Lesson 2 of 6
February 9, 2022
God has shown he is more than capable of doing great things through sinful people. He is magnificent, glorious, and his perfect plan of salvation reconciles the penitent to himself. His very nature exposes our sinful state. Rather than recoil at our nakedness, he lets us know Imperfections Don’t Alter His Plan to love and care for us.
Whoever he chooses to use for his purpose, be reassured no one comes perfectly packaged together.
Like us, Leah is flawed, and so is her family–parents, in-laws, grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, alike.
Inside Leah’s story are the complex dynamics of two families whose distinguishing traits are a lot like your own. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you might yearn to read a story about better people.
There are none.
Perhaps there’s a slight tendency to suggest God should have shaken his head in disgust and moved on to Plan B.
That’s not what he did.
He chose deceivers, liars, and thieves–jealousy linking these terrible idiosyncrasies together like glue.
One of the greatest lessons learned from this story is Leah and Rachel can’t sin their way out of the path God has laid out for them. No amount of bickering, stealing, manipulating, or lying can sway God from carrying out his will for mankind. Yes, some will be saved; some will be lost. After all, there are rewards for the saved; doom and destruction for the disobedient.
Like the contrast between the obedient and disobedient, there’s a striking differentiation between Leah and Rachel.
Leah had weak eyes, and from her moaning and groaning, you witness her low self-esteem. Can you blame her? She was abandoned. Chosen last. Unloved. Excluded.
Rachel was a shapely woman, beautiful, and strong–her strength very much in line with her duties as a shepherd.
Are we saying Leah’s story is all about outward appearance?
Let’s not kid ourselves. God is not shallow minded. He doesn’t make decisions based on appearance. He rightly judges the mind and heart of man.
Perhaps what we need to do is dig deeper … go behind the scenes … return to the beginning to uncover the depth of understanding necessary to appreciate what God is saying in Genesis 29-31.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth …
He made every kind of animal, beast, creeping things, and fowls of the air … male and female he made them … commanding all to populate the earth after their kind.
In the beginning …
One Wife. For Life.
Let’s imagine Leah whimpering, praying, and crying out to God for love. Share in her agony as travelers enter her father’s home, sitting around a fire, everyone ignoring her. Leah’s tendency to shy away goes unnoticed. Excluding herself from decisions is never questioned. To please his guests and attract a husband for his daughters, Laban sends for Rachel, insisting she lay down her staff and leave her sheep to serve his guests. He’s assured the men will cast flirtatious glances at Rachel, but she is not interested and serves the men in haste.
Once Jacob arrives, everything changes. Rachel is smitten by his presence. So is Leah. And before Leah has a chance to showcase her domestic abilities to make blankets and cook stew, Jacob watches Rachel’s every move. Leah sulks. Wishes she was as beautiful … as strong … as pleasing to the eyes as her sister.
Somewhere deep in her gut, life for her has ended. The handwriting is on the wall. Jacob will marry Rachel, taking her away and leaving Leah to her hopeless end. She’ll never marry. She will die a lonely death while weaving blankets for her father … while cooking for her hungry brothers … while thirsting for what she can never have–a family of her own.
When Jacob asks for Rachel’s hand, it stands to reason that Laban had to meet with his daughters to share his deceitful plan to marry Leah to Jacob. How else can this deception unfold? This didn’t happen in a vacuum, right? They had to know. They know the scheme is wrong, and Leah had to feel bad about it. What is she to do? Entangled and sucked into a web of right and wrong, there’s something about her father’s devious plan which prevents her from speaking up. The lie they’ve woven will help her escape the void in her life … that emptiness too deep to touch … too large and all encompassing to grasp. This chance at marriage is the glimmer of hope she desires. Taking a stance for truth will leave her wanton, and any hope for a family will be wiped out.
Against her better judgment, Leah says nothing to her father; less to her sister; her familiar look of timidity masking fear eating away at her soul. Her hands tremble as she fastens her earrings. Her knees weaken as servants tug and meticulously wrap scarves around her waist. It’s a struggle to be joyous while preparing for her wedding … Rachel’s wedding. Hard to ignore the tears puddling in her sister’s eyes.
She loves and hates her so.
At this moment, Leah loves Rachel more than ever. She’s drawn to memories of her teenage sister looking up to her … how she taught little Rachel to weave her first blanket … how she watched the toddler’s first reaction to stories of Noah and the Ark … how she rescued her baby sister from a snake which had made its way inside their home.
