#71 "Rejection...The Gift That Keeps On Giving"
November 7, 2006
"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 was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel." (Genesis 29: 16-18a) "..and [Jacob] loved Rachel more than Leah." (Genesis 29: 30b)
We live in a disposable society. Everything comes in throw away form to make life easy on us. This disposable mind set has sadly seeped it's way into our relationships as well. We see it in the attitude of some who marry and say, "well, if it doesn't work out, we can always get a divorce." We see it in the booming abortion industry where live human beings are murdered for the sake of convenience. Children are abandoned by their parents when life just gets too hard and some other pursuit seems better. Relationships fall apart when the work to repair them requires forgiveness and acceptance and it's too much work or requires too much grace.
I think all of us have suffered the pain of rejection in one way or another during our lives. The word "rejection" means to be cast aside; to be thrown away as having no value. To be rejected means being told, "I don't want you--you have no value! You're not what I want! You're not right!" And we don't accept that well. We were created by God to be accepted, loved and valued. Rejection is very painful and it's effects can last a lifetime. Rejection is the gift that keeps on giving.
No one knew the pain and sting of rejection better than Leah, Jacob's first wife. She wasn't his first by choice. The deceitfulness of her father, Laban, got her the place of first wife. The Bible tells us that Leah had weak eyes. She was most likely cross eyed or had a "lazy eye." She was plain in comparison to her sister Rachel's beauty. Leah probably had no prospective suitors and was probably past the age that most women were married. Her father Laban used her. Her life of rejection began with one deceitful act of her father. He used her to get seven years of work out of Jacob and he rid himself of supporting an "old maid." In those days, daughters were forced to marry the man of her father's choosing. Rejected and used by her father ... married to a man who would reject her as well. The gift that keeps on giving.
Being rejected displays itself in many different ways. It can cause someone to be rebellious, angry, or bitter. You may feel guilty, inferior and have a poor self-image. Often it results in perfectionism. We try to be perfect, do everything right, and try to make no mistakes, so that we won't ever be rejected by anyone again. This is where we find Leah. Trying to gain the acceptance and love of a husband who didn't love her, by being perfect in outward circumstances. Never realizing that the only acceptance and love that we should crave should be the love of God. God, the One that we don't have to perform for..the One we don't have to be perfect for...the One who loves us anyway, always and no matter what.
This Biblical account plays like a bad soap opera. Jacob is shuffled from bed to bed, from tent to tent. (You fellows are probably thinking, "Oh, pooor guy!) Because of timing, in all of these pregnancies and births between Rachel and Leah, there had to be some overlap. It's like watching a tennis match ... Leah, Rachel, Leah, Rachel. The name Leah means "weary". Ya think! I'd be weary too if I spent all my life getting pregnant and having babies, just to win the love of a husband who was in love with someone else. Who are you wearing yourself out to please? Who are you trying to be perfect for so that they will accept you and not reject you? A spouse, parents, children, a boss? Give it up, my friend. It can't happen. There are some people that no matter how much you do, how perfectly you do things...will never accept you for who you are. If you trip up once, just once, out you go! Stop living your life to win the acceptance of people who will never change. See your God given destiny and go after it. He's the one who has made you "accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:6 KJV) God is the one who loves you with an everlasting love...no matter what. He will never reject you.
To understand Leah's mind set and our own desire to please others to be accepted we need to look at what she said after the birth of her sons. This gives us a bird's eye view into her thinking: After Reuban's birth, Leah said, "Surely my husband will love me now." After Simeon's, "because the Lord heard that I am not loved." Levi, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." She was desperately seeking Jacob's approval. She was finding her own self worth in what she did...not in who she was. Never confuse your "who" with your "do". Ephesians 2:8 tells us that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast." It is not what we do that makes us acceptable. We have to know who we are in Christ. We are the righteousness of God in Christ, the apple of God's eye, dearly loved. Never abandoned, dropped, left or forsaken. Your worth and value is in Christ Jesus, not in what you do.
