You would think the twelve tribes of Israel would have come about through grand circumstances. An epic love story perhaps. Wrapped in a beautiful beginning. Afterall it’s the inauguration of God’s nation. A chosen people for his own possession. But…they didn’t. Not even close. Instead the twelve tribes began with twelve brothers, the sons of Jacob, born out of a giant domestic mess.
Devotional Scripture: Genesis 29:31- 30:24
Key Verse: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18
And when I say mess, I mean mess. Stuck with Leah, but in love with Rachel, Jacob found himself with two wives after two weeks of wedding festivities. I just can’t even fathom how that worked. Can you? What did poor Leah do while she waited for her new husband to finish his wedding week with her sister? (Why do I suddenly feel like I’m watching daytime television?)
Then to make matters worse the girls also gave their servants to him as “wives.” We saw how well that worked with Sarah and Hagar. (Not so well.) So though we don’t know details about those relationships, I think we can assume it was not easy.
Trouble was, both had something the other sister longed for. Leah longed to be loved and Rachel longed for children. Neither longing wrong in and of themselves. In fact both are perfectly natural desires still plaguing women today. However when Rachel didn’t get what she wanted she threw a fit. “Give me children, or I shall die!” she bemoaned to Jacob. Not quite a spirit filled response but let’s go easy on her because I think we can relate. It’s not easy when something you so desperately long for remains far from your grasp. Especially when others are blessed with what you want.
I’m certain Leah would agree. I picture her watching Rachel and Jacob from afar those seven years of waiting. Wishing just once Jacob (or any man for that matter) would look at her the way he looked at Rachel. Gorgeous, adorable Rachel. It just wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t she look more like Rachel? (Ever felt it? mmhmm I’m thinkin’ we girls can relate.)
So when Laban enlightened her as to the plan, to have her marry Jacob instead, I imagine every fiber of Leah’s being melted at the thought of being loved by a man. Maybe he’d see. Maybe he’d finally see what she could offer. But he didn’t. Not even a little. Yet God filled her womb! Yes hers and not Rachels! Infusing her with so much hope. We know this because of the names she gives her sons. Each name representing a play on words in the Hebrew language.
Her first born Reuben can be translated “See, a son.” Carrying the idea because I bore him a son maybe now he will love me (Gen. 29:32). Leah then named her second son Simeon which sounds similar to the Hebrew word for heard and her third son Levi which sounds similar to the word attached because Leah hoped this time her husband would become attached to her.
But it didn’t work. Jacob was not any more in love with Leah than he was before. So when her fourth son was born you’d think she’d have despaired of all hope. Given up. Thrown a fit. Called it a day. Cried. Screamed. Told the entire town how unfair it was. And named her son something akin to the idea of unfair, unwanted, unloved. But instead she named him Judah, which sounds like the Hebrew word for praise, deciding in fact this time she would praise the LORD!
Despite her situation. Despite her unfulfilled desire. Despite her husband’s affections given to another, she praised the LORD. I absolutely love this and admit I’m humbly challenged by it. Do I still praise God when I don’t get what I want? Believing with my whole heart he is still a good God; a loving God; a God able to satisfy my every desire with his love alone?
Leah did. And as a result she found joy. Real lasting joy. Because that’s the order. Joy that defies the odds, that makes the world curious, that arises despite circumstances – flows out of a heart of praise. A heart that decides though it’s hard, though I don’t understand, though I wish things were different – I will yet praise Him! Therefore when Leah’s servant birthed her a sixth son she named him Asher, which means happy.
Such sweet surrender. To not envy as Rachel did; but to praise as Leah did. Because God is what satisfies. Not stuff or kids or people or even love. God and God alone. When Rachel finally did conceive she named him Joseph, which can be translated “give me another” – evidence of her dissatisfaction. Ironically when God did give her another, she died giving birth to him.
Oh that we would learn to praise the LORD despite letdowns and lost dreams and looming disappointments. Not envying those around us, but echoing those who have gone before us, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food…Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hebakkuk 3:17-18).
Contemplate and Evaluate:
Despite recent disappointments, what can you praise God for today?
Why do you think praising the LORD made such a difference for Leah?
How might Rachel have found joy in her situation? Similarly, how can you find joy in yours?