I don’t claim to be an Old Testament Scholar, though I do know, on at least a BASIC level, most of the O.T. stories. Yesterday at the end of the women’s conference I attended, we heard from Liz Curtis Higgs. By the way if you’ve never HEARD her speak…you just have NO idea what you’re missing…she is truly one of the best speakers AND teachers I’ve ever heard. Yes, her books are good too!
She was teaching about Jacob and Laban and Leah and Rachel. I had heard the “story” before but I hadn’t really studied it to this degree. The first thing she spoke about was how we are a people that judge largely by outside appearance and even in this story, while the descriptions are brief; there are descriptions of both Leah and Rachel.
We all know that Jacob LOVED Rachel, so much so that he was willing to work, initially, 7 years (which flew by in an instant, according to Scripture) to receive her as his bride. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Liz Curtis Higgs first showed us how Leah is described with “weak” eyes. This can be interpreted a couple of ways…either “not bright” or “weak visually”. This is the ONLY descriptive we get of Leah. Rachel is described as “beautiful of form and face”. We can ‘read’ a lot into that statement. Suffice to say, she was younger and prettier and desirable. Then Liz told us what these names actually meant. Why is this important? Because it shows the placement women held in families. Leah means COW. Rachel means SHEEP. Yes, these women were possessions and named as such. I leaned over to my friend and said; “well, I won’t be naming any future daughters Rachel OR Leah.”
Side note: This all got me thinking about what our names mean. My birth name is Kimberly, which means “beautiful meadow”. I’ve NEVER thought of myself as Kimberly (except when I’m in trouble. I have always gone by Kim, which means “leader” and that most assuredly defines me at least on a surface level. Do you know what your name means? Do you know WHY you have that name? Do you know WHO named you? How did you name your children? Did you look up the meaning of the name before you selected it?
Back on track…I know we have all head about Rachel and Leah and Jacob and the resulting marriages and births. Here is what was NEW and important for me to learn. Leah was obviously saddened beyond belief about Jacobs “repulsion” of her. She cried out to God. God saw that Leah was “unloved”. How incredibly sad and yet wonderful: It’s incredibly sad that Leah was unloved. I know we’ve all FELT unloved and we too, wondered if anyone cared. It’s incredibly wonderful to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God sees ALL of our pain and KNOWS our heart this intimately.
Okay, so we know God blessed Leah with children; boys even, which were “the ultimate blessing” in the O.T. Leah names each of these children from where she was in her life. She names the first three with the continued hope that her husband would grow to love her because of these great blessings. By the time she had the fourth, she had shifted her focus from Jacob…to God. She named her fourth child, a son, Judah, which means “Praise”. We know, from history that Judah is the son in the line of Christ’s heritage. It’s not by chance that when Leah shifted her focus from Jacob to God, as she offered her son as a sacrifice of praise to the one true God, he not only continued to bless her, but he blessed Judah as well!
I have to remember to keep my own focus on God. Sometimes it’s so hard not to think my significance is found in Kim; wife, employee, daughter, sister, leader, or every gift I have, or think I have. In man, I MAY find immediate gratification. In man, I WILL find judgment. In God lie the true blessings I seek. In God I find my purpose and my significance. The solution seems like a “no brainer” to me…get my eyes off self and others and get them faced upward on the ONE TRUE GOD!