You don’t need to labor for love. God’s love is free. Utterly. Completely. Free.
Today’s text: “And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing” (Genesis 29:35, ESV).
Leah was Jacob’s “unloved” wife. Her father snuck her into Jacob’s bedchamber on the wedding night so Jacob married the “wrong” wife. Jacob loved Rachel. Can you imagine the devastation Leah felt?
But, in His compassion for Leah, the Lord enabled Leah to have children while Rachel was bearing none. You can follow Leah’s spiritual journey through the lens of her children’s names.
She named her first child Reuben which means “see, a son.”
She named her second child Simeon which comes from the word “hear.”
She named the third child Levi which means “attached.”
My wife has shared a compelling insight about Leah’s desperate labor for love. The first child’s name is rooted in “see.” The second child’s name mean “hear.” The third child’s name conveys “attach.” It’s as though Leah is crying out to her husband:
Attach to me.
But no matter how many children Leah bears in hope of meriting her husband’s affection, Jacob still loves only Rachel. When Leah bears her fourth son, everything shifts though.
Something has changed inside Leah. She has abandoned her labor for love. She names the fourth child Judah which means “praise.” Leah’s attention had turned away from her yearning for her husband’s love and toward the love of God.
We aren’t told what shifted in Leah’s heart. Perhaps the Lord had visited her. Perhaps the Lord had told her, “I will be your husband.” Perhaps the Lord had given her peace that passes understanding. We don’t know.
But Leah made the shift that we all need to make – instead of laboring for love, she labored because she was loved. You don’t need to work for anyone’s love. Love is a gift or it isn’t love at all. And that’s the Gospel!