Leah bit the inside of her lower lip, releasing a salty, metallic pool in her mouth–a reminder of what she was about to do to her sister. She can no longer look at Rachel who is on her knees smoothing Leah’s garment. “Don’t give in,” Leah says to herself. “This is my only chance. Rachel will one day marry. She’s strong. An excellent shepherd. Beautiful. Men love the sight of her. Even in simple wedding clothes, she’s more beautiful. I’m nothing. If I wait, there won’t be a second chance for me.”
So, beauty and hate, like vinegar and oil, separate these two, and Leah digs in deep to claim the day as her own. During the wedding ceremony, through her colorful veil, Leah sees the joy in Jacob’s eyes, hears the laughter of satisfaction in his voice. On their marriage bed, she’s pleased with his satisfaction, his declaration of love, his promise to give her children.
But during the night when Jacob has long gone asleep, Leah remains focused on the sound of sheep off in the distance; highly alert to movements across the land; skittish with the uneasy stillness that comes later in the night. Desperately, she pines for the darkness to remain, to veil her, unrelenting to the dawn. It seems like moments after their wedding daylight bursts forth and snatches away every ounce passion. Harsh rays of light begrudgingly reveal a stark reality, one she will not soon forget. Something bitter, and rotten, and foul is about to unfold. Suspicions of a boisterous uproar is about to disrupt her joy, and never ever will it return to her again.
Unexpectedly, Jacob stirs. Reaches for his bride.
When he discovers the family’s deceitfulness, Leah is forced to accept the awful consequences for her failure to speak truth. She’s convinced it is punishment … a death sentence as her father declares Rachel will marry Jacob at the end of Leah’s bridal week. Out of all the possible repercussions from her deceit … their deceit … this is the most dreadful.
Unable to contain her anger, many heated battles with her sister ensue. Tearful days elongate sleepless nights. Nothing pacifies the loneliness which finds a home in the center of Leah’s soul. Nothing soothes her longing for Jacob.
If I’m writing this script, which I’m not, I think at this point I’d get out my red pen and do some heavy editing to recast these misfits. They are not turning out to be good examples of God’s people. In my mind, they ought to be law-abiding followers, anxiously waiting on God to unfold his plan, and less tempted to take the bull by the horn.
However, if they followed my idea of how they should conduct themselves, I’d be pulling the log out of their eyes and keeping it wedged in my own.
What are we to do when we encounter people like this? People like us?
If that’s the case, I should be the first to go.
I’m just like them.
And so are you.
God is a stickler about his commandments. Wouldn’t you if you had taken the time to sit on a mountain with Moses to write each and every law? He didn’t write these laws for his good pleasure. He wrote these laws to keep you from harm and to reconcile you to him. He’s also a stickler about how we treat the weak and feeble; the old and frail; the lost and abandoned. God did not like Jacob having more than one wife. And neither is he pleased with Jacob’s favoritism toward Rachel.
Yet, he doesn’t rewrite either of their stories. He allows their deceitful ways to play right into a script he’s already read.
He sees the whole picture.
What appears right and good, pure and perfect can often be misleading. The opposite is also true. What seems dysfunctional, ill-fitted, and misaligned can be the very thing God uses for his purpose.
Let’s look at a video clip to prove my point.
[NOTE: Begin video at precisely 4:27 minutes; end at 5:35 minutes. Return to the beginning of the video and run for 35 seconds.]
(This video is having issues pulling up. Just click on the link above to get to Youtube to see it.)
If you saw Itzhak Perlman (It Zok) on the street for the first time, your first reaction would be, “Oh my, that poor man.” But as you watched him on this video, in his element, unaware of his physical limitations, you immediately expected a grand performance from a well-fitted individual. It wasn’t until you watched him struggle to get seated that you gained a new appreciation for what he “can” do with that tiny violin, rather than what he “couldn’t” do with his legs.
Imperfections Don’t Alter God’s Plan. They ENHANCE THEM. REVEAL them. EXPOSES God’s greatness, power, glory, and goodness.
Leah isn’t looking at what God can do for her. All she sees is what he’s “not” doing. She doesn’t have the love of her husband or the comfort of children to sustain her.
Like for so many of us, there’s a large schism separating Leah’s feelings from spiritual reality. She’d rather focus on her hatred toward her sister than find hope in God’s promises.
