Gary and I attended worship in a different area of the country today....where all those snow birds fly....Florida. Each time we have headed to Florida in the winter we immediately look up all the local churches to find one that we would enjoy visiting. Today was no exception. We found a rather large church, Calvary Christian Center, in Ormond Beach. As soon as we were directed to the visitors parking area and emerged from the car, we were greeted and hugged by two lovely individuals on our way into the entrance doors.
We were so blessed by this congregation of diverse individuals. I have often longed to worship with people of diverse ethnicity and color and all those blocks were checked this morning! As soon as the worship leaders started the music, people of various nationalities were standing all across the stage and I got my worship on! It was uplifting and marvelous and possibly a taste of what I expect our offerings of praise, along with that amazing angelic choir, with be composed of one of these days in heaven! I simply can't wait!
But then the pastor came in to preach....and brothers and sisters, that is exactly what this servant of the Most High God accomplished! Now before I go any further with this writing I must admit that growing up in the south I've heard many....not a few, but many.....hell fire and brimstone sermons. This was not a fearful sermon, but an uplifting, truth-based, coming from the Bible lesson that touched every life and soul within earshot. The pastor was actually walking to and fro on the stage, in front of the stage and jumping for joy in his work boots with the message God had given him to deliver to His people; uninhibited, unashamed, proclaiming with urgency how God loves us....and the subject? Leah, the unloved wife of Jacob, mother of five of the sons that would be part of the twelve tribes of Israel.
It was a new look at a familiar story that most of us have heard before. Jacob, one of the sons of Isaac, went to work for his Uncle Laban with the agreement that he would work for seven years and in return receive Laban's youngest daughter, Rachel, in marriage. But Uncle Laban pulled a fast one. After seven years of labor on the agreement of being given Rachel, on their wedding night Leah ended up in the marriage bed with Jacob! Now, if you are reading this for the first time there are questions suddenly on the horizon of your intellect. Let me put those questions out there for you; "Really, Jacob....you didn't know it was Leah and not your beloved Rachel? I think I would have known one sister from the other after seven years of hard labor!" After all, scripture does give us a description of the two girls. "Leah's eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance." (Genesis 29:17) . How could Jacob be deceived? Was he too full of wine rejoicing of what was to come? For whatever reason it happened and the next morning Jacob was a bit furious with Uncle Laban. Especially when the excuse was given that the youngest couldn't marry before the oldest....really? After all, Leah wasn't the one Jacob wanted! Jacob was all about Rachel! Can you hear Jacob exclaiming, "that oldest first not to be done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn' you didn't think was significant to mention during my seven year, working hard for the woman I love period?"
Moving on. Jacob works another seven years for Rachel. However, God intercedes on Leah's behalf with her husband's heart longing for her sister. Leah began producing heirs and Rachel's womb was barren. This is where the crux of the message came today. The sons bore to Jacob reveals through their names the emotional state of their mother, Leah, who felt a tremendous sense of wanting, or rather needing, to be loved by her husband.
Did you know that the meaning of Leah's name is weary? That will be a significant detail of the story as we go further. Let's delve a little more into the names of her sons. Reuben, the first born, meant "Behold a son"....for scripture tells us in verse 32 of Genesis 29, "So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, "The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me." Bottom line, Leah was searching for affirmation from her husband. Something to indicate to her that she was loved and treasured. After all, she bore Jacob a son, a heir. That in itself is major to the Israelites.
Then son number two comes along. "Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, "Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also." Simeon's name means "I will be heard".....
Again, Leah becomes with child and gives Jacob yet another son, Levi. "Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." Levi's name means "Joined to"....
But God continues to bless Leah's womb and she bears another son, Judah, whose name means, "Now I will praise the Lord." Before I continue because there was one more son Leah gave to Jacob, I must go back to tell you why this message meant so much to me. Often we are caught in a situation where we are desperately seeking approval from a person or persons. We are needing affirmation that we are wanted, needed or approved by another. But here's what God says, He does affirm us because He loves us. We don't need the affirmation of people on this earth. Pastor said this morning, "Sometimes you must release yourself from seeking affirmation from people who never have any intention of affirming you." How extremely true this statement is my friends! Let it go and let God bless your life with His affirmation and love.
Secondly, As in Simeon's case, God does hear us. God always hears us. We don't need to gain the ear of the world, we only need Jesus. Third, with Levi, Leah wanted to be joined to her husband, but she was finding herself enslaved to the feeling of being alone. She was the underdog. Ever felt that way? God calls us to be attached to Him. He's the fairest of 10,000 and He loves us unconditionally and does not want us to feel alone and lost.
Then it appears Leah learns to praise the Lord as she bears Judah, her fourth son, and names him, "I will praise the Lord"....now she takes her cause before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Afterwards she gives birth to one more son, Issachar. Even after she thought her child bearing years and trials were over, she has yet another son. Pastor seemed to think today that when we start praising the Lord for who he is....all through those tough times, it releases victory and joy. Issachar name means reward.
Just wanted to share these thoughts and blessings I received in worship. What a great day in the Lord it was....and you know what happens in the Leah/Jacob/Rachel story? Jacob is buried in the tomb with....Leah.
God sees, God hears, God delivers us from heartache and pain. It might not
be on our timetable, but God will give us victory and joy!
Blessings, my friends!