Join us for online church! Sunday mornings at 9:00 & 10:30am
Watch the latest message in our series "Messy Families"
Explore past messages & series in our Media Archive (audio and video)
Full Message Text
Victory of the Lamb
Series: Messy Families
Genesis 29:14-35 | Leah: From Unworthy to Accepted | Pastor Bill Limmer
Love is the most basic longing of the human heart. Every person wants to be valued and loved.
But she grew up with an inner emptiness. She was the oldest daughter but not the favored daughter, not that having favorites would be good, but she could tell you that she wasn’t even close to being even up. From birth it was like she was just there. She was born with what people called a weak eye. Maybe it drooped or maybe it protruded but either way, the rejection began. The name her parents gave the new baby girl has two possible meanings “wearied” or “cow.” It was a messy family.
Her younger sister was named “ewe” as in a beautiful, precious lamb. She was the apple of her father’s eye. And the delight of everyone else’s eye. The younger sister was beautiful, a head turner.
It was a case of the haves and have nots. A breeding ground for a very ugly sibling rivalry filled with animosity, disdain, disrespect, entitlement, jealousy, and rejection. It was a messy family. The older sister spent hour after hour and day after day in her room all alone with her thoughts and with a pit in her stomach hoping, just hoping that someone would acknowledge her, appreciate her, love her. And it was her dream that a handsome guy would hold her and love her.
Her younger sister was promised to be married. But when the night of the wedding came, her father dressed her not her younger sister in the wedding gown and was the custom with a very thick and heavy vale. Could it be, that the groom actually wanted her all along? She was happy. She was joyful. She was beside herself. Her heart raced. Her light brown skin even turned a little bit pink with the blush of love.
And then on the wedding night, as the groom consummated the marriage with her, he called out her sister’s name in the darkness. She was shattered. She didn’t know what to say or what to do. She said nothing. With the morning light, the groom left in anger and outrage deceived by the bride’s father who was trying to get this wearied cow off his hands.
She was crushed – a familiar place for her. The sibling rivalry went to a whole new level as the sister sought and fought for the affection of the same man. Th sister did all she could to win her husband’s love, to prove that she was worthy of love. She gave birth to a son and she called him Reuben – which means “to see.” She wanted to be seen by her husband as someone beautiful, someone to be loved. She had a second son and named him Simeon which means “to hear.” She thought to herself now my husband will listen to me instead of saying, yeah whatever to me. She gave birth to a third son which she named Levi which means “Attached.” Thinking surely now after three sons, my husband will be attached to me. But no dice. She would give birth to another son. She named him Judah which means “praise.” I will praise God from whom all blessings flow. I will praise God who accepts me and blesses me.
It was a different time and a different place, but the feelings were just as real and raw as they are today in the hearts and lives of people like you and me.
Here is how this true story of a messy family is recorded in Scripture.
Genesis 29:14-35 After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”
16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”
22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.
25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.
34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.
35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
It was a different time and a different place, but the feelings of rejection inside of families and outside of families are just as real and raw as they are today in the hearts and lives of people like you and me. Or are they?
I mean, isn’t it great that we no longer live in a time when a woman’s looks don’t determine her narrative? Isn’t it great the Shakira and J Lo and all those other homely women and men were invited to dance at the Superbowl? Oh wait.
Starting when we are young, we are enculturated to believe that worth is wrapped up in how we look. The more beautiful a thing or person is, the more it is loved. Everywhere we look, magazines at the checkout, social media, television, movies, advertisements say: “Beauty has it perks.”
Because this is in our background, the comparison game is on at home, work, school, church an everywhere we go. So most of us have a feeling of inadequacy that can only be cured (we think) by a product, look, or lifestyle. We need to look like that, live like that. And if we don’t, we shame ourselves or tend to live hurt, isolated lives, wondering if we are valued and loved. And occasionally streak of jealousy and animosity cut like a knife.
Do you know of anyone who thinks, If I could just have this one thing, this one person, accomplish this one thing, then I would be happy? Do you know of anyone who ever wonders about their value? Anyone who wonders, Am I pretty enough, strong enough? Does anyone notice me? Do I count? Do I matter? Do you know a Leah?
Do you know a physical Leah? A spiritual Leah? I bet you do. Are you Leah? I know some of you think you are Leah.
We were created in God’s image. When Adam and Ever fell into sin, we became sinfully distorted, broken, uniquely ugly in the spiritual sense which includes valuing the opinion of others over the truth of God who says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Here is the rest of story on Leah, you probably didn’t know. We find it in the first book of the New Testament – Matthew. As the book of Matthew begins it is kind of like Jesus tracing his family line on ancestory.com. It lists all the generations going back, back, back to the very beginning. I think if Leah could have seen this genealogy back in her time, the sibling rivalry and feelings of rejection would not have near as intense. Matthew 1: This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah . . . Judah that is Leah’s boy. And as we make our way through generation after generation we end up with this in verse 16 and this is going to blow some of you away, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. Leah the one who was not wanted by her husband, is in the ancestry line of Jesus the Savior, who values and loves all people. Out of rejection came blessing! If you are feeling rejected, unloved, unacceptable, unwanted, unworthy, of no value, God has a plan to bring Jesus into your life! Because Jesus values and loves every person.
Are you valuable? worthy? Beautiful? God believes so! And this is how he proved that you are valuable, worthy and beautiful: when he the perfect lamb of God dropped his head on the cross and gave up his spirit for you taking away all of your spiritual ugliness and deformity and giving you all of his beauty and righteousness. Scripture says, Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In what we call the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives you his body, his blood, his beauty, an eternal place to belong. In a traditional hymn it says, “Jesus, your blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress.” Jesus turns the table on rejection inside and outside of the family. Nothing could keep him away from us, not other people’s opinion of us, not sin, not even death.
Because of this good news, you can turn your messiness into beauty. No matter the age, the sickness, the accident, the past, beauty that stands the test of time is kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, reaching out to and loving those who need help, who are lonely, and who are forgotten.
You are not your looks. Whether we like what we see or not. We are not our dress size. We are not the size of our biceps. We are not what we look like in a photo on our Instagram account. Or how many likes we can generate. We are not how much interest we can get from boys or from girls we are not our looks we are not physical appearance.
We have so much more to offer. So, the best thing we can do is to learn to develop our heart. What would we look like if instead of spending so much time trying to figure out what to wear and getting ready, we spent more time reading God’s Word, praying to God, singing praise to God, confessions our sins, and confessing that God is greater than our sins?
God’s truth changes us and can also change the world. Because God is love. And God knows that love is most basic longing of the human heart.