My name is Leah. This is my story.

         Tonight at New City Church, I did something I’ve never done before. I preached from the first person perspective in order to help us “get inside” the Old Testament story of Leah. Here’s a portion of it:

You’ll find my story in Genesis 29. Finally, Jacob did make it to our village. I had always heard stories about beautiful Aunt Rebecca but here was her son – standing there at our house!

Honestly, I was a fairly shy teenager so I wasn’t there when Jacob showed up at the local well.  When I went out in public, people made fun of me because my eyes were funny looking.  Those were painful teen years.  My father wanted me to get married first as it was the custom that the oldest daughter married before the younger.  But no one wanted me.

This meant my sister Rachel went to the well with the camels to water them.  Of course, she loved doing that because she was beautiful.  Apparently, Jacob heard about Rachel from some of the guys at the well and then she showed up. He was “in love” immediately and kissed her right there in front of everyone!

Dad was so excited about seeing Jacob – my father actually “ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house.” (verse 13)

But Jacob didn’t have any money nor family to help him. My dad knew that he loved Rachel but normally a man must give a dowry to the family before a daughter could be married.  Instead, Jacob offered to work for 7 years for Rachel.  “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (verse 20)

Those were hard days as my little annoying sister was so excited about her upcoming wedding.  It didn’t look like I was ever going to get married.  I really wanted to have children, especially boys.  Every woman in our area wanted to be the mother of a mighty man who would be a hero in the community.

As the years went on, my father, Laban came up with a plan.  Jacob is tricky but honestly, I think he met his match with my father.  The time finally came for the wedding.  The food was great and the wine was flowing.  The party went on and on into the evening.

As you know, there were no electric lights and a bride in my culture wears a heavy veil.  As the night wore on, my father switched me and Rachel!! Jacob didn’t know the difference that night of the wedding.

“And in the morning, behold, it was Leah!!! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel?  Why then have you deceived me?” (verse 25)  Jacob was mad.  I could hear him yelling at my father. But the deed was done.  I was his wife – we had taken vows and slept together.

My father, Laban, tried to act like this was normal.  He told Jacob  “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.  Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” (verse 26) 

I can’t say that I loved the idea of both Rachel and I being married to Jacob.  I was just the odd girl who was thrown in as a package deal.  Jacob sparkled when he was with Rachel but for me he only did his marital duty.

But you know – our God is merciful.  God didn’t forget about me.  “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (verse 31)

Being a mother was the most important thing to me at that time, especially, to be the mother of Jacob’s first born son.  I named him “Reuben” and said: “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”  (verse 32)

I desperately wanted to be loved by Jacob. But he still didn’t pour out his affections on me.  Later my second child, Simeon, was born afterwhich I said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” (verse 33)

And yet, Jacob still loved Rachel much more.  But then I got pregnant a third time and bore a third son! “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” (verse 34)

But no – the pain continued.  Jacob could not bring me the love I so desperately wanted. I needed to be loved deep in my soul! I struggled with this for years but over time the Lord met me at my point of need.

I then conceived a fourth baby boy.  At this time I was maturing in my faith.  I was beginning to understand that my self-worth must come from God alone.  Yes – I wanted Jacob to love me.  But there was a slow change in my life.  After my fourth baby boy was born I said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” (verse 35)

It is true that I’ve seen sorrow and pain over the years. But you know, I lived a life that was blessed by God.

God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and my husband, Jacob, did come true.  And God used me, even with my messed up eyes and broken heart, to bring redemption to all the world.

The descendants of my fourth son, Judah, became an entire tribe of people.  In fact all my sons became tribes of the nation of Israel. But Judah was special.  Over the years, I came to understand that God brought a true and righteous King though my son, Judah’s, bloodline.

If you look in the first chapter of Matthew, you’ll find the genealogy of Jesus.  The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, (Matt1:1-2)

Jesus, the savior of the world, came from my line of people!  He has my DNA! Can you believe it?  Me, the forgotten sister, became the mother, so to speak, of the King of Kings.  The book of Revelation even says:  “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Rev 5:5)

My “son” Jesus conquered sin and death – we don’t have to weep anymore.  And that’s good news cause I weeped loads during my lifetime. I know sorrow.  But my sorrow was not in vain.

May my story encourage you.  For King of Kings has conquered.  Your story, just like my story, does not have to end in sorrow.

My name is Leah.  And that is the story of God’s grace to me.

Multilingual Prayer & Praise

Ever wondered what it would be like to sing God’s praises in Italian, Hindi, Swahili, Lingala, Portuguese and English (of course!!) with a little Arabic, Korean and Spanish thrown in?

Well, your chance is coming to do just that!  Join us on 8 July as New City hosts a Multi-ethnic and multilingual evening of prayer and praise. 

Let’s Pray for Those Impacted by the Grenfell Fire

My friend, Philippa Robb, has written a helpful summary of how we can pray after the horrific fire just a mile from where we worship in Shepherd’s Bush. As Paul states in Romans 12, may we “weep with those who weep” and seek to “overcome evil with good”.  And in it all, may the name of the Lord be praised! 

Can we remember those who died in the very places they should have been at their safest.

Can we remember those who have lost family, friends and precious possessions. Many of those living in Grenfell House were from refugee or poor backgrounds who already were burdened with life’s big issues and now have the added burden of having to start again – some carrying immense grief in their hearts.

Can we pray for swift resolution for them – they need somewhere to live and they need to be given the option to stay in their community rather than being shifted to the outer reaches of far East London.

Can we remember the emergency services – the fire, police, doctors, nurses, social workers, support workers, religious leaders; that the Lord strengthens them all and provides them with deep wisdom as this situation unfolds.

Can we also pray for the newly-elected MP, for the local authority and for the landlord; that despite the difficult questions that will need to be answered and the heads that will inevitably roll, it is the community that benefits and not the skin that is saved at the community’s cost. That this tragedy is never repeated.

Can we pray for the organisations that have thrown open their doors to beleaguered residents. The churches, the mosques, the community centres and the Westway Sports Centre.

And finally, can we pray for the media and for calm. For calm on the streets; for the peace and the protection of London. We have so much to be thankful for. We have life. Let’s pray, let’s give thanks and let’s live each moment to the full.

Co-belligerents with our Muslim Friends

I posted the following on Facebook after the recent terrorist attack here in London. It obviously struck a cord as it was shared many, many times.

Here’s the statement from the Muslim Council of Britain in regards to last night’s attack. Christians need to stand together as co-belligerents with our Muslim friends to work against terror in order to make London better for all.

What is a “co-belligerent”? Francis Schaeffer states it well: “A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice.”

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