Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, (James 4:1-2a)
After his long journey, Jacob arrived at his uncle’s house, about 700 Km (i.e., around 430 miles) through foreign lands and wildernesses. God protected Jacob throughout his journey to his uncle’s house in Harran. God prepared all things ahead of Jacob. Jacob met Rachel, his uncle’s daughter, and Rachel brought Jacob to his uncle, Laban. Laban exclaimed, “You really are my own flesh and blood!”
God made Jacob completely feel at home. After Jacob had stayed with Laban for about a month, Laban said to him, “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.”
Laban had two daughters: the older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
“Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” Laban was also a tricky person like Jacob, who deceived his father and brother. That was the reason why Jacob came to his uncle’s house. However, Jacob did not know who Laban really was. Jacob blindly trusted Laban. So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”
So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. Jacob did not know what Laban was planning to do. That night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.
But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”
Laban had a poker face. “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. “But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.” Laban made Jacob work seven more years.
Jacob had no other option but to agree to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too. So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban for the additional seven years. However, Jacob never forgot what Laban did to him.
What Jacob really wanted was to get married to Rachel, not Leah. Thus, Jacob, with a jagged personality, never loved Leah, making Leah sad and truly painful. Leah approached God and poured out her heart every day. God heard Leah’s prayer and gave her four sons: Reuben, Siemon, Levi, and Judah. Among them, Levi and Judah were so special. Levi and his descendants became priests who served God for all Israelites. Most of all, our Savior, Jesus Christ, came as a descendant of Judah. King David, the most famous king, was also the descendant of Judah. God’s answer to Leah’s prayer was beyond comprehension. Who could even imagine Leah’s sons would become later days at that time?
Leah, comforted by God, gave thanks to God by saying, “Now I will praise the LORD!” Jacob, her husband, did not love Leah, but God loved Leah and blessed her.
When Rachel saw that she didn’t have any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Rachel did not know how Leah did survive, although Jacob did not love Leah. Leah’s secret was her contrite prayer to God without ceasing. On the other hand, Rachel was always confident in her beauty. She thought that all things would come to her because of her beauty. Indeed, her husband chose Rachel over Leah because of her beauty. Her attitude did not please God, and God closed her womb.
Rachel confronted Jacob. Instead, Rachel should have had gone to God and humbly and authentically prayed to God as Leah did.
As soon as Jacob heard Rachel’s complaint, he became furious with Rachel. Jacob had a very strong ego, and Jacob had not been broken yet by God. Jacob immediately pushed back.
Then he blamed God. “Am I God?” he asked. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” Jacob responded so strongly, which changed Rachel, who decided not to confront Jacob anymore.
Then Rachel told him, “Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her, I can have a family, too.” So Rachel gave her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife, and he slept with her. Bilhah became pregnant and presented him with a son. Rachel named him Dan, for she said, “God has vindicated me! He has heard my request and given me a son.” Then Bilhah became pregnant again and gave Jacob a second son. Rachel named him Naphtali, for she said, “I have struggled hard with my sister, and I’m winning!”
Rachel’s focus was to completing against Leah, and Rachel rejoiced when Dan was born. Then when Napthali was born, she declared her victory over Leah. Please note that the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, does not list Dan as one of the twelve tribes.
Once Leah prayed earnestly to God and received four sons, but she was not perfect before God. (In fact, nobody can be perfect before God.) She also felt competition from Rachel. That’s the reason why we have to always fix our eyes on God, which is critical. If we take off our eyes, although it might a short time, we will quickly fall and experience earthly jealousy, fear, etc., again.
Leah realized that she wasn’t getting pregnant anymore. So she felt even more fear of her sister, Rachel, who could bring sons through her servant. Leah quickly learned. So she took her servant, Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Soon Zilpah presented him with a son. Leah named him Gad, for she said, “How fortunate I am!” Then Zilpah gave Jacob a second son. And Leah named him Asher, for she said, “What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me.”
Leah quickly became self-centered and measured things from her. Everything started revolving around her, and she was at the center, although God should have been at the center. Leah didn’t give back anything to God for two additional sons. She did not even mention God at all.
Now no more love and care existed between the two sisters. Jacob still did not come to Leah. He always went to Rachel, which caused Leah’s heartbreaking. She drifted more and more toward the world, and she almost forgot her prayers to God with her contrite heart. That was how she survived when Jacob did not love her, but God blessed her with four sons.
One day during the wheat harvest, Reuben, Leah’s firstborn son, found some mandrakes growing in a field and brought them to his mother, Leah. Rachel begged Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
At that time, Leah was not comfortable due to Rachel’s sons brought by Bilhah, Rachel’s servant. Again, Leah fixed her eyes on the earthly things – her sons vs. Rachel’s sons (not even Rachel’s but Rachel’s servant’s sons). Leah quickly fell from the most precious gift of all – walking closely with God while praising God with her thanksgiving despite her situation that Jacob did not love her.
As a result, Leah became worldly by being closer to the world than God.
Leah angrily replied, “Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now, will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?”
Leah’s focus was her defeat over the battle for Jacob with her younger sister. Indeed, Jacob married Leah before Rachel. Leah had all rights to say, “you stole my husband,” which was true to her heart. She could not forget her defeat and humiliation. Her sister Rachel’s beauty and attractiveness were not her faults, which were given to Rachel unfairly to Leah’s eyes. Leah became angry at Rachel. Can we find Leah, who used to approach God with her contrite heart humbly? The old Leah was lost and no longer with Leah now.
