The Unloved One
Rev. Lily Lim | On 07, Apr 2015
Genesis 29: 30-35 (RSV)
V30- So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.
V13- When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.
V32- And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”
V33- She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also”; and she called his name Simeon.
V34- Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons”; therefore his name was called Levi.
V35- And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the LORD”; therefore she called his name Judah; then she ceased bearing.
Deep within each man and woman is a common longing: the desire to find comfort, companionship and fulfillment.
All of us, regardless of sex or age, want to be loved, accepted and affirmed. For the most part, most of us at some point in our journey here on earth have experienced the awful ache of not being loved in various ways. As a matter of fact, it affects us all.
We hunger for an unconditional love-affair not based on lust but on love; we long for an unqualified acceptance not based on our perfect performance or on what has been done lately for the other party; and we crave an unreserved affirmation not based on merit but on mercy. We all desire to find comfort, companionship and fulfillment.
But the scary part about reality is that there are scores of human personalities who are just not loved or wanted. None wants to offer them comfort, companionship or fulfillment. None offers them an unconditional love affair, an unqualified acceptance or an unreserved affirmation. The sad and scary truth is that there are people who no one loves.
And so our Key text forces us to face this fact again. It introduces us to a very sad and shy woman by the name of Leah who perhaps lived most of her life in the shadow of her beautiful sister, Rachel. She paled in beauty to Rachel because of her weak eyes, which some scholars believed to mean “crossed eyes.” Our key text also tells us that Leah was “hated” by Jacob.
Now this word, “hated” as we understand, is a very strong word. Who wants to be a shadow of a more beautiful younger sister and worse to be a wife HATED by her husband?
But we must understand that Jacob did not HATE Leah as we normally use the word.
“HATED” is used in Genesis 29:31 in the relative sense of “UNLOVED” which is clear from the preceding verse: “So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah.”
If there is anyone who longs to be loved more than anyone, it is Leah. Why? Because she is THE UNLOVED ONE and that’s the title of my message this morning.
This morning, I want to talk about 4 things about the Unloved One:
• The Pain of the Unloved
• The Prayer of the Unloved
• The Praise of the Unloved
• The Portion of the Unloved
(I) THE PAIN OF THE UNLOVED
We all can empathize and identify with Leah’s pain of being the unloved one.
Oh! The pain, the anguish and the sorrow of being unloved.
The Bible records that Leah was always trying to gain her husband’s love through childbearing.
The word “conceived and bore” appeared four times in our key text.
Here is an unloved woman always trying to conceive ways and means to gain the love and acceptance of her husband.
We see her pain in her degradation experience of not being loved or wanted by her husband; we see her pain of being disappointed in her expectation from her husband; we see her pain in being used by her deceitful father; we see her pain in being despised by her younger sister; we see her pain in her continuous labor in childbearing; we see her pain of having to live with the debilitating reputation of not being loved (until today we are still talking about her as the unloved woman).
Application: How about you? Can you identify with the pain of Leah today of not being loved or wanted by the people who should be loving you? You are in pain today because you have no father, no mother, no sister/brother, no husband/wife; no pastors, no boss/teacher, no in-laws and no friends to love you back. Today, like Leah, are you laboring so hard to try to gain acceptance by people? You always labor or change or work expecting to be loved a little more by others but at the end of day, you are still back to square one –still alone, unloved, rejected, unnoticed; unappreciated and isolated.
(II) THE PRAYER OF THE UNLOVED
But today, I want to point your attention to a God who pays attention to the unloved.
Since Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, surely he wanted his first son by her. But the Lord saw to it that Leah became pregnant first. God himself closed beautiful, much-loved Rachel’s womb and opened the womb of her lowly, unloved sister. God bypassed Rachel and opened the womb of Leah in her humble estate.
Rachel was devastated. As Jacob’s choice wife, she had rightly expected to be the matriarch who would fulfill the Bethel promises. And in the Mesopotamia context, barrenness was not so much pitied as disdained. In contrast, her older sister Leah was marvelously fertile, having one son after another. So there was a God helping Leah.
Naturally, unloved Leah’s hope soared. She thought, as this remarkable set of sons was developing, Jacob would come to love her.
