I'm sure most of you know the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel so he promised her father Laban to work 7 years in exchange for Rachel to become his wife. At the end of those 7 years Laban tricked Jacob and gave him Rachel's sister, Leah. (How Laban pulled that one over Jacob's eyes is amazing to me!) Shortly after Jacob married Leah, he was given Rachel in marriage but he still had to work another 7 years! So at the end of 14 years Jacob ended up with two wives, one he loved and one he could care less about. I don't know about you but I have always taken away from this story two things: Laban was a bad man to pull such a trick and Rachel was to be pitied. Poor, poor Rachel. Not only did her sister get to marry Jacob first, but she also was barren (which was a terrible thing in the ancient near eastern culture).
However, there is more to this story than I ever grew up thinking. First, though Jacob loved Rachel, God showed love to Leah by opening up her womb (Gen. 29:31). It did not matter how much Jacob loved Rachel, he could not make her pregnant! God shows love to the unloved ones and only He can ultimately create human life. Secondly, I believe it was in God's plan all along that Jacob would marry Leah. If it was up to Jacob then he would have just married Rachel. From a humanistic standpoint, it was Laban who deceived Jacob and who gave Leah to him. But God, who not only had in mind before creation the incarnation of Christ as well as Christ's family treee, had already chosen to carry out through Leah the genealogy of Christ. Judah was Leah's son, not Rachel's. In fact if we were to look closer at Rachel, she was the one who stole her father's gods when this big, disfunctional family left Laban's lot (Gen. 31:19, 32-34). Years down the road we can compare the descendants of the two women. Saul, the first king of Israel who the people chose based on his appearance and who did not follow God with his heart, was from the tribe of Benjamin - Rachel's son. David, on the other hand, who became Israel's greatest king chosen by God despite his appearance and who followed God with his whole heart, was from the tribe of Judah - Leah's son. Though Leah was not perfect by any means (check out the entire story - Gen. 29-31), God chose Leah, the one whom Jacob did not choose, to bear the tribe of Judah.
What does this mean for us? It means that God's ways are higher than our ways. It means that God has a soft heart for the marginalized ones. It means that though we tend to look at the outward beauty (Gen. 29:17-18), God looks at our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7). Most importantly it means that this passage in Scripture is more than just a good, moral story but part of God's salvation-history. Here we have unfolding before our very eyes God's sovereignty over the house of Jacob, establishing through Leah, though unwanted and unloved, the very tribe to which the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, all of Jacob's descendants, and even of Jacob himself, would be born.
"And one of the elders said to me, 'Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered..."