17 February 2018

“ … and finally.”

There is one story above all in the Bible that demonstrates the devotion and patience of love. It is the story of Jacob and his love for Rachel. The years he had to work to secure her as his bride “seemed to him but a few days.” And yet there is another in this story whose dedication surpasses even that of Jacob, one who loved her whole life never to have that love returned. It is Leah, the elder and plainer sister of the beautiful Rachel.

We cannot begin to imagine the heartache she had to endure as she saw the young, confident and charismatic Jacob fall under the spell of her baby sister. We watch with disbelief as she takes her sister’s place on the wedding night knowing full well the consequences that must follow; her husband’s resentment and a loveless marriage. And still Leah hopes. God gives her three children and as she names them we cannot help but admire the commitment of this woman – now my husband will love me (Reuben), the Lord hath heard that I was hated (Simeon), now my husband will be joined unto me (Levi).

It is in the naming of her fourth son, Judah, that we see a change in Leah. Now will I praise the Lord. For the first time there is no mention of her husband and it is not that she has stopped loving him for the names of her last two sons will confirm that she never lost her longing for Jacob’s love. Leah must have poured out her heart in grief to God. He was the only one to whom she could turn and she had finally learned to seek comfort in God. All her life Leah’s focus had been on Jacob, her actions were calculated to secure that love but Leah would come to learn that it was Jehovah, not Jacob, her Saviour, not her spouse who was the stable force in her existence.

Leah is all but forgotten in this great love story and yet her legacy is perhaps greater than her sister’s. She is the mother of half of the children of Israel. She gave Jacob his firstborn son, Reuben; one of her sons, Levi, was the father of the priestly tribe, and from her fourth son would come the Hebrew royal family and the Messianic line. So her life was not lived in vain.

But perhaps it was in death that she saw the fulfilment of all her hopes. In Genesis 49:29-32 Jacob is giving his final instructions regarding his burial. There is no mention of Rachel but it is of Leah he speaks, he dies with her name on his lips and it is Leah whom he has lain beside for over three and a half thousand years.

Leah’s love story has much to teach us. She felt unloved and she was unloved and unwanted by her father, her husband and her sister… but God loved her. In a deeply distressing and heartbreaking situation it was God she turned to and only in God did she find comfort.

As Christians, like Leah, it is in death we will see the fulfilment of our hopes. Our expectations are not centred on this world for like Abraham we are strangers here, we look for a city whose builder and maker is God. It is there we will be with those we have loved and lost awhile and most importantly it is there we will be with Jesus – the One who comforts and sustains us – forever.

“And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite…There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.” Genesis 49 v29-32 KJV

Vi Dawson