David Cook: Loving the unloved

When we come to a strange story in the Bible, it can be hard to believe that God put the story there on purpose.

As our congregation spent several Sundays in Genesis this year, we came across quite a few of those moments. One of them was the story of Jacob’s two (yes, two) wives: Rachel and Leah.

In Genesis 29, Jacob loves a beautiful woman named Rachel but is tricked into marrying her not-so-beautiful sister Leah. Backed into a corner, he agrees to go through with the marriage to Leah if he can also marry Rachel, clarifying along the way that Rachel is the one he loves. We might stop to wonder why God didn’t skip over that story.

Was it to endorse polygamy? No, he had already outlined his design for monogamy in Genesis 2 and condemned Lamech’s and Abraham’s polygamy through later stories. The way this story turns out for Jacob (who later takes two more wives and sees his sons divide over their mothers), we can tell the narrator is frowning on his sins as well. So if God isn’t giving a quiet nod to polygamy here, what is he doing?

The answer comes in the feeling most of us get when we read the story: “Poor Leah!” It was bad enough that the new guy in town passed over her and eyed her little sister. Now she is stuck with a husband who everyone knows doesn’t love her, and has to share him with her younger, prettier sister.

But in verse 31, something important happens for dear Leah. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” Leah then bore four sons very quickly while a stunned Rachel grew more and more puzzled. In the Ancient Near East, children were the ultimate sign of social status, the equivalent of a super yacht and a blue checkmark on Twitter today.

So for God to give her four children so quickly was to lift her high in everyone’s eyes. Today, we can notice that one of those children was Judah, the father of the tribe that bore king David and even Jesus. So today, generations later, we can honor her as an ancestor of Jesus Christ. It is hard to imagine a higher honor.

Of all the people in their generation that God could lift high like this, he chose the unloved wife, the not-so-pretty sister. That tells us something very important and wonderful about our God. He loves the unlovely and unloved.

He shows this beauty in his character so many times in the Bible. He favored Hagar, who earlier had been forced into an even worse polygamy trap. He lifted Joseph in Egypt from slavery, prison, and a false accusation of rape to second in command of the nation. He chose David to be king over his more impressive brothers. He chose a manger in a nowhere-land like Bethlehem to be the birthplace of his Son (Micah 5:2). Even today, he chooses to draw the poor and overlooked to the Gospel while letting the rich and notable ignore it (1 Corinthians 1:26–31).

This is great news for everyone who was picked last on the ballfield, passed over for the job, unnoticed by the person they were attracted to, or who otherwise “doesn’t have what it takes.” Something in the heart of the sovereign king is moved toward people like us. All that remains is for us to come to him, trust his son Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and look to the glory he will give us on the other side of death.

David Cook is senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, which meets at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at 200 Sunset Blvd., Greenwood. Send comments to [email protected]