By Emily Sealy
Her name was Leah. She was the oldest of two girls - her younger sister was Rachel. They lived with their parents and helped out around the homestead. Rachel tended the flock of sheep while Leah did other chores.
One afternoon, Rachel took the sheep to the well to be watered, only to quickly return, telling her father of a man she met at the well. It was Jacob - her father’s kinsman. Laban, their father, ran out to meet Jacob, greeting him and welcoming him to his home.
It soon became very clear that Jacob was quite taken with Rachel. This wasn’t surprising. Rachel was very beautiful and many a man had admired her. Within a month, Jacob had made an agreement with Laban that he would work for Laban for seven years, and then would marry Rachel. And that’s exactly what happened. For seven years, Jacob faithfully served Laban. When the time came, Jacob, was even more smitten with Rachel and very ready to marry her. At Laban’s instructions, a wedding feast was prepared. The wedding time had begun.
Leah was mentally preparing herself to sit through the coming ceremony. You see, even though Leah was the oldest, she had always come second to Rachel. Rachel was the one everyone preferred. Rachel had the personality that drew people to her. Rachel was the beautiful one. Leah was plain and simple. No one paid any notice to her.
As these thoughts were going through Leah’s head, her father appeared. He sat down and told her of his plan. It was custom in their time for the older sister to marry first - and that’s exactly what he intended to happen. He planned for Leah to be the one to marry Jacob that day. Leah knew the plan was deceitful. But she knew she needed to obey her father. And she also knew this might be her only opportunity to marry. So, following her father’s instructions, she put on Rachel’s wedding attire, covered herself with a veil, and went to the wedding.
Secretly, she was excited.
She hoped that after the wedding day and wedding night, after Jacob discovered the switch, he would realize that she was just as great as Rachel, and be content with her as his wife. But that was not the case. The next morning, when Jacob discovered the deceit, he was livid. He confronted Laban, demanding an explanation. He had worked for Rachel, and it was Rachel he wanted as a wife.
Laban admitted his trickery, explained the reason, and told Jacob he could still marry Rachel. According to custom, Jacob waited one week, and then he married Rachel. This would not be the fairytale that Leah had hoped it would be. Instead of happily ever after, Jacob would look at her with hatred - probably because every time he looked at her he would be reminded of how he was tricked.
The years went by. God had blessed Leah with fertility - first she had Reuben, then Simeon, then Levi and then Judah. Later on she would have two more sons. With each new son, she desperately hoped that Jacob would finally be pleased with her and love her the way he loved Rachel. But it just didn’t happen. Day after day, year after year, Leah experienced hate, disappointment, and rejection.
Quite the story, huh? And the crazy thing? It’s ALL true. It really happened. I have known this story pretty much my entire life. It has always been taught to me from the perspective of a beautiful romantic love story between Jacob and Rachel. And while it does make for a perfect romance story (boy travels long way, sees beautiful girl at well, falls in love and willingly works many years for said girl in order to marry her). But it is SO much more than that. So. Much. More.
I was recently studying this account (found in Genesis chapter 29 and 30), but this time I found myself drawn to Leah, reading it from her perspective. And my heart went out to her. Although she was the oldest, she was almost always overlooked - always played second fiddle to Rachel. It is even recorded in the Bible for all to see that “Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored.” And while we may not know the exact meaning of “tender eyed,” we can see that it is in contrast to “beautiful and well favored.” In other words, Leah wasn’t something to write home about.
Leah dealt with the pain of rejection - over and over. Each time she presented a new son, her hopes would rise only to be dashed when Jacob’s feelings didn’t change. There were even times she had to bribe Jacob to spend the night with her rather than Rachel (Genesis 30:14-16). What a lonely, disappointing, and hurtful life to live.
Can you empathize with Leah? Have you experienced similar heartbreak, disappointment and rejection in your life? Do you feel overlooked by others, like you aren’t important, that nothing goes your way? Do you have a lonesomeness in your soul? You may have these feelings in a marriage relationship, or a friendship, at your work, in your family, or somewhere else. You may be nodding your head right now saying, “Yes! I feel your pain, Leah!”
Friends, I have some incredible news for you! Yes, Leah felt all those things. But God had not forgotten her. God still saw her. God had great plans for her. Because, you see, it was through Leah - through her son, Judah, that would one day bring us the Savior Jesus Christ. It was through the line of Judah that the only begotten Son of God would come to this earth to save the world from our sins.
Jacob may have chosen Rachel, but God had chosen Leah.
Did that give you chills? It does me! Friends - I have experienced heartbreak! I have felt disappointment. I often feel overlooked and disregarded. I can empathize with Leah as life hasn’t worked out the way I imagined and dreamed. But Leah’s story gives me hope. It reminds me that God can and will work through the disappointment and hardship to bring about His grace. He takes the sadness and broken situations of this world and turns them into redeeming beauty.
I don’t know the struggles you face today. I don’t know the heartache you currently have or had experienced. I don’t see the tears that you shed in the wee hours of the morning. But God does. God sees. He hasen’t overlooked you. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Psalm 147:3 tells us, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”
God was near to Leah and He is near to you.
God brought about beauty through Leah and He wants to bring about beauty through you. And while we can’t always avoid pain and heartache in this sin-filled world, we can put our hope and trust in the Lord, holding fast to the knowledge that He is near you, working for you, weaving a beautiful tapestry out of the fabric of the story of your life. Trust Him. Put your hope in him.