The First Love and The Tale of Three Wives
I have been fascinated by a story of a woman’s request. It seemed to me there was a key lurking behind this well known story. I want to have a look at three women.
Leah was not loved. She wanted children so that her husband would love her.
You have to feel sorry for Leah - to be married to a man that actually wanted your younger, prettier sister, and then to have her marry him anyway!
Her heart-breaking journey can be followed in her confessions over the birth of her children. Nowhere does she begrudge Rachel her popularity. She just aches to be loved. She says this over her first son, her second son, and her third. By the fourth, she decided simply that she will praise the Lord, but it seems that by her sixth son, Jacob was still ignoring her broken, longing heart. She still just wanted him to love her - I believe this is the heart-breaking side of the part of the curse that says that a woman’s desire would be to her husband, and that he would rule over her. A man has the power to make or break his wife’s heart by the manner of his regard for her. It is unfortunate for her that he has such power, and, more unfortunately still, that so many men are ignorant of it, but! “…the Lord saw that Leah was hated.”
God sees. God sees when a woman is hated. It was a woman that called God ‘Lahai Roi’ — the Living God that Sees Me, ‘for,’ she said, ‘Thou God seest me.’
In this context, may I encourage men to think about I Peter 3:7? And I think that both women and men need to notice the ‘Likewise’ that occurs before the verses addressed to them in this chapter. I believe these ‘likewises’ hearken back to verse 21-23 of the previous chapter. God sees us; we need to commit our souls to Him that judges righteously in the same way that Christ would have done.
Rachel was loved. She wanted children to satisfy… something! — something personal, if you read between the lines in the naming ping pong that happens in Genesis between the sisters in one of the saddest chapters in the Bible.
The longing for children is a natural one in women, but we are complicated creatures, and there is never one simple emotion behind any one desire!
Rachel envied her sister. She felt the reproach of childlessness, but her triumph was over her sister! She felt the need, even though she had the love that Leah so hungered for, to outdo her sister! The sting of her childlessness was so sharp because of her sister! Envy is an ugly thing.
I Sam 1
Hannah had a husband that was better to her than ten sons. He loved her. He was considerate of her. He trusted her. The confidence between them is unmarred when you read the first chapter of I Samuel.
She had an adversary… A second wife who provoked her and tried to make her fret.
Yes, Hannah wanted a son. But her prayer was not like Rachel’s: ‘Give me children, or else I die.’ She did not, like Leah, want a child to win love and approval. She did not want to be one better than someone else.
She wanted a man child to change a nation. The term ‘man child’ is a rare term in Scripture and bears noting.
Hannah went away ‘no more sad’ not because she had got what she wanted, but because she felt heard. God had heard her, and that was enough. She worshipped God and was content. Her relationship with God - His will in her life - was more important to her and more satisfying that her natural desire. She asked God for a son, and He gave her Himself.
Hannah and Mary
Luke 1:46; I Sam 2
There are some significant parallels between Hannah and Mary. It was impossible for them to have children — Hannah because she was barren, and Mary because she was a virgin.
They suffered adversity for their position - Hannah because she was barren, and Mary because she was pregnant.
They were both seen as failures in society for no fault of their own.
They had good husbands that genuinely loved them that mitigated the public censure.
Both heard the voice of God through a messenger - Hannah through a priest, and Mary through an angel.
Both bore a first born son — a man child that set up a kingdom.
Both kept the child in the open palm of their hand and allowed God to work while very much keeping their hearts engaged with the child — Hannah gave her child to Eli, but made him a coat every year; Mary took her child to the temple but pondered things in her heart.
Both sang a similar song. They rejoiced in God, acknowledged His salvation, glorified His holiness, thrilled that He had seen them in spite of their poverty (Matt 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.), both mentioned that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Both contrast the rich/poor, hungry/filled and how God works contrary to human expectation or common sense, and both refer to His promise for the future - Hannah to the expectation, and Mary to the fulfilment.
He that Winneth Souls - spiritual children
There are some lessons to be learned from these women about the bearing of children.
Bringing forth Children
Just as God ‘said’ in the natural, so it needs to happen in the spiritual.
In the natural:
Genesis 1:20 “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.”
In the Spiritual:
There need to be waters - living waters! that spiritual relationship with God — for life to come forth.
God needs to speak for it to be so.
It is God Who commands the abundance.
Jer 2 My people have committed two evils - they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewn them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
We can have our own version of it - Sarah and Ishmael are an obvious example. We can lean on our own resources. John 4 - The woman at the well. She stood at the well with her little pot, peered down into it and said, “But the well is deep and you have nothing with which to draw,” all the while having her back to the fountain of living waters Himself.
We can be very like that woman!
We need to realise our poverty. Both Mary and Hannah emphasised that they were poor and that God raised them and filled them and exalted them for His glory. Jesus pleaded with the Laodicean church to see their poverty, wretchedness, blindness, and nakedness. Until we see how poor we are, we cannot be released from our independence and self reliance.
Children are born - or not - quite apart from the desires of their parents. Children are brought forth regardless of the motivations of their elders, however, their parents do have an impact on their future. Leah’s children, in general, if you follow their history, had a greater spiritual legacy than Rachel’s, and a significant material one. Rachel’s children had a legacy that was almost entirely material. Hannah’s child had a destiny that was entirely spiritual.
I believe the motivation for spiritual growth/conversions can affect the quality or the fruit of the seed.
As a side note: Before God, we are without rival. God does not love equally, because equal means that all factors are the same. We are not the same. We are unique. God’s love is big enough to love us each in a unique way without compromising His love for anyone else. Before God, you have no competition. You have no rival. You can come boldly before the throne of grace with no one that will ‘beat you to it’ or have a higher claim.
Learning from Hannah and Mary:
We need to realise that children/converts are born unto God, not to us. They do not exist to validate our church or ministry.
We need to hold these children on the open palm of our hand
We need to believe that God deals with His children and trust that He does. God often works in secret, and we may not always see or understand what He is doing.