Jacob and Leah…and Rachel

Once Upon A Marriage  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Open with prayer guide:
For world situations…
For our nation…
For our church/sick/unity…
For the lost…
For Alpha…
For forgiveness…
Beginning new series today called Once Upon a Marriage. For the next 3 weeks we are going to look at 3 OT couples and see how their “for better and for worse” marriages can help us have better marriages.
I’m alway hesitant to talk about marriage, because here is what I know. There are 4 kinds of people listening to this message.
Those who are happily married. You have normal ups and downs, but you are essentially satisfied.
Those who are unhappily married. Marriage for you feels like a continual struggle.
Those who are happily unmarried. Maybe you were married before, or maybe never married, but you see what marriage is like and you feel like you dodged a bullet.
Those who are unhappily unmarried. You I want to be most sensitive to of all, bc I know that for you talk about marriage can trigger longings that are unfulfilled and cause pain.
No matter where you find yourself at this moment, this series has something for you. For those who are married, it will help you strengthen your marriage. For those who are unmarried, especially those who are unhappy about that, it will help you be the kind of person your future spouse needs.
That being said, let me have a little participation. Show of hands: Ladies, how many of you by the time you were 16 dreamed of having the perfect marriage? You had already planned your wedding. Maybe you had a hope chest. You had already decided the names of your future children. Raise hands…
Men, how many of you by the time you were 16 dreamed of being married and being intimate with you wife twice a day and 3 times on Sunday? Show of hands…
Men and women: how many of you are still dreaming?
When it comes to romantic love, our world is very confused. We tell our young people that one day they will find “the one”, your Prince Charming, your damsel in distress, who will sweep you off your feet. And everything will be perfect from then on. You’ll have the house with the white picket fence, the nice car, 2.5 children and a dog, and you’ll live happily ever after. However, the reality is that happily ever after often doesn’t happen. Sometimes it’s like this meme.
So to begin our new series, this morning we are going to look at the - frankly weird - marriage of Jacob and Leah…and Rachel.

Text and Context

We’re going to be looking in Genesis 29 this morning, but let me give you some context. Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, essentially goes back to his hometown to find a wife. While he’s hanging out by a well - bc this was the meet-up spot back then - he sees this pretty young thing and immediately falls in love with her. Come to find out, it is actually his uncle Laban’s daughter, Rachel. If you want to do the math, being his uncle’s daughter makes Rachel what? His cousin! You’d almost think this was set in Arkansas.
I’m going to read into the story a little: He’s likely thinking to himself, if I can just get this girl to be my wife, my life will be complete. Here’s what we know about Jacob. He was not the favorite son of his father, Isaac. He likely didn’t feel loved by his father. We know what happens when someone has a father who is physically or emotionally absent and the hole that creates. We also know that he had lost the only real love he knew bc his mother was dead by this time, likely compounding the longing and emptiness he feels. On top of this, at least at this point in the story, Jacob probably doesn’t fully grasp the unconditional love of God. And so it’s believable to think that when he sees this beautiful girl, that he thinks that she is “the one” who will fill this emptiness he feels inside.
In our world this happens all the time, doesn’t it? You all likely know girls - maybe you were the girl - that always felt inadequate or empty if she didn’t have a boyfriend. If I don’t have a boyfriend something is wrong with me. Or maybe you were the guy who always had to have the smoking hot girlfriend so all his friends will think he’s cool and has it all together. Without her he doesn’t feel like he is what he should be. Or we all know stories of the middle-aged man who has had the faithful wife and kids who thought he was great for all those years, and then he gets older and bored with his job and doesn’t feel verile anymore. His hair is falling out and his gut is growing out. And so he trades in his wife for a newer, younger model who is really nothing more than a commodity to make him feel powerful and desirable again. If I just have “that” marriage, then it will fill the emptiness that I feel so deeply inside.
Likely, this is what is going on in Jacob’s mind. So let’s pick up the story in Genesis 29:16:
“Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.” Genesis‬ ‭29‬:‭16‬-‭17‬ ‭NIV‬‬
In saying that Leah had “weak eyes”, the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. But what many scholars say is that this was a polite way of say that Leah was not good looking. Her “weak eyes” are being contrasted to Rachel’s “lovely figure”. It has nothing to really do with her eyes. Lovely in form in Hebrew is translated as [make curvy figure]. Scholars have actually constructed what Leah probably looked like. [Leah pic] The young, good looking one most likely looked something like this. [Rachel pic].