As a result, the rivalry between these two sisters is unleashed with fury. Their love for Jacob puts them at odds with one another and increases their determination to win their husband’s affection.
We quarrel with one another because we are struggling to measure up. Our comparisons to one another grows out of control. We’re blinded and unwilling to recognize that every single time you align yourself alongside another imperfect individual, the result is a slightly curved measuring rod. No matter how much you tap that yardstick to get it straight, that curve remains.
Because: Imperfection + Imperfection = Imperfection
We create quite a bit of misery and trouble for ourselves when we choose to live a life based on our comparisons to someone else. And let’s not ignore the hatred and bitterness soon to follow.
Spiritual truth is this: God turned Leah and Rachel’s fierce competition into a blessing. He wasn’t pleased with the way they behaved. He didn’t like it. But he wasn’t confined by it either.
Months after God opened Leah’s womb, she became a delighted and proud woman. She now had bragging rights.
She names her firstborn, Reuben, then says:
“… because the Lord has seen my misery.” (Genesis 29:32)
She conceives again and names the second child, Levi, and says in deep agony:
“… for surely my husband will become attached to me now.” (Genesis 29:34)
Can you hear the desperation in Leah’s voice? She has two healthy sons, children she always wanted, and she’s still not happy.
The third time Leah conceives she names her son, Judah, and declares:
“This time I will praise the Lord.” (Genesis 29:35)
What has happened to Leah?
She changed her focus — from Jacob to God. Though this transformation took some time, Leah continued in her spiritual growth.
Whining over Jacob’s inability to love her was getting Leah nowhere. She turns to God, her everlasting peace … the one who does not fail her … the one who truly knows and loves her.
Why didn’t Leah turn to God four sons ago? Think on this for a moment.
It’s true–Leah was never favored by Jacob. She lived most of her married life selling and buying back the services of a husband who didn’t affectionately love her.
I can’t imagine coming to you and using a cake of figs or a roasted lamb, or mandrakes to bargain for my husband’s bed for the night. That’s just crazy to me. God’s original intent has always been “one” wife for life. If he wanted man to have two wives, he would have made another woman to work alongside Adam and Eve.
And mandrakes? What in the world are mandrakes?
Let’s take a look at this video.
In this video, you can see mandrakes are fleshy, green-colored (unripe) berries that have an outward texture a lot like a nectarine. They are barely two inches in diameter. They grow from September to April and bloom glossy green and violet flowers. They have medicinal benefits: alleviating stomach ulcers, colic, constipation, asthma, hay fever, convulsions, arthritis, whooping cough; trigger vomiting, sedate, reduce pain, jaundice, inflammation, varicose veins, depression, spasms, arouse sexual desire, and controls maniacal behavior (wild or maniac).
Their roots are a lot more interesting than the edible fruit. The roots and leaves are poisonous. In ancient days, witches and sorcerers boiled the roots. This sweet-smelling root is intoxicating, having aphrodisiac and hallucinating properties often used to charm or stimulate fertility. In other words, it’s a modern-day Viagra, of sorts.
If you wanted to exhibit more sinister behavior, all you had to do was pull up the root, rather than WAIT on God, boil these roots, and allow their narcotic properties to intoxicate your victim.
Could Leah and Rachel have done such a thing? It’s not too far-fetched. They are idol worshippers, and there’s no telling which idol practices they used to sway the outcome they desired. They are bent on having the attention of their husband who is about 84 years old. We know from their bickering back and forth that these two women would have gone to any length to have children. When they couldn’t or didn’t have babies in a timely manner, they concluded God needed extra help, using their handmaidens to do just that–Help.
Help, however, was not what God wanted.
He wants OBEDIENCE. If that means WAIT on the Lord, then I suggest you WAIT on the Lord. Otherwise, like Leah and Rachel, you will cause yourself a lot of heartache and misery.
Flawed people have flawed thinking, and each time we try to lend God a hand, we end up making a mess of things. It doesn’t occur to us to be still. What seems sensible and right to us is far from what God intended.
Why didn’t Leah turn to God the moment her father concocted his deceitful plan against Jacob?
Why are we flawed in this same way? Something to think about.
Many years pass and everything has changed. Jacob’s family has grown. His flocks have increased as well.
Strange how that happened.
