We heard recently how Jesus Christ was the only Man in the history of the world Who chose His family line, and how the genealogy in Matthew 1 reveals something about God’s heart through each of the people He CHOSE as Jesus’ forebears.
What’s interesting is, looking back through that line, knowing that it would crescendo with the birth of Christ, we see something different than what we see looking forward. For example, as we read the story of Tamar in Genesis, looking forward through time, we only see a terrible mistake; but looking back, knowing that Jesus would identify with her by choosing to come through her line, it’s an opportunity to see more of God’s heart, as Jesus Christ desired to identify with folks who’ve come from tragedies and lives plagued by sin.
What we learn from this contrast is that we can’t always trust how things appear from our forward-read through time. This is true both in our own lives, and even through the scriptures.
God’s Love for Minor Characters
I was recently reading through the book of Genesis with this fresh realization on my mind, and I learned something very interesting about God’s heart. One would think that the “main characters” of the story, so to speak, would be Jesus’ chosen line. As we read the main story line, we go from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Joseph, to Ephraim... but then the trail goes cold. It turns out that following the “main characters” of the story, isn’t very accurate way to predict the line Jesus chooses in Matthew 1 — I missed the line He chose looking at things in my normal way! — and that spoke to my heart about God’s love for “minor characters.”
Where does the “main character” trail diverge from the lineage Jesus chooses in Matthew 1? Surprisingly, our forward look fails us at the fork in the trail between Joseph and Judah (Matthew 1:2). Looking forward, we see God is with Joseph, and there are MANY things we can learn from Joseph’s life (fear of the Lord, trust in God’s plan, concern for others, fleeing immorality, etc), so we shouldn’t despise him; but looking backward, we realize there was something about Judah, some reason God chose to identify Himself with Judah.
Why did Jesus not choose to identify with Joseph or Benjamin, by choosing to come through their line? After all, they’re the only two children of Rachel, whom Jacob loved? Why Judah, who came from Leah, and who wasn’t even her firstborn, but was her fourth son, at that?
God’s Special Love for the Unloved
“So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years. Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”
Genesis 29:30-31 NASB
It blessed me to see, Jesus chose to come through Judah because of Leah, because he came from the unloved one!
Just like Jacob did, I’ve always overlooked Leah. I’ve always emphasized what man emphasized: “It looks like Rachel was more loved, therefore she must be chosen of God.”
And it’s easy to reinforce that belief, looking at outward appearances, as the story continues: “Joseph was mightily used, therefore God’s Deliverer will surely come through his line...” And then, “Israel blessed Joseph’s sons with a double blessing, therefore the Messiah must come through them...”
But what was the basis of Jacob’s love? It was Rachel’s beauty. And I saw how looking forward, we can often be focused on outward things. “But God looks at the heart.”
Practical Application for Today
What spoke to me was, we must not be distracted or discouraged by what it seems the “main characters” in the story are. We must not be taken up with outward appearance, as Jacob was, whether by beauty or by signs or by blessings. God chooses the line of the unloved one, of the minor characters.
And specifically, the Lord encouraged me: Don’t despise the opportunity to be a minor character!
God even uses the deception of others to establish his purposes for the unloved - think about what a “bad guy” it seems Laban is, in tricking Jacob; yet in so doing, he makes a way for the Messiah to come!
It was also enlightening to consider why Judah, of all the children of the unloved Leah, did God choose the line of Judah? How Leah named her children reveals what she was taken up with. The first three, she was obsessed with her condition, with becoming loved, etc:
“Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi.”
Genesis 29:32-34 NASB
In each of these name choices, Leah reveals her dissatisfaction with her present state, and her hope that something would change about her present circumstance. It was only by the fourth child that Leah resigned herself to God’s will completely:
“And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.”
Genesis 29:35 NASB
It’s as if she were saying with the birth of Judah, “Even if I remain unloved, I’ll praise You...” What a word of faith, and confidence in God. What a word of shifting hope: “I’m no longer consumed with changing my situation. God is enough. Instead of a complaint or an agenda, I’ll come to Him with praise.”
Jesus specifically chose to identify with the unloved one, but He waited until becoming loved in this world wasn’t the consuming passion. He waited until the desire to change the temporal circumstance had passed - to show us the blessed possibility of “overwhelmingly conquering” the very things we once saw as setbacks, not through changing the situation, but through surrender and praise.
Looking forward, I want to remember that wherever Jesus is, that is most blessed. No matter how outward circumstances appear. No matter what I see of beauty, of work, of “blessing,” I want to remember that Jesus is pleased to identify with the unloved ones, and wants to manifest His life through their triumphant trust in Him.