Joking aside, I don’t want to undervalue the importance of being physically attracted to our spouse. That’s not a bad thing. But in our world, physical attraction has been overvalued. The external is elevated above everything, which is just wrong. And as we dig through this story, it’s going to imply that the older, less attractive was actually the far superior person of the two. But in our world, what seems to matter most is what is on the outside - are they good looking, are they successful. And in reality, this is about all the Jacob knew at this point about Rachel, and he wants her. In that culture, they wouldn’t have gotten to spend much time together, so he doesn’t really know her. But he thinks he’s in love with her and she’s good looking and that’s about all he knows.
He is thinking that his whole life is empty, and if I can just marry this “one” then my life is finally going to matter. I’d like to suggest to you today that for so many, it’s that premise - that marriage is the answer - is the very reason you are not achieving what God wants you to have. There are 3 problems when we wrongly believe marriage is the answer. When you believe marriage is the answer:
You compromise more than you should. You give up things that are important to you, or important to God, is pursuit of that one person who will satisfy you.
”Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”“. Genesis‬ ‭29‬:‭18‬ ‭NIV
‬‬Back then a man would purchase his wife in exchange for money or livestock or work. You might think that’s romantic that he’d work seven years for her, but it’s actually insane, because his first offer for her is 4 times the amount normally given. If you read between the lines you have a guy saying “I’ll do anything for her”. I’ll give up more than I should.
Same thing people do today. Innocent girl who wants to save herself for marriage meets cute guy that she wants to marry, and he pushes her sexually, and she thinks “well, if I give him my body then maybe he will give me his heart”. And she compromises. Or she’s dating this guy who is just a selfish jerk and doesn’t treat her well and doesn’t share her Christian values, but she feels like the clock is ticking and all my friends are married, but maybe if I marry him he will change. Or the guy who wants to impress the girl that’s not that into him, so he spends a lot of money on things he can’t afford to try and impress her, but it’s not real. It’s compromising more than you should. I’ll work seven years - normally would be two - bc I’ll do anything to have this one who will make me feel valuable. When marriage is your answer you will compromise more than you should.
You will treat it as a transaction. This is what Jacob does. Jacob works his seven years and says:
”Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”“ Genesis‬ ‭29‬:‭21‬ ‭NIV‬‬
I did my part, now send her over here to do her part. You know, I would have never admitted that to my father-in-law. In reality, this is very dishonoring to the father, and to Rachel. But this is what happens so often today. Rather than marriage being a covenant where we lay down our lives for each other, it erodes into a contract. I deliver this so, therefore, you deliver this. And as soon as that happens our expectations of marriage rise, and then our spouse can never live up to the expectations.
We can see this in a number of ways. A biggie is sex. Quite often it gets used in negotiation. Baby I’m doing this for you, so you do this for me. Or you are married to someone who is demanding. Maybe the wife agreed to a decision she wasn’t really happy with about a house or car, but then they never let you forget it and they make demands on you all the time as a way of paying them back. Some of you ladies have demands that you expect your husband to just know and let me tell you something ladies; we don’t know. We are absolutely clueless. And even if you tell us slowly and repeatedly, we may still miss it bc we are men.
Or maybe some of you ladies are married to demanding men. You stay at home taking care of the kids and house, and then your husband comes home from work and says, “where’s my dinner?” Or, he says something like, “Oh, must be nice to just lay around the house all day”. And your like, “I’m going to kill you in the name of Jesus right now.” And some of you are elbows each other. Don’t do that here - save it for the ride home.
I’ll be honest, Julie is very demanding. I work hard, and I come home exhausted, and as soon as I get in the house she’s like “come over here you big stud”. And I’m like, not again. I have a mind you know. It’s especially bad on Sunday’s when I’ve preached and I’m tired, and all I want is for her to hold me… The truth is that I am actually the demanding one in our marriage.
When marriage is your answer, you compromise more than you should, you turn marriage into a transaction, and then
You will always end up dissatisfied. Some people enter marriage with so many expectations that there is no way that any one person can fulfill them all. What you have done is that you have essentially set up your spouse for guaranteed failure.
That’s what’s essentially going on in this story. Jacob’s got to have this girl, so he works for seven years to have her. But the uncle is sitting there with a problem, because it’s tradition to marry the oldest daughter first. So weddings at this time were elaborate affairs usually lasting seven days with lots of food and alcohol. There’s a good chance that Jacob has been celebrating hard - ie he’s blitzed - bc he’s about to get the bride he’s been working for. The uncle is probably looking stategically at this thinking, ok he’s wasted, so he dresses the older daughter as the bride and sends her into the tent to seal the deal, and then you’ll be married to him. And she does.