Laban, the mater of trickery, convinced Jacob to continue to work for him, and as payment he’d give him all black, spotted, and striped sheep. On his way home, Laban must have laughed his head off and called Jacob an idiot. Over ninety percent of Laban’s flock is white, and the ten percent that were blemished he separates from Jacob so they can’t be accredited to Jacob as his own. Let me be clear — Laban was bent on having Jacob start with nothing and end with nothing. Laban is absolutely sure God is blessing him as long as Jacob stays with him, and Laban plans to milk this train for as long as he possibly can.
God, however, saw Laban’s crafty ways. What Laban didn’t know was he couldn’t out-fox the Father.
When the sheep come to drink water from the well, Jacob would strip slivers of bark from poplar, almond, and plane (sycamore and chestnut) trees, creating a striped pattern in each of the branches. He’d place them in water, letting the healthy and strong ewes eat the twigs and drink the powdery substance that emitted from the twigs and into the water. To distract the healthy ewes, he faced them toward the blemished sheep who also came to drink water from the same well. The blemished animals served as a distraction for the healthy ewes who drank from the trough. While drinking from the trough, male sheep came from behind and mated with them.
This passage puzzled me, so I dug deeper to find the answers to my nagging question: Why is Jacob putting striped twigs of poplar, almond, sycamore, and chestnut trees in the water?
Poplar, almond, and plane (chestnut and sycamore) trees have medicinal value and are known to cure inflammation, uterus infections, promote health and fertility, and fight off infections. During a scientific study, scientist separated sheep equally, feeding half the sheep with the medicinal properties found in these branches; then feeding the other half of the sheep with regular feed. The sheep fed with the medicinal properties from the tree branches increased in weight, were healthier, and produced more multiple births (twins) than the sheep who were not fed with the medicinal properties of the trees.
To this day, the medicinal properties found in these trees are used to feed sheep and other animals.
Does this mean God did not miraculously increase Jacob’s flock?
Of course not.
Keep in mind God used the wind and fire to hold back Pharoah’s Army and to keep them from killing the Israelites. God used creepy things to pester the Egyptians. He can use anything he chooses to attain his goal. He’s God of the universe, over the living and the dead, over the firmaments and the earth.
Jacob eventually sees there’s no end to his uncle’s dishonesty. He’s ready to go home, but patiently waits for an opportunity to escape.
By early spring, the time is right.
It’s sheep shearing time.
Let’s look at this video clip on sheep shearing.
Begin video at 4:05 minutes.
Laban has an enormous herd of sheep, and Jacob calculates sheep shearing will keep Laban and his servants busy for several days.
Sheep shearing season is a festive time of year. People all over the region come to settle debts and celebrate their profits. The wool is sold, but some is set aside to be cleaned and woven into blankets, clothing, and saddles. Women were busy extracting lanolin from the wool, carefully placing it in jars to later use it as moisturizers to be sold at market. Revelry and boisterous laughter are heard throughout the city, along the hillside, as everyone is in high spirits because of the profits they will receive from the wool. Marriages are hastily conducted. Slaves steal off in search of freedom.
It’s a great opportunity to get away.
Because Laban has an enormous herd of sheep to be sheared, Jacob concludes he’ll be long gone by the time Laban realizes he and his family have escaped.
And so it came to pass that Jacob left Laban’s household.
There’s a penalty for their dysfunctional behavior?
A stressful family unit.
Jacob doesn’t appreciate Leah for many years. Her beauty never intensifies. He could no more expect Leah’s beauty to increase any more than we can expect Itzhak Perlman to walk without crutches. Matter of fact, we appreciate the violinist even more because of his handicap.
Despite all this, Jacob is blessed. So is Leah.
What does Leah’s blessings spiritually mean?
Though Leah wasn’t Jacob’s first choice … though he made her feel abandoned by favoring her sister, Rachel, God remembered and blessed a whole nation through her.
God never forgets the abandoned.
Reminds you of what verse?
“So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)
Take a look at us … here at this church. We are a big congregation. Not as big as some mega churches, still we’re large in number.
Here you sit. One of many. A dot. Insignificant. Nameless.
And yet, God knows you by name.
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)
In the beginning, I’m sure Leah felt like you … like she was left on an island.
See, if you believe you’re on an island, then you’ll act as if you’re on an island.
