Old Testament Examples of Hope: Leah

I’ve never understood the way Jacob treated Leah. Even as a kid the story of Jacob and his two wives bothered me. Why did Jacob never show any love to Leah? She was clearly devoted to him.

We all know the story of their lives, which begins in Genesis 29 and continues through Genesis 35. Jacob went to Haran, the home of his mother’s father to choose one of his Uncle Laban’s daughters as his wife. Soon after arriving he saw Laban’s daughter Rachel, loved her, and agreed to work for his uncle for seven years to earn her hand in marriage. After the marriage ceremony Jacob realized he had married Leah, the older, less-attractive (at least to him) sister. Laban had tricked him. Jacob did not love Leah, he did not want her, and he made that abundantly clear. From the very first day, Leah was aware of his lack of feelings for her. He didn’t care enough to even pretend. Jacob immediately agreed to work another seven years for Laban so that he could marry Rachel.  She was the bride he wanted.

Leah knew she was the unwanted wife. She knew Jacob did not love or desire her, but she hoped he would some day. In fact, Leah lived her whole life steeped in hope. She never stopped hoping and she never stopped loving Jacob, even when he showed her no encouragement in return. Leah was a wife of convenience, not love. Did she ever experience a loving relationship with Jacob? The Bible does not tell us.

Leah’s life was not easy. She faithfully served a man who did not appreciate or seem to want her love. Nonetheless, through all her sadness and disappointment she endured, continuing to love both Jacob and her sister Rachel. She also relied heavily on God and God was faithful, granting her son after son, and securing her role in the creation of the nation of Israel. Genesis 29: 31-32 says “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuban, for she said “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” (NIV) Leah also eventually gave birth to Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, as well as her daughter Dinah. She placed her hope in God and He blessed her greatly.

Don’t we all feel like Leah sometimes? Don’t we all feel unwanted and unnecessary at times? The circumstances might be different, but the feelings are the same. It’s not hard to imagine how she felt because, really, most of us don’t need to imagine. We know. Maybe we feel unappreciated by our husbands like Leah, or maybe these feelings are in response to situations in our jobs, with our children, or even in our congregations. It’s an awful thing to not feel wanted, to feel unnecessary, and to think no appreciation is being shown for all our efforts.

Leah is a good role model for us. She lived on hope. It was her only sustenance in a love-barren world. While continuing to serve faithfully where she had been placed, she never stopped turning to God to sustain her. She never did get the loving relationship from Jacob that she longed for, but God gave her a legacy so much greater. It is really hard to press on where we are placed sometimes. It is even harder to realize that our circumstances may not change but, as Leah demonstrates, if we continue to serve, even on the days when it really hurts, God will be faithful. He is always faithful. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Leah’s legacy through the lives of her sons and the generations that followed are a testament to God’s faithfulness to her. Our God is unchanging. He is no less faithful to us.

I can imagine life must have felt very bleak to Leah at times. Even as she continued to present Jacob with sons, he continued to focus on Rachel. I can picture Leah watching her sons play and noticing Jacob walking with Rachel, love on their faces, as they talk to one another. They don’t even look at her. What else does Leah have to give? There is nothing she can do. She sits alone and watches them walk away. She had done what she could and it was not enough. She was not enough.

Forgotten, useless, unwanted, unnecessary, and alone. So very, very alone. How did Leah respond to these feelings? She placed her hope in God and remained faithful in the situation where she was placed. In return she experienced great blessing. We may never fully understand some of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but we can rest in the knowledge that God can and will provide all that we need to serve Him faithfully. Like Leah, our faithful service will lead to both blessing for ourselves and others, as well as a legacy for future generations to come.

Leah served the same God as we do. He is still faithful and will give us the strength we need to serve where He has placed us. We can look to Him with hope as we face the deserts in our life. He will give us what we need to flourish and what seems like dry, barren ground to us will burst forth in sweet smelling blooms that only His love can produce.

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About Marcy Ardis

Marcy Ardis and her husband Gord live in the country near Chatham, Ontario. They met while attending Redeemer College in Ancaster, Ontario. After they got married, Marcy and Gord began to attend Louisville Baptist Church together as a family as this had been Marcy’s home church for several years. Not long after that, the minister at Louisville Baptist Church was getting ready to retire and he asked Gord to “shepherd his flock” when he retired. Gord has been the pastor at Louisville for nine years and he has also pastored at North Dresden Baptist Church for four and a half years. In addition, he volunteers on the executive of the Western Association of Baptist Churches. Marcy and Gord homeschool their daughter, teaching her that every day offers new learning opportunities. Marcy teaches at a high school in a nearby community. When she has free time she enjoys going for walks with her family, doing genealogical research, reading historical novels and local history books, learning about local architecture and exploring nearby provincial parks.

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