In my teen years, I admired the love that Jacob had for Rachel, the younger daughter of Laban. This is a story found in the book of Genesis. Jacob was willing to work 7 years for Laban to get Rachel’s hand in marriage. Rachel was beautiful, with a lovely figure and beautiful eyes and Jacob was quick to notice her. The seven years seemed like only a few days to Jacob, because of his love for her (Gen 29:16-20).
And then there was Leah, the older sister. There is little mention about her in this passage, except that she had weak eyes. When the time came for Jacob to be married to Rachel, Laban cheated Jacob by giving Leah as the bride instead of Rachel. Jacob only realised it in the morning and went back to challenge his father-in-law for cheating him. In exchange for 7 more years of labour, Jacob was also given Rachel, whom he dearly loved. Now both sisters were married to Jacob, which was normal in the customs of those days.
In our Bible study group recently, we have been diving deep into the book of Genesis. While Genesis is a familiar book in the Bible, this time the life of Leah caught my attention like never before.
Leah was not Jacob’s favoured wife. She had to face his rejection. While there are no details recorded, one can imagine what she may have gone through in her mind. Her marriage was a trick and her husband had no love for her.
Leah was the ‘less favoured, rejected one’ in the eyes of her father, her husband, and her sister. But in the eyes of God, Leah was the chosen one. He enabled her to bear children while Rachel was childless. The Saviour of the world, Jesus, came in the lineage of Judah, who was the fourth son of Leah. Though she was rejected by the world, God had a specific purpose for her life. She was chosen to bring to the world Jesus’ ancestor.
A few chapters later in Genesis, we read about Joseph being sidelined by all his brothers. They didn’t want him around, they hated him to an extent that they sold him off and lied to their father that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. Joseph did not find favour with his own brothers, but towards the end of that story we read about how God had chosen him to become the governor, to provide leadership to the land through the time of famine.
I Samuel 16 narrates the incident where Samuel the prophet arrives at Bethlehem to anoint the next king. He had invited Jesse and his sons over. Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him “The Lord has not chosen these” (v 10). The chosen one, David, was the youngest of all and was tending the sheep at this time. His father Jesse clearly did not anticipate that there was any probability of the youngest son making it to being anointed the next king. But God had chosen that very youngest son, David.
The New Testament introduces us to the life of Mary, who was betrothed to be married to Joseph. During this time Mary was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit, as God had chosen her to “give birth to a son, Jesus, who will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Joseph had in mind to divorce her quietly, until an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said to him to not be afraid to take Mary home as his wife. While Joseph obeyed and took Mary to be his wife, it may have been a tough decision. Joseph’s original intent was to reject her, but she went on to be the ‘most blessed of all women,’ the mother of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
We all long to be included, to feel belonging, and would love to enjoy favour in life. The world has its ways of playing favourites, prioritising, stereotyping, taking unfair sides, cheating, taking advantage, and secretly scheming against an individual for selfish gain. Most of us will experience rejection from family, friends and colleagues at certain points in our life and perhaps feel miserable about it.
All the stories we read above show us that God’s ways are different and He can choose the non-favoured, rejected ones for a very special purpose in His master plan. It is so reassuring to simply rest in Him and feel comforted that even when the world may reject us, we are still chosen by Him.