It all begins with our belief system and our daily interaction, or the lack thereof, with the Father. If our spiritual belief system is not strong enough, our potential to spiritually fail goes up. We act as if we need to be cornered with no way out before we look UP in search of God. We have this tendency to converse with everyone on the planet, seeking help by any means necessary until we exhaust every avenue available to us before realizing the Father knows us best … before realizing all we need to do is ask him for what we need, then wait on him.
Your belief system is like a battery. As long as your battery is charged and in good working order, you function just fine. If you stray away from the Word, your spiritual battery is slowly sapped of energy.
Get in the habit of checking your spiritual charge, or you’ll wake up one day and not know or understand how you fell in the pit.
On some level, Leah finally understood the Father loved her.
How? How did Leah know God loved her?
Since her trickery has whittled down and she’s had all the babies she can have, there’s no need to compete with her sister anymore. At some point, Leah became wise, slowed down and focused on matters of importance–spending time in contentment with God and being thankful.
Leah had a lot to be thankful for.
This is Leah’s real story.
From this woman’s womb, a nation was born.
The bad things that happened to her and by her did not negate God’s love for her.
She was abandoned AND God blessed her.
She was unloved AND God loved her.
She was alone AND God gave her six sons and a daughter to raise.
God even made provisions for Leah’s burial.
Rachel died first, while giving birth to Benjamin and is buried beside the road to Ephrath (pronounced–Eff wrath), which is called Bethlehem.
Leah dies later and lays in a burial place Abraham bought from Ephron, the Hittite. Before Jacob dies, he instructs his sons to bury him next to his wife, Leah.
Did you hear that?
Think on it.
Before Jacob marries Rachel, he marries Leah, first. A week after he marries Leah, he marries the woman of his dreams–Rachel. Out of tradition and hardship, come a blessing.
Here at this place, you might be unnamed. You might feel insignificant among these massive amount of people, but you are not forgotten. You are not being ignored. God sees and hears and knows your pain. He feels your loneliness.
We may feel left out, but IT’S A LIE! Don’t believe it. You are a child of the King. You are not forgotten. You are not less than anyone else. You are not more than anyone else. You are included. Set aside your worldly status, your financial gain, your emotional turmoil, your neglectful parents, your bullying co-workers, and your abusive spouse, and reflect on God’s truth–
“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; …” (Isaiah 43:4-5) [Emphasis mine.]
Don’t be fooled: your real family are those in the body of Christ … those in heavenly places … those who are at rest waiting for your arrival.
Don’t allow your circumstances to define who you are, but rather who you belong to. You were bought with a price. Don’t waste his blood. Let it cover you … drench you … pour all over you. Allow God’s grace to be active within you. Do not fight the Holy Spirit. Obey him. Listen to him, for,
“He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come.” (John 16:12-13)
Leah was not perfect.
GOD IS PERFECT.
Not one speck of darkness can be found in him. He’s come to save us and cover our sins … to clothes us like he clothed Adam and Eve.
Think on this:
Above the Ark of the Covenant is the Mercy Seat (the lid), and underneath the Mercy Seat are Aaron’s staff, tablets of the Ten Commandments, and bowl of manna. God is hovering over the Mercy Seat and a law we could not keep. Without Christ being the Mercy Seat, we are forever separated from the Father. But Christ as the Mercy Seat is our perpetuation — our go-between to get to the Father. Come to God’s Mercy Seat. Give up your manipulative behavior, your white lies, and your bad attitude, your political view, and everything that separates you from Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the saints. Come rest and let God’s Mercy be enough.
We can’t perfect our way out of our struggles. Imperfections Don’t Alter God’s Plan for you.
IN SUMMARY, what have we learned?
- Our failures have no power over God’s purpose for our lives.
- We are to be in full obedience to our Father, but dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” shouldn’t be our full focus. We are not called to legalism. The Mercy Seat — Jesus Christ covers our failures.
- Sharpen your listening skills. By listening to the Holy Spirit, you are reassured he will “never” steer you wrong.
- Don’t minimize God’s power to miraculously turn your plans into a blessing.
- Though most of the time we make choices according to the flesh, God is not confined by them.
Father-God, help us to listen … to really listen to the Holy Spirit and follow his lead. We know you love us, but we often need to be reminded just how much you love us … how you continue to sacrifice for us. Help us remain OBEDIENT and walk in your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Donna B. Comeaux
Another woman out of billions who love the Lord our God.