You look different or dress differently than others
- Someone you loved rejected you and walked away
- Your family rejected you
- You were bullied and scorned at school
- You are different because of ________________ (The list is endless because anything can make a person different from someone else … God made us all different!)
Leah’s story gives us strength and assurance that all of us walk through circumstances in our lives that scream out shame, pain and rejection to us.
God does understand and has a plan. He also gives us the strength to live in our circumstances! He NEVER treats us this way. He lets us know how much He loves us and gives us the strength to rise above our circumstances and praise Him and thank Him for His goodness even when everything surrounding us shrieks, “You are not wanted or loved!”
God’s love is enough if we keep our focus on Him. He can make His love so real that no other love or person’s acceptance compares to God’s love. No matter what surrounds us in this human realm, in the spiritual realm we have God the Almighty Defender, God the Mighty Warrior, God the Lover of our Souls as our guardian and keeper. He is our fierce protector and most loving Father. God is love. He made us just the way we are and loves us with a passion that no human being could ever 100% replicate.
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:3 NASB)