The barometer of Leah’s pathetic hope of love is enshrined in her naming of the four boys but it also implies that she has sensitivity to spiritual things. Despite her sad unloved state, she made some spiritual progress. One of the things Hebrew scholars notice is that in all of Leah’s statements, she was calling on the LORD. She used the name YAHWEH, “The LORD [Yahweh] has seen my affliction,” (verse 12). How did she know about Yahweh?
The only way Leah could have known about YAHWEH was if Jacob had told her about the promise to his grandfather, Abraham. So even though she was struggling and in pain, she was nonetheless reaching out to a personal God of grace. She was praying to God
The different names Leah gave to each of her sons also reveal to us her journey with God in prayer.
Let’s look at the meaning of the names Leah gave to her first four sons and at the corresponding relationship she had with God at that time of each birth:
• V32 Reuben……(lit. “see a son”) “now my husband will love me.”
• V33 Simon…….(lit. “hearing”) “the LORD has heard I am hated.”
• V34 Levi…….(lit. “attached”) “this time my husband will be attached to me.”
• V35 Judah……(lit “celebrated”) “this time I will praise the Lord.”
What do all these mean?
• She starts with the desperate need of having Jacob love her.
• She becomes bitter because her husband will not respond
• She gives up trying. The best she hopes for is “attachment”
Application: Like Leah, in our need for love and acceptance, we cry to Jesus to SEE our affliction – to see how much we are unloved and rejected. Jesus sees and helps us to succeed in the things we are using to gain love and acceptance from our object of love. In Leah’s case, it is childbirth. In your case, it may your studies or your performance. Yet, the people who we are trying to get to love us, will still not respond to our effort. Then you cry to Jesus again to HEAR how you are hated; how you are sidelined. Jesus hears and helps you again and yet there is still no response from your object of love. Now with resignation of faith, you give up praying so hard. Your prayer to God is that as long as your object of love ATTENDS to your basic need, you are fine with it. For Leah, as long as Jacob is joined/attached to her in sex even though he doesn’t love her, it is fine with her.
Leah was at her spiritual lowest at the birth of Levi. Here much-sobered Leah did not wish for love but attachment. This was a lonely, forlorn soliloquy. Her hope faded and she demanded less.
Application: In our unloved state, we will be praying to God and despite how much God sees, hears or even attends to us, our object of love will still not change.
If your outward behavior is hard work and labor, could it be that your inner motivation is a craving to be loved and accepted?
Mind you, the people we are working so hard for have a basic responsibility to love us back. Biblically Jacob as a husband must love his wife and biblically our parents should love us and biblically children should respect their parents. So Leah’s expectation and our expectation are normal and biblical. Yet, human being human, the people we expect to love us will fail. No attempt in our prayer and even God’s answer to our effort will work. Even if God works FOR us, there is no guarantee we will be fulfilled by people who we expect to love us.
Application: What about you? What are you using and working so hard on in order to gain love from? Leah used childbirth; some may use studies; others may use performance. And there will be the divine help in response to your cry for it. Yet, at the end of your effort, you will experience a prayer slum; a faith and hope crisis like Leah, where you will just settle for the bare minimum.
(III) THE PRAISE OF THE UNLOVED
The breakthrough in Leah’s spiritual journey came at the birth of her fourth son – Judah. Judah means “praise.” So with boy number four we have this sense: “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then SHE CEASED BEARING (v35). She stopped trying so hard to gain her husband’s love. Here Leah made no plea for love or improved relations with her husbands. She had given up.
Leah was no longer fretting because her sister had so effectively monopolized Jacob’s heart. Leah had found an OUTLET for her love in the Lord. She no longer needed people to make her happy, her joy and praise was in God. Having reached the high note in her spiritual life, Leah ceased having sons. What need had she of further assurance? The Lord was better to her than a hundred sons.
How could Leah praise the Lord?
Leah could praise the Lord because she found a TRUE BRIDGEGROOM.
Our key text says that when the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, He loved her. God was saying, “I am the real bridegroom. I am the husband of the husbandless. I am the father of the fatherless.” This is the God who saves by grace. The gods of moralistic religions favor the successful and the overachievers. They are the ones who climb the moral ladder up to heaven. But the God of the Bible is the one who comes down into this world to accomplish a salvation and give us a grace we could never attain ourselves. He loves the unwanted, the weak and unloved. He is not just a king and we are the subjects; He is not just a shepherd and we are the sheep. He is a husband and we are His spouse. He is ravished with us – even those of us who no one notices.
