In the development of Israel as a nation, two key figures are Rachel and Leah.
Rachel and Leah were sisters who shared one husband, Jacob. Apart from that common factor, their lives could not have been more different.
Leah was unnattractive. Leah was the elder daughter, Rachel the younger. Rachel, the bible says, was beautiful. Leah, the bible says , unflatteringly, had “weak eyes” or “delicate” eyes (Genesis 29.17).
Her circumstances were undesirable. Leah was forced into marriage by her father.
Leah was unloved. Jacob was forced into marriage with Leah, and clearly he did not want to be married to Leah. She had no say in the matter. Culture and parental authority overrode her own feelings and wishes.
And throughout the narrative of Genesis 30, it appears that she really did love Jacob, but her love was unrequited. Rachel was his obvious favourite.
Even a quick reading of Genesis 29 and 30 leaves you with a sharp impression of the pain Leah must have endured in a loveless marriage.
But Leah’s story doesn’t end there. Because Leah knew God’s favour: “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb” (Genesis 29.31).
The children that she bears to Jacob bring her some comfort and create the hope – forlorn hope – that Jacob will one day love her. What she doesn’t realise is that in her pain she is quietly changing the world. The children born to her will become the foundation of the nation of Israel. And among those children is one called Judah. From the line of Judah will come king David and eventually Jesus. In her pain, Leah was, unknown to her, changing the world. Leah, it’s fair to say was a reluctant world changer. But she was a world changer.
No-one would choose Leah’s life. No-one would choose her pain. The reality is, however, that some of us have lives that we would never choose for ourselves. And we can feel that what we have to live with – whether it be our appearance, family background, marriage, career etc. – is second rate and therefore counts for little. However, that is not the whole story. Not at all. If we are to learn anything from Leah, it is that God’s favour and God’s powerful work is not blocked by any of those features of our lives that we consider undesirable.
Many generations later, when Boaz wed Ruth, the women of Israel pronounced this blessing: “The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel” (Ruth 4.11)
Without God all our lives are second rate. But with His favour we all become world changers. Even if some of are reluctant world changers.