“When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (Genesis 29:31 NIV)
Reading the story of Rachel and Leah’s competition for Jacob’s love, in the book of Genesis, is a lot like reading a Jerry Springer show in the making. It started when Jacob ended up marrying two sisters (Leah and Rachel), but really only loved Rachel. To comfort Leah, God gave her sons, which Leah thought would make Jacob love her—which didn’t work (29:34).
Rachel then got jealous and blamed Jacob for her infertility (30:1); so, in her infinite wisdom, Rachel told Jacob to sleep with her maid so that she could keep the resulting children (30:3). Jacob went along with this plan (what could possibly go wrong with that?), and began having children with Rachel’s maid.
Leah saw that this seemed to be working out for her sister; and so she offered Jacob her maid as well (30:9). Jacob, not being the brightest man to have walked the earth, went along with this and then had children with his first wife’s maid. To keep score, Jacob was now sleeping with four women at the request of his two wives—and Rachel is still barren.
To keep this arrangement civil—of course—there was a schedule for who got to sleep with Jacob on what night. Then when Leah’s son found some mandrake root (supposedly an aphrodisiac), Rachel, being quite the bargainer, offered her night to Leah in exchange for the mandrake root. Leah took the offer and conceived another child. All of this seemed to be working so well, that Leah actually believed that her conception was a blessing from God because she offered up her maid to Jacob (30:18). Then, finally, Rachel gave birth to a son because God had mercy upon her (30:22-23).
While the train wreck that was Leah, Rachel, and Jacob’s relationship may seem ridiculous to us, the truth is that too often we allow our desire to be validated by others to cause us to make choices that really only complicate our lives. Rachel felt as if her value was based in her ability to conceive children, and when she couldn’t she became desperate.
Leah felt as if her value was based upon Jacob’s love for her, and when he continued to love Rachel more than her, she also became desperate. The insecurities that these sisters felt was in their misunderstanding of where their value came from, as is often the case in our own lives.
Today, every person seeks validation. We want to know that we matter, or that we are important. We all want to be loved, but too many of us have been misinformed about what real love is—so we search for something that is not real. And what happens, too often, is that we make choices that we naïvely believe will strengthen our relationships. Perhaps a new baby is what we need to make our marriage stronger; perhaps having sex with a person will make them love us; perhaps pleasing someone will cause them to eventually stop hurting us; or perhaps becoming someone we are not will allow us to finally have value in the eyes of others.
But what happens is that we put ourselves into a vicious cycle hoping that eventually we will get what we so desperately desire. Jerry Springer proved that we are entertained by relational dysfunctionality—shouldn’t we be heartbroken by it instead, since it is something that we all deal with.
Making selfish and sinful decisions in order to strengthen relationships will only drive a wedge deeper between us. It is only when we seek our purpose in the One who created us that we can see our true value and potential. Then, and only then, can we hope to find true friendship, love, and value through other people, because only then will we know the love of Christ. And only then will we be able to love others and see their true value as well.
There is no entity in the universe that has more love for you, or values you more, than God.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m. for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!