Praising God in All Circumstances The Story of Leah

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1 Praising God in All Circumstances The Story of Leah Lisa Lawrence September 7, 2014 Today we are going to look at the life of Leah. I chose to talk about Leah because I believe there are many things we can learn from her story. To gain this understanding, it is important that we look at key people and circumstances that influenced her life. Let s start with her husband, Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the grandson of Abraham and Sarah. He was also the twin brother of Esau. While they were in the womb the two brothers fought. When Esau was born, Jacob was actually holding onto his brother s heel. It gave the appearance that he was trying to take his brother s place as firstborn. While Jacob was unsuccessful in taking Esau s place coming out of the womb, he did manage to take his place later in life. First, he convinced Esau to give up his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew that Jacob had made. Taking advantage of his brother s weakness wasn t a good thing to do, but the loss of the birthright is primarily Esau s fault. In fact, the Apostle Paul uses Esau as a bad example. He tells the Christians to not be like Esau, who despised his birthright. Paul wanted them to cherish their new life in Christ. No, Jacob s real injury to Esau occurred when he disguised himself as Esau, so that he could get his father s blessing that should have gone to Esau. It is interesting to note that it was Jacob s own mother, Rebekah, who came up with this plan. It is clear that Rebekah favored Jacob over Esau. Unfortunately, showing favoritism did not stop with Rebekah. Jacob showed favoritism to both his wives and children causing some serious relationship problems. Speaking of relationship problems, Rebekah discovers that Esau is plotting to kill Jacob. He is just waiting for Isaac to die. So Rebekah comes up with a new plan. She convinces Isaac that they should send Jacob to her brother Laban so that he can marry one of his cousins. Jacob skips town and sets out on a journey to find Laban.

2 Along the way he has some unique experiences. He spends an entire night wrestling with an angel and he has a heavenly vision. In the vision, God speaks to him and makes the same promises to Jacob that he made to Abraham. God promises to bless Jacob and that his descendants will be many. God also promises to be with Jacob and to watch over him. Let s recap. As future husband material for Leah, Jacob has a pretty stellar resume: He s ambitious and resourceful. He s helpful in the kitchen I mean, my goodness, people are still talking today about his lentil stew. He s athletic wrestling with an angel is pretty impressive. But most important, Jacob has God s blessing and protection. He will be the future patriarch of the nation of Israel. There is just one minor problem. Jacob doesn t love Leah. He s in love with Leah s younger sister, Rachel. Rachel was a shepherdess and she first met Jacob at the well where she was watering her sheep. Rachel is described in the Bible as being beautiful and having a lovely figure. Jacob introduces himself and explains that he is looking for Laban. Rachel takes him home to her father, who just happens to be Laban. After Jacob works for Laban for about a month, Laban says that he doesn t want to take advantage of Jacob just because he is a relative. Laban tells Jacob to name his wages. By this time, Jacob is in love with Rachel. Jacob offers to work for seven years in return for Rachel s hand in marriage and Laban agrees to this. The Bible says that the time flew by because Jacob was so in love with Rachel. At the end of the seven years, Jacob told Laban, Give me my wife. My time is complete. Now Rachel had an older sister named Leah. Leah is described in the Bible as having weak eyes. Apparently, Leah s father Laban did not think that her prospects for marriage were very good. So he comes up with a plan, an oddly familiar plan. He wants to disguise Leah so that Jacob will think she is Rachel and he will be tricked into marrying her. Do you see the poetic justice here?