And here is the power to overcome our craving for human love and acceptance. There are many people in the world who have not found a romantic partner and they need to hear the Lord say, “I am the true Bridegroom. There is only one set of arms that will give you all your heart’s desire and await you at the end of time, if only you turn to me. And know that I love you now.” However it is not just those without spouses who need to see that God is our ultimate spouse, but those with unloving spouses as well. They need this in order to save their marriage from the crushing weight of their DIVINE EXPECTATIONS. If you marry someone expecting them to be like a god, it is only inevitable that they will disappoint you. It is not that you should try to love your spouse less, but rather you should know and love God more.
How can we know God’s love so deeply that we release our lovers and spouse from our STIFLING EXPECTATIONS? By looking at the one to whom Leah’s life points – The Man Nobody Wanted.
When God came to earth in Jesus Christ, he was truly the son of Leah. He became the man nobody wanted. He was born in a manger. He had no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2). He came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11). And at the end, everybody abandoned him. Jesus cried out even to his Father, “Why have you forsaken me?”
Why did He become Leah’s son? Why did He become the man nobody wanted? For you and for me. He took upon himself our sins and died in our place. If we are deeply moved by the sight of his love for us, it detaches our hearts from other would-be saviors. We stop trying to redeem ourselves through our pursuits and relationships, because we are already redeemed. We stop trying to make others into saviors, because we have a savior.
“The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one….Thus…it is not enough…to hold out to the mirror of its own imperfections. It is not enough to come forth with a demonstration of the evanescent [fleeting] character of your enjoyments…to speak to the conscience…of its follies….Rather, try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of Him who is greater than the world.”
Who is your “Jacob” today? The one who keeps failing to reciprocate your love. Your “Jacob” will take a long time to fulfill his role as your husband. Don’t wait for your Jacob to love you back. Look to a Better Bridegroom, a Better Husband – Jesus. Praise is the upward look to Christ. Your Jacob may never change but your heart can change through PRAISE.
(IV) THE PORTION OF THE UNLOVED
In Genesis 49, we are told that it is through Judah that the true King, the Messiah will someday come. God had come to Leah, the unloved one, the girl that nobody wanted and made her the ancestral mother of Jesus. And truly if Leah could have seen down the generations, she would have been astonished at how blessed she was, because her last two sons, Levi and Judah, would respectively father the PRIESTLY and KINGLY tribes of Israel. Leah’s blood would flow in the veins of Moses and Aaron and David and Christ the Messiah.
Salvation came into the world, not through beautiful Rachel, but through the unwanted one, the unloved one. The very stone that the builder rejected has become the cornerstone. This speaks of Leah and also of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The portion of the unloved – HONOR!
Maybe our problem is that we depend too much on the other person for our emotional well being. We want other’s people love and respect for us. Since our emotional well being is rooted in the need to understand our relationship in terms of ‘love’ we enter unhealthy downward spirals. Leah’s lesson is to ground our self-worth and being in Jesus, our true bridegroom, not on others like our husband, wife, children, work, church and education. That will free us to fulfill our side of what is necessary in the relationship.
Let me end today’s message with the story of a little fish. A little fish was thrown back into the water by the fisherman because he was too small. But the little fish was overcome with feelings of rejection – especially since his older brother was accepted by the fishermen. What the little fish didn’t realize is that he was much better off with the rejection than with the acceptance.
God makes rejection a positive thing in our lives. He uses it to cut through our FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY and show us our true need. Many well adjusted, accepted and affirmed people are on the way to hell. But on the other hand, many people who have been deeply wounded by rejected have turned to the healing of Jesus Christ and now enjoy the eternal acceptance of the Father.
IT IS ONLY WHEN WE ARE NOT WANTED OR LOVED AND BE REJECTED THAT WE CAN RECEIVED FROM THE INSIDE THE EXPLOSIVE ACCEPTANCE OF OUR GOD.
PREACHED AT ETAB ON 29 MAR 2015 -1ST ENGLISH SV