”But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her… When morning came, there was Leah! [everybody say “Ah!”, cause that’s what he said] So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭29‬:‭23‬, ‭25‬ ‭NIV‬‬
This is what will happen to you any time you think someone else can meet all your needs. Whenever you think marriage is the answer, you’re going to think that you’ve gone to bed with Rachel, but you’re always going to wake up with Leah. If you think someone can meet all your needs, you’re going to go into marriage thinking they are going to meet them all, but when you wake up you’re always going to go “Ah!” bc no person can meet all the needs that you have.
If you think about it, Leah is really doing the same thing. She participates in the deception. I’m reading in a little, but maybe she’s thinking, “I’m older, my clock is ticking, if I go in and give my body to this guy, maybe he’ll love me.” And her story is so many people’s story as you watch throughout this marriage as she tries thing after thing thinking that “if I do this surely he will love me now”. What how this plays out.
”When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”“ Genesis‬ ‭29‬:‭31‬-‭32‬ ‭NIV‬‬
That’s just sad. If I give him children, maybe our marriage will work. If I make more money and buy her stuff, maybe it will work. Maybe he will love me now. But he didn’t.
What’s missing in this whole story? From the start to now, what’s missing. There is no evidence of prayer. No evidence of anyone seeking God. No evidence of any faith or spiritual connection. As far as we can see it’s all based what I want out of you. They were searching for the “one”, the problem is that they were searching for the wrong “one”.
This is what we have been taught and conditioned by our culture. We’ve been taught that this is true: To really be fulfilled in life, you have to find the one. The way we interpret this is that we have to find the “perfect” one. Mr. Right, Mrs. Right. If we can just meet and marry the one, our life will be happy.
What ought to make us happy when we meet someone we’re attracted to is, “wow, I feel a lot of spiritual energy between us. I’m a Christian, she’s a Christian, we both want to honor God with our lives, we both want God to be first place, I’m not sure but I think I may have just met the… TWO.” Because to really be fulfilled in life, you have to meet the One, but you can never forget that God is your One and your spouse is your two. You have to meet the One to be really fulfilled in life. What did Jesus say was the biggest, most important commandment? Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind, strength. That’s your One. If you want everything else to work out, what did Jesus say to see first. God and his kingdom and righteousness.


And maybe the reason so many are dissatisfied with marriage, saying if I do this maybe he will love me, is because God is not really your one. You can be a Christian and God not be your One, where he isn’t being put first.
This story is complex, more than I can cover. Jacob works another seven years to get Rachel. Let me focus on the end of the story with Leah. She has three sons, each time saying something to the effect “maybe he will love me now”. She goes on to have a fourth son, but this time something is different.
”She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.“ Genesis‬ ‭29‬:‭35‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“This time” something is different. Last time my focus was on trying to make my husband love me. This time my focus is on God. Judah means praise. It was Leah, the older one, not Rachel the younger, beautiful one, that was the mother of Judah, through whom centuries later the savior of the world, Jesus, would one day be born. Showing once again in Scripture how God can take something that doesn’t start right and create the most beautiful miracle in the history of the world. If your marriage didn’t start right, or is not right today, if there are two seeking One, anything is possible.
It is possible to have a happy marriage. Not a perfect marriage, bc you’re in it. But a happy marriage. A joyful marriage. A fulfilling marriage. Where do I begin? Here’s the best thing to do. Grab the hand of your spouse - maybe you’ve never prayed together - but pray together, “God, teach us to make you our One”. And as you join hands and start seeking God together - and that might mean seeking counseling - there is no telling what good things God can bring out of something that doesn’t look so beautiful today. Because to really be fulfilled in life, you can’t forget that God is always your One, and your spouse is you two.
Pray for marriage that are struggling…I’ve put too much on my spouse. God is not my One if I’m honest.
Pray for people who are still waiting…I want to be married, but I want it to me a marriage that makes me a better follower of Jesus, and I am willing to wait until my number two comes along.
Maybe there are some here who would just acknowledge there is an emptiness in your life. And the reason you are seeking after a person, or a thing, is that you are trying to fill a whole in your heart. The truth is that you were created for something that is outside this world. You have a God-shaped hole, and there is nothing this world has to offer that can fill that space. Before you can be the husband or wife you need to be for someone else, you need to get your One straightened out. (Next step slide) God loves you, and the Bible says he sent his One and only Son, Jesus, to take all the consequences of your sin upon himself on the cross. He rose again on the third day, and he has the power to forgive all your sin and give your eternal life. Jesus wants to be your One. If you’re honest, maybe you’ve been living as if you are your One. Living life for yourself. And you have been brought to this moment, not to figure out marriage, but to surrender your life to Jesus and make him your One…
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