None of this child-bearing changed Jacob's attitude anyway. No amount of effort will make people accept you if they don't want to. You can never do enough or be perfect enough for some folks. Smith's Bible Dictionary says that "Jacob's preference of Rachel grew into hatred of Leah after he had married both sisters." None of her striving to please him made him love her. He still spent every night in Rachel's tent. Nothing Leah did could change Jacob. But Leah could change herself.
We begin to see this change with the birth of the fourth son, Judah. For the first time in naming a son, Leah turned from expressing her yearning for Jacob's love to accepting God's love. She says in verse 35, "This time I will praise the Lord." Judah sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for "praise." Leah begins to take her focus off of her lack and starts to look at what she possesses in God. She is finally recognizing the hand of God and the fact that God is giving her the significance that she is looking for. We can be like Leah was and focus on our lack of acceptance by people and be miserable, or focus on what we have and praise God for what He has given us, what He's done for us and who we are in His eyes. Leah is recognizing that to be loved and be led by God was a far greater thing than to be loved by any man. She could be content with the abundant love of God.
As this Old Testament story of "Desperate Housewives" continues, Rachel bears two children through her servant Bilhah. Leah feels that old feeling again and even though she is leading in this match, 4 to 2, she gets in gear again. It's never enough when you're riveted on getting the approval of man. As I said, rejection is the gift that keeps on giving. It just keeps rearing it's ugly head and messing with our emotions. We may think we have it under control, but the roots can be so deep that it shows up, time and time again in our people pleasing behavior. So Leah adds two more points to the scoreboard with the use of her servant, Zilpah. Again her words after their births are interesting and revealing. After the birth of Gad, Leah says, "What good fortune!" She's back to leaving God out of the equation and sees the birth as only good fortune. After the birth of Asher, her attitude shifts to pleasing more than just her husband. She says, "The women will call me happy!" Rejection and the resulting need for approval grows tentacles and grips every area of our relationships. We move from trying to please the one who rejected us to trying to please EVERYONE, so as to never be rejected by ANYONE.
The last part of our story shows the desperation that rejection can cause. Leah was so desperate to be with Jacob, loved or unloved, that she resorts to a form of prostitution by purchasing her husband's services from Rachel with mandrakes. Mandrakes were referred to as "love apples" and were thought to induce fertility (which is why Rachel had them) and were supposed to act as a love potion (Leah's desire). So ready or not, Jacob slept with Leah and two more sons came with the deal. After the birth of Zebulin, Leah's back to her old way of thinking again, and says, "This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons." She also had a daughter named Dinah who is involved in a story that is for a whole 'nother day. The roots of rejection run deep....the gift that keeps on giving.
What a miserable life this must have been. What a miserable life it is when you live it to please someone else and when you only feel significant because people accept you. What a greater and more abundant life it would be to find that significance in God Almighty. The God who has a plan for your life. The God who created you for a purpose. Leah was so blessed and favored by God but her life of Jacob-pleasing blinded her eyes to the truth. She was the mother of half of the twelve tribes of Israel. Her son Judah would be the ancestor of the leading tribe among the Jews, of the royal line, and of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ. There was a plan for her life, God designed, God ordained and she was too busy Jacob-pleasing to see God's hand on her life and submit to His will, obediently and gratefully. Too busy looking for man's approval to see the complete approval of God, the only approval that really matters.
Friend, if you are living your life with a root of rejection, trying to please people and be accepted in this world, I beg you to stop. Know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. He is the only cure for the feelings of rejection that you have that lasts. He took your rejection on Himself on the Cross at Calvary. Because of His death and resurrection, you can truly be free from the feelings of rejection and the behavior that those feelings produce. Immerse yourself in the Word of God and find out what He has to say about you. I might suggest that you put aside all other studies and Bible adventures that you are involved in and make this your mission...to find out who I am in Christ. He has left a love letter to you in His Word. His Word has transforming power. Only through Christ and His word to you in His Word will you ever be truly free to be exactly who He wants you to be. Whether men like it or not. Jesus will become to you all that matters. Then instead of rejection being the gift that keeps on giving, it can be the gift that has been sent back, "Return to Sender"...right back to Hell where it belongs.
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