Do parts of the Old Testament ever frustrate or bore you? Maybe you’ve made this statement: “When I read the Old Testament I get bogged down in the chapters on genealogy?” Or this one: “Why do I need to know where all of these people came from?”
Scripture is frustrating and confusing, at times. It’s why I often say, “You must get the whole picture.”
Where did you come from?
Personally, I love history and knowing…
- the details of my ancestors and the country of their origin;
- that there were preachers, pastors and church-planters among previous generations of my people;
- and that I came from a family who were real, meaning my people made some bad decisions, got caught in questionable situations a time or two, struggled with personal issues, encountered temptation, maybe strayed from God, and weathered a life filled with trials and suffering.
Many people today choose to downplay the Old Testament, and even to discount its story and message. Some say it’s old-fashioned, outdated and out-of-place.
They don’t want to see the whole picture.
History is important in your overall story. Whether your past included people who trusted God, those who did not serve Him, or a mix of both – it all matters.
Whether you came from a heritage that left you feeling loved and cherished, or from life experiences that left you feeling used, abused or abandoned – it all matters.
So, about Leah and Rachel…
Remember the account in Genesis 29 of Jacob traveling to the far country to find a wife from among his mother’s people? It’s the story of…
- Jacob seeing the beautiful Rachel for the first time – love-at-first-sight experience, it seems.
- Him asking Rachel’s father, Laban, for her hand in marriage.
- Laban’s negotiations, and Jacob agreeing to work seven years to marry Rachel. (Keep in mind it was common in those days to negotiate marriage stipulations for a daughter.)
- Deception on Laban’s end (though he didn’t view it that way, as again, it was common and understood that the older daughter must marry first).
- The older sister, Leah, being presented at the wedding ceremony (we’re told she was the sister not so lovely to look at)…her face covered by the veil of tradition; her identity concealed.
After the ceremony, Jacob took Leah as his wife (whom he thought was Rachel, the one he loved and desired). Later, in the light of morning and the veil removed, he realized it was Leah.
Some have said this was payback for Jacob stealing his brother Esau’s inheritance. And there’s the intermarriage and plural marriage issues, neither uncommon back then. It can create questions and confusion in our minds.
We must try to understand many of these practices were quite normal in the tribal-like culture of Old Testament days, stretching across generations.
In this Christmas season, here’s what I hope you will see…
The babe of Bethlehem…the Savior of the world…came from the unloved sister. His earthly ancestors were born from the wife of Jacob, the one undesired and even despised, at least in the beginning.
So, why Leah? And, why not Rachel?
The sisters were very different. If we look close, we find Rachel turns out to be a different person than when Jacob fell in love with her. But, then, she (not of her own making) was in the middle of a messy love triangle. Perhaps we cannot blame her.
Rachel would eventually give birth to Joseph, the son who would later save his people – God’s people – from famine in the land.
But, Leah was chosen to bear Judah. And from the tribe of Judah would come a better Joseph. From this lineage, the Savior of the world would be born.
He would come not as a king, but through a common girl; a girl of questionable lineage and background. People would talk in the shadows of the one born of a virgin. How could this be?
Do not be afraid of your history.
Do not say it has no bearing on who you are today. I’m not suggesting we become consumed with our past, but we must recognize our past matters.
Whatever your earthly genealogy, when you say yes to God, He immediately adopts you into His family. It’s a love-at-first-sight story.
How can this be?
He willingly came as the Christ-child; left His place in heaven to become one of no reputation. He allowed himself to become unloved and undesired, much like his ancestor, Leah.
He did it for His people.
He did it for you. He did it for me. He did it so that we might know this: No matter where He finds us in our sin, we can receive the mercy, grace and forgiveness His love-at-first-sight sacrifice made possible.
Because out of messy, undesirable, unlovely situations…God is able to bring about the greatest love story of them all.
The thought “He came from Leah, not Rachel…” first came to me from my Dad, Dr. E. Leroy Baker. I am grateful for the conversations with him, a life-long minister and student of God’s Word, that always inspire and encourage me to dig deep.