2nd Sunday of Advent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, who came once to save us and will come again to take us to our eternal home, dear friends in Christ, what is your heart’s deepest longing? Perhaps that sounds like a strange question, but think about it. Our second lesson this morning said, “[God] has set eternity in the hearts of men.” What do you think that means? The reality is that everyone is longing for something. Something that is going to make sense out of life, something that is going to fulfill their life’s dreams, something that is going to fulfill their heart’s deepest longing. So people are searching. “If only I had true love, my miserable life would be better.” “If only I had that job, my life would be better.” “If only my bank account had this much money, then life would be better.” “If only I was wanted, accepted, validated, approved, then my life would be better.” We each have it. We each feel that something is missing in life and it would be better, if we had it – whatever it may be. What is it for you?
The account before us gives us a somber look into the reality that exists not just in Jacob’s heart or Leah’s heart, but in your heart and mine. Two generations before this account, God had appeared to Abraham and had given Abraham an incredible promise. In this world full of sin, God was going to send a substitute, a Savior, who was going to rescue the human race, be an answer to all the sin and death and tragedy of the world. And this Savior would come from Abraham’s descendants. So, in every generation there was someone who was going to carry the line of the promised Savior. Abraham finally had his son, Isaac, and Isaac carried the promise. Isaac married Rebekah and they had twin sons, but God told them that the older would serve the younger, in other words, the younger one would carry the promise. Isaac, however, disregarded that, and set his hopes on Esau the older son whom he liked better. So, Jacob, with the help of his mother deceived Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. And because Jacob had deceived his father, his brother hated him and wanted to kill him, so Jacob had to leave with almost nothing and travel hundreds of miles away to his mother’s hometown, with no money, no inheritance, and no real future. He never had his father’s love, he had lost his mother’s love, and was probably questioning God’s love.
He arrives and his relative Laban welcomes him. Laban recognizes that Jacob is very gifted and talented and is going to be a good manager for his sheep business, so he says, “Should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.” To that, Jacob has essentially one word: Rachel. I want Rachel. What do we know about Rachel? We’re told that “Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.” That means exactly what it says, she was gorgeous, stunning, she had a beautiful figure and lovely appearance. One commentator points out some the indicators here that Jacob is just intensely lovesick. Notice what it says in verse 20, “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” And then we’re told that when the 7 years are over, he says to Jacob, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.” Do you see how forward that is? Can you imagine a boy saying to his future father-in-law, “I can’t wait to sleep with your daughter”? As you can see, Jacob has an overwhelming longing for one woman.
Why? Consider Jacob’s situation. His life is miserable, he’s left behind everything he knows of, never had his father’s love, lost his mother’s love, his brother hates him, he’s got nothing. But now! The answer to my problems! If I had her – the most beautiful woman around – then my miserable life will finally amount to something. Do you see what Jacob is doing? He’s fixating all the meaning, significance, security of his life on one woman: Rachel. Does this happen today? Sure it does! Do people fix all their hopes and dreams, meaning and significance in life in romance and love? This is exactly what our culture is telling us! “Your lousy life will mean something if only you have romance, love, and sex.” Watch the movies, listen to the music, you’ll see it.
But where does it get Jacob? Notice what Jacob offers Laban for her. Now, back in this culture it was customary for the husband-to-be to give something to his future wife’s family to make up for their loss when he marries their daughter. Well, a commentator said that typically the price was between 35-40 shekels. Someone typically made about 18 shekels a year. So, 2 years worth of wages. This may not be a bad thing to start up again – I have three daughters J. But notice what Jacob offers! 7 years wages! Laban is a shrewd business man. He knows that Jacob is lovesick. But notice what Laban says, “It is better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” Notice what he didn’t say, he didn’t say, “Yes, it’s a deal.” But what did Jacob hear? He heard what he wanted to hear. So he works for 7 years, tells him he wants to marry Rachel, they have the festival, Jacob is probably quite intoxicated, the bride is brought to him, probably heavily veiled, he marries her, and then consummates the marriage with her, and wakes up in the morning and…there was Leah!
Remember, Jacob was lovesick, he set his sights on Rachel, he thought having this woman was the key to his happiness, and he woke up and…it was Leah. I think there’s a truth here. Whatever we set all our dreams and hopes, meaning and significance on from this world, in the morning it will always be Leah, not Rachel, it will always disappoint.
Well, who’s Leah? Leah is Rachel’s older sister. And all we’re really told about her is that she has “weak eyes.” What does that mean? It probably doesn’t mean she can’t see very far, because in contrast to Leah’s weak eyes, we’re told that Rachel “lovely in form, and beautiful.” Finally, the point is, Leah was particularly unattractive and had to liver her whole life in the shadow of her stunning younger sister. Now put yourself in Laban’s shoes. He knows that no man is going to be looking to marry Leah, no one is going to offer much money for her, how’s he going to unload her? How’s he going to get rid of her? He sees his chance with Jacob, he can get 14 years of work out of this lovesick man. But what’s the result for Leah? Really, she becomes the girl nobody wants. Her father doesn’t want her, her husband doesn’t want her. So what does she do? She wants the hollow of her heart filled. She wants meaning in this meaningless life. So, she sets her heart on winning the love of her husband.
And how does she go about doing it? She goes about it by going after a traditional value of the day: having children, particularly sons. Her husband didn’t care about her, but the LORD did. The LORD opened her womb. She had a son and she named him Reuben. Why? “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” Then she had another son and named him Simeon. Why? “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved.” Then she has another and names him Levi because “Now at last my husband will become attached to me.” Do you see how sad this? She longs for a husband who doesn’t see her, doesn’t hear her, whose heart is attached to someone else. Every day is like a knife in her heart as she sees the man she longs for in the arms of the girl in whose shadow she’s always lived.
Wow! How disappointing all of this is! What are the lessons for us? First, there is a disappointment that floods all of life on this earth. Jacob set his heart on Rachel, if only she had her, he’d have a fulfilling life, and in the morning? It wasn’t Rachel, it was Leah. That’s how it’s going to be. If you get married thinking that your spouse is going to fulfill all your deepest longings and dreams, you’re going to wake up one day sorely disappointed. If you think money is going to solve all your problems, you’re going to wake up one day sorely disappointed. You think you’re going to bed with Rachel, but in the morning its always Leah.
But what does Leah learn? Notice what she named her fourth son, Judah. Why? “This time I will praise the LORD.” Notice nothing about the husband or sons, now she set her heart on her LORD, The LORD, her Savior, is the ultimate thing in her life. Look what God does. “Even if no one loves Leah, I still do.” God is the husband to the husbandless, He is the ultimate spouse. With God she had the ultimate thing, she had all the security, meaning, purpose in life she needed. That’s true for you too. And notice what God does. God uses the unloved Leah, not beautiful Rachel, to bring the Savior into the world. Jesus was Leah’s son, true Son. He became the man nobody wanted. He was born in a barn, placed in a feeding trough. He came to that which was his own and his own did not receive him. Everyone abandoned and sought his crucifixion. Even his Father turned his back, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Why? So He could be the Son of Leah for you and for me. Through His rejection, His punishment, God rescued you and me! And that’s the way God works. You don’t get to heaven through your strength or beauty, but through weakness, through admitting your weakness, admitting you’re a complete moral failure and nothing to attract God to you and have no hope apart from the grace of God. That’s when God’s grace shines on you. It’s God’s grace and His grace alone that has won you eternal life.
Leah got her life back when she set her hope on God. That’s exactly where you get your life back to live in this world, when you set your hope on the LORD, the husband to the husbandless and father of the fatherless. He will not fail, He will not disappoint, ever. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Amen.