Family relationships are some of the most complex blessings and stressors in our present day culture. Whether it’s the family you only see around the holidays, or the people you live with, familial relationships can be very healthy and life-giving, but they often cause massive amounts of strife and heartache. However, when a family unit is at its worse, the Lord is often at His best. We see this truth expressed in the life of a rather unfamiliar character from the Old Testament.
Leah is one of the most interesting characters in the Old Testament. We are first introduced to her in Genesis 29. Leah had a very dysfunctional life, full of challenging and unfortunate circumstances. In Hebrew, the name Leah is defined as “wild cow” or “gazelle.” From what we read in Genesis, Leah is said to have “weak eyes” which is a Hebrew idiom for being very unattractive. To make matters worse, Lead had a sister named Rachel who is described to be extremely beautiful. Rachel had perfect physical features and was loved by everyone. Throughout Leah’s life, her sister Rachel was always favored over her by everyone, including their husband Jacob. Notice the use of that phrase “their husband…”
Long story short, Jacob was madly in love with Rachel. He adored everything about her, from her physical appearance, to the way she talked. He was head over heels crazy about her. Genesis 29:20 says that Jacob worked for seven years to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage, “but they seemed to him only a few days because of the love he had for her.” Jacob spent seven long years working tirelessly, and finally made it to their wedding day.
However, on night of the wedding, Jacob was tricked into receiving weak eyes Leah instead of her beautiful sister Rachel. What follows is a grotesque, polygamous marriage of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob with jealously and anger at its foundation.
Leah knew that her physical attributes paled in comparison to her sister Rachel, so she reverted to having children as her way of impressing Jacob. She bears son after son, and immediately after giving birth, she thinks “surely now my husband will love me” (Gen. 29:32). Despite her attempt to win over her husband, Leah is unsuccessful in her attempt to earn Jacob’s love.
Leah ends up with eight sons, one of which was named Judah. These eight sons, in addition to Rachel’s four sons, went on to make up the 12 tribes of Israel. Judah went on to be the head of the tribe of Judah and out of this tribe came the long line of Jewish kings. David- Solomon- Joash – Hezekiah and so on…
And then, a little farther down this lineage of Jewish kings, a baby was born in a cave just outside of Bethlehem. Jesus the Messiah.
We learn two major lessons from the life of Leah. The first is God does not show favor to those who are loved by the world’s standards. Too often, we give satan a foothold in our hearts by allowing culture to define who we are and seeking acceptance in our looks, financial status, etc… God loves us unconditionally and His love for us does not depend on futile circumstances such as worldly success.
The second lesson is God uses broken families for our benefit and for His glory. Out of this awful marriage, plagued by sin and brokenness, comes the Savior of the world. God, in His sovereignty, uses broken people to carry out His mission. So if your family is going through lots of turmoil, and brokenness seems to be a recurring theme in your family relationships, be encouraged that God is good, He has a greater plan, and “His power is made perfect in weakness.”