Photo credit to Abigail Vencil Photography
“For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans do the same?” Matthew 5:46
Hm. Maybe that’s kind of weird on my part, Lord. I mean, how can this verse about not just loving those who love me back have anything to do with vindication? Is this on vindication or is this on love? Well, what if it all has to do with both and what if it all starts with the love that comes before vindication and the love that leads to vindication. But what if, just what if, my response should be the same as Yours?
So here is a person who has misunderstood me, unappreciated me, ignored me, questioned my decisions, oppressed or hurt me, belittled me, slandered me, short-changed me, or wrongly accused me. And I’m praying for vindication. Why, I mean really, WHY do I deserve vindication? I mean, who am I? And especially, who am I above anyone else?
Well, this morning I’m going backwards again. What reward did You, Lord, have in loving me? What could I ever give You that You didn’t already have? Did I love You like I should have loved You before You made me Your own? Doesn’t Scripture call me an enemy of God before I was Yours? Was I so loveable when You first loved me? That’s not what it says all over Scripture. You loved me first. You loved me who didn’t love You at first. I need to keep that in mind.
Because You loved me first, You came to me, and I found You and I found Your love, and I surrendered to it, to You. Then I became a child of my Father in heaven. But what makes me different from my oppressor? I have surrendered, they have not. You make Your sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and You send Your rain on the just and the unjust. If it weren’t for Your love first, I wouldn’t have surrendered. If it weren’t for Your love first, I wouldn’t be good. If it weren’t for Your love first, I wouldn’t be just.
And here’s what all that leads to if we follow that backward progression through Your words, Jesus. “But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…'” Why? Because it shows that I am the one who is a child of God. Why else? Because You loved me first. And because You loved me first I can wait for You alone to give Your answer, and because You loved me first I can wait for Your timing, and because You loved me first You sometimes send vengeance but I don’t have to avenge, and because You loved me first You sometimes more than make it all up to me.
Now this amazes me today, Lord. Because this is like grace upon grace heaped up and overflowing with no limit. Because somehow You, to uphold Your glory, will vindicate Your child. Yes, You will vindicate this child called me who once was so unloveable yet You loved me. So this child called me who really has nothing to give You other than what You give me is also given more blessing than I could ever ask for or imagine. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Yet this is true. This is Your kind of love. This is how You hold Your child in the shadow of Your wings. This is You clothing us in Your righteousness and making us beautiful for You and in You. This is all about You. But You give it all to me, all to Your children who can’t give it back outside of You. This is amazing.
Keeping this all in my mind, I want to look back at Leah’s story in Genesis 29. Jacob has come to look for a wife. He first lays eyes on Rachel, the younger sister, and falls in love with her beauty. Now, right away, Scripture establishes that Leah “was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.” Plus, Leah was the oldest daughter. Well, was it an insult to be tender eyed? Was she less beautiful? Hebrew tradition has it that both daughters were beautiful. But here’s the Hebrew/Talmud/Rashi twist. What if Leah was the truly tender-hearted one? What if Rachel stood out socially, but Leah didn’t need to stand out? What if Leah, like some tradition believes, was not just looking at the joy of being married to a great man? What if Leah, was teary-eyed over the prospects of God’s hand through everything going on around her. What if her “vision” about life and the things that happened and her responses, were not geared towards pleasing men, but pleasing God? Would that make her maybe not the favorite one? Would that make her less noticed, more likely to be ignored and misunderstood? I mean, I can’t say I know for sure. But it’s definitely something to think about.
So, Jacob works seven years to marry his love at first sight, Rachel. And on the wedding night, Laban switches brides. In the morning, Jacob sees his wife is Leah and not his Rachel. But Leah sees her husbands love for someone else and not her. I can imagine that she was teary-eyed over the deception of her father. Yet she obeyed. I imagine she was teary-eyed over her sister’s feelings toward her, even though she probably had no control over these events. I imagine she was teary-eyed over her husband’s lack of feeling over her. And I imagine she went to the Lord in teary-eyed prayer asking blessing for her husband through the birth of sons so that she too might be loved. Because the fact of the matter is that at this point, probably both Rachel and Jacob hated Leah. That’s pretty strong, but that’s what Your word says. It means she was “odious” to them. And this is the thing. You, Lord, saw that and You noticed and You cared. When You saw that Leah was hated, You “opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.”