Rachel answered, “I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me some of the mandrakes.”
Rachel was a driven woman who always got what she wanted. For her, Jacob was nothing because Jacob clang to Rachel first, not the other way around. Thus, to Rachel, Jacob was not so valuable as Leah felt, who always wanted Jacob’s love. Then Rachel’s choice was easy. That was mandrake, not Jacob, because the mandrake would give her the pleasure that she wished to, and Jacob, her husband, could not provide.
So that evening, as Jacob was coming home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him. “You must come and sleep with me tonight!” she said. “I have paid for you with some mandrakes that my son found.” So that night, he slept with Leah.
For Jacob, Rachel was everything. Jacob wanted to go to Rachel, but Rachel wanted Jacob to go to Leah. Jacob obediently followed Rachel’s decision.
Finally, Leah got her husband back. She felt that for this time, she should not lose Jacob again. Leah was relieved from her fierce competition with her sister, Rachel, and she could forget her repetitive defeats because of Rachel’s beauty. Leah didn’t want to go back to her misery again, sleeping alone while thinking about Jacob and her younger sister, Rachel, who stole her husband. As thinking about these, she came back to herself again. She started praying to God.
Indeed, it was the moment that God planned. God closely watched over Leah, who once clang to Him with contrite heart but drifted away from Him. God loved Leah, and God prepared all the steps – Reuben’s mandrake, Rachel’s request for the mandrake, her explosive anger against Rachel, and Rachel’s response of giving up Jacob. All things together worked out to make Leah where to go, not to be in the same misery again. Leah prayed. Yes, Leah prayed again with the same contrite heart as she prayed before, which pleased God again.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)
God answered Leah’s prayers. She became pregnant again and gave birth to a fifth son for Jacob. She named him Issachar, for she said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband as a wife.” Then Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to a sixth son for Jacob. She named him Zebulun, for she said, “God has given me a good reward. Now my husband will treat me with respect, for I have given him six sons.” Leah’s response was truly different from when she got two sons from her servant. She first praised God as she got a new son. After her sixth son, Jacob treated Leah with respect. That was not all. God blessed Leah even more. Leah gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
God always and carefully watched over Leah. Although Leah drifted away, God put all things together to make Leah back to Him. God made Rachel open up her husband to Leah. Leah, then, returned to God, and even her husband treated her with respect. Surely, God was good to Leah, because God loved Leah.
Soon Rachel realized that she did a poor job. She used to monopolize her husband, Jacob. Due to her desire for mandrake, she let Leah be with Jacob. Getting and tasting mandrake gave her pleasure, but the fun short-lived. She thought that she made a bargain, but it was not. Leah got much more than what she got. Even her husband, Jacob, treated Leah with respect.
Rachel looked at herself. She had no son of her own. She became depressed, and her depression got deeper and deeper. She could not sleep well. One day, suddenly, she remembered what Leah did – praying to God when Leah was distressed. She now realized that she had to pray to God also. Then she opened her mouth and prayed to God with her contrite heart while telling her heartbreaks authentically. Of course, God had been carefully watching over Rachel long before this moment. Rachel might think she accidentally came to God and prayed, but it was not. God painstakingly laid out the path to guide her to the point that Rachel clang to God with contrite and authentic prayer.
Then God answered Rachel’s prayers by enabling her to have children. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. “God has removed my disgrace,” she said. And she named him Joseph, for she said, “May the LORD add yet another son to my family.” Rachel was in joy because God answered her prayer and praised God.
God is always gracious to those who are poor in heart. Rachel finally became humble and pooer in her heart before God. Rachel used to be arrogant and looked down on her sister, Leah, who was not so attractive as herself. She understood when God made her low and put her in pain. Her earthly desire to taste the mandrake only gave transient fun, which quickly disappeared from her life. Rachel then found God in her search for the eternal joy that only God could give. God graciously answered Rachel’s prayer and gave her a son whom she wanted to have from the first day of her marriage.
However, it was not the end of the story. God, full of mercy and grace, indeed gave an extraordinary son to Rachel. Joseph, her son, later became the 2nd man in Egypt in the greatest nation, and Joseph saved the entire family by bringing them to Egypt from the extreme famine. Did Rachel know this fact? No. What God did was beyond the comprehension of Rachel because God heard Rachel when Rachel humbly came to God and cried out with her contrite heart.
He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. (Proverbs 3:34)
Let’s summarize with the following questions:
When did God answer to Leah and Rachel? Who made Leah and Rachel humble and poor in heart? How did Leah and Rachel become humble and poor in heart? Who made them experience the life pain till they truly become humble and poor in heart? Did Leah and Rachel randomly come back and pray to God? Didn’t God prepare all things for Leah and Rachel ahead of the time?
Yes, God prepared all things for Leah and Rachel ahead of time. Why? God equally loved both Leah and Rachel, and God was always faithful to both of them.
What did God truly want from them? Wasn’t it to come back to God?
God patiently waited for both Leah and Rachel till they came back to God. As they came back to God with contrite hearts in prayer, God answered them by providing what they wanted. However, that was not all. God lavishly blessed them with something that they could not fathom at that time. Both Leah and Rachel got extraordinary sons. Leah got Levi and Judah, and Rachel got Joseph.
What did we learn from Leah and Rachel? What was common in their lives before they truly meet God? They were in pain by falling to the lowest part of their lives. But God is love. God always watches over His children and prepares all things ahead of them. Then God patiently waits. Yes, God waits till His children come back to Him. Then what should we do, God’s precious children?
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)