In Genesis 29 we meet the girl nobody wants. Jacob chooses Rachel over Leah because Rachel is beautiful in appearance, and Leah is less than desirable. Laban then looks for an opportunity to pawn off his eldest daughter so that he is not stuck taking care of her. He masterminds a con to get rid of Leah by deceiving the deceiver Jacob, exploiting and transferring his daughter from one man to another.
Leah’s suspicions are confirmed by Jacob and Laban, and her self-image forms: She is unwanted, unloved, undesirable, ugly, hated, worthless. The weight of this verdict presses down on Leah, as she longs to have her husband love her. Though he shows her no affection, Leah looks to Jacob and childbearing to find her identity, meaning, value and purpose.
Amid her affliction the Lord gives Leah a son and she names him Reuben, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “see,” hoping that Jacob might notice her. But her hopes fail, and she names her second son, Simeon, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “hear.” She believes the Lord heard that she was hated, and she longs for Jacob to hear her. Nothing changes for Leah, and she gives birth to her third son, Levi, a name that sounds like the Hebrew word for “attach” or “join.” Leah hopes that Jacob will be drawn to her.
Leah should have looked to the Lord for acceptance, heard words of love to her and be drawn to who speaks a better word over children.
Leah turns her focus off Jacob and on the Lord and with her fourth son, Judah. She praises the Lord simply for the provision and gift of a son. Her identity is no longer found in her acceptance by Jacob but in worshiping the LORD. Leah, the unloved wife, finds rest in her identity as a beloved daughter of the LORD. She is finally consoled. Judah’s name sounds like the Hebrew word for “praise.” Leah says, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
Leah finally finds her identity and worth not in physical beauty, a husband or in being a mother, but in the LORD. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Leah finally finds her true worth in the Lord.
Though Leah sees herself as insignificant, the Lord uses her for cataclysmic significance. Judah, the son of praise, is the patriarch of the tribe from whom Jesus Christ is eventually born (Matt. 1:3).
Like Leah, many men and women struggle with self-image. We either believe the lie that we are insignificant or the lie that we matter most. These are both expressions of pride. Throughout life we accumulate verdicts that combine to form our self-image.
The English word verdict comes from the Latin term veredictum, which literally means “to say the truth.” A verdict boasts the power to change states of affairs and bring freedom or imprisonment. Our self-image is informed by these perceived truths, and they form a complicated web of affirmations and condemnations, achievements and failures, positives and negatives.
Though we don’t often think about our self-image in terms of verdicts, every time a judgment is passed on us or we accept as truth something about ourselves, we add another layer to our self-image: type A, overachiever, lazy, beautiful, stupid, athletic, intelligent, funny, dumb, incompetent, compassionate, fat, witty, quiet, successful, failure – the list goes on.
But in Christ we become new creations. Because of Christ, a new verdict is passed down on us from God: beloved, significant, son, daughter, forgiven, adopted, redeemed, His. Believers have a new verdict spoken in love from a glorious God, which, by the nature of its weight, should displace all other competing verdicts.
The problem is that we are resistant to change our self-image even when a new beautiful image awaits us. Jesus went on the cross to become worthless so that we might become worthy. Christ became ugly so we could become beautiful. He became insignificant so we could be significant. He became a failure so we could be successful. Jesus became nobody so that we might become somebody.
Church, may we reject all other false verdicts and believe the one true verdict – that we are beloved, adopted children of God, a verdict that sets captives free.