3 Jacob is about to experience first hand what it is like to be on the other end of a plan that includes disguises and trickery. Oh, the irony! Anyway, Laban throws a big wedding feast and at the end of the evening, Laban gives Jacob his bride. In the morning, Jacob discovers that he has been tricked by Laban and is married to Leah and not Rachel. Jacob confronts Laban and pretty much says, Hey, a deal is a deal! Laban is ready for Jacob and he even has prepared an excuse. He says that he was just abiding by the customs of his people whereby a younger daughter could not be married before the older daughter. He makes a new deal with Jacob. He tells Jacob to complete the bridal week with Leah and then he can have Rachel. Jacob just has to spend another seven years working for Laban. Now is a good time to look at life from Leah s perspective: She has had to live her life in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister. Her own father thinks that the only way she could get a husband is by tricking a man into marrying her. She is now married to a man who doesn t love her, he s in love with her sister, and he is probably bitter towards her because he has to work another seven years for her father. This is just not a good formula for happily ever after. In that day and age, women had little, if any, control over their destiny. Leah is a victim of circumstances. So what does Leah do? Well, in her sadness and misery she turns to God. God sees that Leah is not loved so He opens her womb while Rachel is barren, for the time being. In that culture, giving birth to a son was highly regarded. So, when Leah gives birth to Jacob s first born son, she names him Reuben and she makes this statement, It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now. Sadly, this isn t the case. We know this because of what Leah says when she has her second son, whom she names Simeon, is born. She says, Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, He gave me this one, too. Leah conceives a third son whom she names Levi and she says, Now, at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have born him three

4 sons. It is interesting that Leah uses the word attached instead of love. I think that she gave up hope that Jacob would ever truly love her and she is willing to settle for anything, even if it is just an emotional attachment. Leah is hoping that giving Jacob three sons will somehow elevate her status. Finally, she has a fourth son, whom she names Judah. She says something completely different when Judah is born. She says, This time, I will praise the Lord. After Judah, Leah quit having children for a while. Leah does later have two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun and Jacob s only daughter, Dinah. What can we possibly learn from Leah s sad story of unrequited love? 1. Life isn t always fair. We are bound to face circumstances and situations that are simply out of our control. And no matter what we do, we cannot affect the outcome. Let me give you some examples. o Maybe your spouse, or a loved one, doesn t return your love and affection. o Or perhaps you have parents that show clear favoritism like Rebekah and Jacob did. o Or, how about the workplace? Maybe you have a boss that overlooks your efforts and passes you over for promotion for others who are less deserving. The bottom line is that we need to accept that there are some things we cannot change. This leads me to the second point. 2. God knows all of our struggles and worries and He has compassion for us. When we find ourselves in these difficult situations, like Leah, we need to turn to God to find comfort and peace. And most important, instead of focusing on what we don t have, we need to praise God for the many blessings that He has given us. Leah had figured this out by the time she had Judah.

5 3. The final point that I want to make is that God knows the big picture and we don t. We are just a very small piece in God s overall plan. Let s take a look at Leah. Today, Leah is highly regarded as the matriarch of half the nation of Israel and Leah has some very famous descendants. o Her third son Levi, was the head of the tribe known as the Levites. They later become the royal priesthood for the nation of Israel. o Descended from Levi is Moses. Not only did Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but equally impressive is the remarkable relationship Moses had with God. God spoke to Moses face to face on a regular basis; not like how God spoke to the prophets, but more like the relationship that God had with Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was Moses and Elijah that appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is clear that Moses holds a dear place in God s heart. o Along this same line is another famous descendant of Leah, and that would be King David. David was a descendant of Judah, Leah s fourth son. The prophet Samuel endorsed David by describing him as a man after God s own heart. o But of course, Leah s most famous descendant is Jesus Christ. Jesus is also a descendant of Judah. You know, God had twelve of Jacob s sons to choose from as to whose lineage that Jesus would descend from. Do you think that it was a coincidence that God chose Judah, whose name today means praise because of the famous statement that his mother Leah made when he was born? This time, I will praise the Lord. No, I don t believe anything in the Bible is a coincidence. God uses all things towards His purpose. Everything in Scripture is a part of God s carefully constructed plan. It has been said, Where you are today is not where you will be in five years. Your life will have many chapters. Don t get stuck on one page.

6 It occurred to me when I was preparing this message that I could summarize the life of Leah by reciting the famous Serenity Prayer, only I would want to add an ending that I believe applies to the life of Leah. I would like to close with this prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. And in all circumstances, I will praise the Lord. Amen.

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