It’s so important that I remember that You vindicate Your children when they are acting like Your children. Both Rachel and Leah lived under the provision of Jacob. Both lived under Your morning sun and Your evening son. But who had the attitude in their heart to love their enemy, to bless the one cursing them, to do good to the one that hated them, and to pray for the one or ones despitefully using and persecuting them? Was it Rachel? Was it Jacob? Or was it Leah? Is that what her tender, teary eyes were really doing? Was she loving Jacob even when he wasn’t loving her back? Was she trying to provide the good things that Jacob wanted even though he didn’t care about her?
I mean, how do I even know or even think that Leah was praying? Look what she says after she gives birth to her first son, Reuben. “Surely the Lord has looked upon my affliction; therefore my husband will love me.” Sorry, I’m getting a little teary-eyed here. And then she conceives again and says, “Because the Lord has heard that I was hated, he has therefore given me this son also…” On the third son we have Levi and she declares, “Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons.” Now who has been answering her prayers? Who has cared? Who gave her Levi who would be father of the priests of God? And then came Judah, who would be the line of the Lion of Judah, Jesus. “Now I will praise the Lord…”
So, maybe she was attractive and maybe not. But can you imagine having to live being hated in your family? Isn’t that worse than having to live thinking you’re not pretty? How does it feel to know that no matter what you do, it won’t be appreciated and you won’t be valued just because you’re you. I mean, did she really ask for any of this? But she learned to live among the hate with only Godly desires. Can I do the same?
Year after year she kept looking for “love, acceptance, and approval” and what did she receive? For many years she received only disappointment. So did she stop looking? Or did she continue seeking God and asking God in faith? Who were her tender eyes turned to really? To herself and her plight? Or to You, Lord? Did she understant that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”? (Hebrews 11:1) Because I didn’t see her give up. Did she instead, keep drawing nearer to You, believing that You were listening and watching and acting and intervening, and vindicating no matter what it looked like? Did she instead keep drawing nearer to You believing that You would reward her with You and with Your blessings regardless of how things looked or felt?
I see a woman who learned to “pour out her grief, pain, and fears to God.” I see and Old Testament woman obeying New Testament living. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) “Finally , all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8,9) This is the woman I see. This is the woman that You made, Lord. I know she wasn’t made by herself. None of us are. None of us can be.
And because she let You make her, because she went to You for her satisfaction, because she called out to You for the good of others and her own vindication, You brought vindication. Actually, I think You brought it before she ever asked. Because “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry.” (Psalm 34:15) “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)
This is the promise that His children have. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Go back to Genesis 29:31. Who saw Leah’s plight? You Lord saw that she was hated. You Lord intervened.
And You intervened more than enough! You more than made up for it. If I keep reading in Genesis I get to see how much You loved her and showed it by giving her 7 sons! One of those sons was Judah, David’s line and the lineage through which our Jesus, the Son of God, God with us, came. I mean, how is that for rewarding Leah with the superior reward of You! Oh my, my tender eyes are flowing again. And then there was Levi, Your priestly line to serve You all the days of their lives. Rachel dies in childbirth. But Jacob clings to Leah’s side. He even buries her with his fathers, in the family tomb, a place of honor. Where Abraham and Sarah were buried, where Isaac and Rebekah were buried, there is where Leah was buried.
Why? Why all this goodness after the suffering for Leah? What difference did she make? What could she do? What could she offer? Why her? Why me? Why anyone? Why can we receive vindication like this, to such a great extent? I suppose it’s simply for one fact. It’s what You promise. It’s Your Word coming true. You can’t lie. You have to be You. And You are this Good. You are this Giving. You are this Loving. You are this Forgiving. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He WILL give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) (Emphasis my own.) Why? Why will You give us the desires of our heart? Because when I delight in You, and when Leah delighted in You, Your desires became our greatest desire. And Your desires will always come to pass. In You I have a Sure Foundation, I have Sure Outcome. No matter what, I am rich. Because as long as I have You, I have everything I need at every time I need it, and in the long run, I WILL have it more than made up to me. I mean, an eternity in Your presence, that’s more than making everything up. Lord, thanks for using Leah to teach me about being tender-eyed, because here go my eyes again. And it’s all because of You.