Go Back The Way You Came

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24.

When we find that we have no way out it, may be necessary to turn and go back the way we came. This idea is illustrated by a story in the Bible on the prophet Elijah.

Elijah, the prophet, was sent by God to steer the people of Israel back to God. Elijah had just finished a match of “anything you can do I can do better” with four hundred and fifty of Ahab’s prophets of Ba’al. He challenged these prophets to call on their God Ba’al to set a pile of wood on fire. They tried their best, but to no avail. So Elijah pours buckets of water on the wood. He calls on the name of Yahweh and everything bursts into flames. Yahweh is shown to be the true God. The four hundred and fifty prophets are executed. Ahab’s wife Jezebel sends a messenger to Elijah and tells him that he is as good as dead. Even after a demonstration of God’s awesome power, Elijah flees to the border out of fear and the desert out of the clutches of Jezebel. 

Elijah escapes to the desert and he’s all alone. He wanders for a day and falls asleep under a single shrub–even the tree is all alone in the desert. Sometimes we feel like we too are in the desert and there is no way out for the situation we find ourselves in. But then we discover God’s power to sustain and carry us.

Elijah still had a problem. Israel had still turned its back on God and God’s ways. And he’s still in the desert because he failed. That may sound familiar. We all have failures or temporary setbacks that can make it difficult to move on.  In addition, we can only stand life in the desert for so long. What’s the use of trying if there is no way out. 

God asks a question: “…what are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13) He may have failed, he may fear that there’s still no easy way out. But God still begs the question–what are you doing here Elijah? Elijah just can’t seem to take a hint. So God clarifies things. “Go,” says Yahweh. “Go back on the same way you came…” God sends Elijah back into the thick of it with no real certainty of any change, other than a word from God. Go back into the life that you fled. I am not done yet. I have work yet to do. It’s not all about you. It’s not all up to you. I am not done with you, yet.

“Go back the way you came.” This was God’s word to Elijah. Sometimes God says the same thing to us. That sounds simple but far from easy. For one thing the steps that led you to where you are today might have been very painful. Going back and revisiting those steps may be the last thing you want to do. But even though it may be hard, the promise that gives strength for the journey is that you can find your way back. The desert is not the end of your story. You can find your way out and your way back. 

What would it mean for you to “go back the way you came?” What steps do you need to retrace and what might you find once you do that? We may find ourselves in a wilderness caused by bad financial, moral or physical decisions. It may seem like there is no way out. We are where we are and that is all there is to it. But that is not all there is to it. God will sustain us in the wilderness. We may have given up on ourselves but God has not given up on us. He provides us the way out. God’s power will sustain and carry us regardless of where we find ourselves. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were stranded in the wilderness, what would you want in your survival kit?
  2. Wouldn’t it be great to have a “wilderness” survival guide for the tough times we go through? Is the Bible your survival guide?
  3. Have there been times in your life when you’ve said those words: “I’ve had enough, Lord.” Describe that time, and how you dealt with it.
  4. How would your life change if you heard from God every day? How do you think it would change our church?

The Way Out

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

Take a look at your life. How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Moving backward? It can be all of those things at one time or another. There are things we dream of doing one day, and there are things we wish we could forget. In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new. What would your life look like if you could could get a “way out” card and start anew?

Starting over requires knowing where you are. Honestly admitting your present condition. Facing the music. And then seeking God’s help to make the changes that are needed.

Remember the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament. If you remember the story, Jonah had difficulty with his sense of direction. He was on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea going west to Tarshish. God had told him to go east to preach in Nineveh. We are know that Jonah never got to Tarshish. Jonah found he needed a way out in the digestive tract of a huge fish.

Imagine sitting there and wondering “how did I get here.” And coming to the obvious conclusion that being sloshed around in the seaweed and juices inside that sea monster is not the best place for you to be. He needed a way out from where his choices had led him. He made the fact that he needed help pretty clear when he literally yelled for mercy. “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.

From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” (Jonah 2:1-2) He promised the Lord he’d keep his vow and get back on target. “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.” I believe the fish was as happy as Jonah when in verse 10, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah had found a way out and as you can imagine, he hit the road running, but this time toward Nineveh.

I can’t think of a tougher place to be a rebel or to be stubborn than in the stomach of a fish. There are times in our lives when we can identify with Jonah. Time when we have dodged and ducked, squirmed and squeaked our way through one Tarshish trip after another. But only to find there is no easy way out. Along the way we have become frustrated and tired. It is like running a long way only to find that you are going the wrong direction and then wondering whether you have the strength to run back all that distance. And Satan, the enemy of your soul is continually telling you that you can’t do it and you might as well get used to being in the belly of the fish.

If God can take a disobedient prophet, turn him around, and set him on fire spiritually, He can help us find a way out of our situations whether minor or dire. God has a very long track record of making something beautiful and good out of something broken, confused and lost.

If you’re standing alone inside a fish, first come to terms with those things that need attention. Before you find your way out, you must determine where you are—and how you got there. Once that’s accomplished, you’re ready to find your way out.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe you always have a second choice?
  2. What is a modern day parallel to what God asked Jonah to do?
  3. Have you ever had a situation where you feel like you did the opposite of what God was calling you to?
  4. What is your first reaction when you feel there is no way out? How do you get away from guilt?
  5. What does this Jonah’s story teach us about God’s character?

It’s a Rather Long Story…Where Do I Start?

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where.”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

One of the most basic questions people ask at some point in their lives is: “How did I get here?” It may be that we are asking how did I get to the point that I have such financial problems. Or how did I get to the point where my relationships are in shambles. Or maybe we are asking ourselves how did I get to the point where I am so out of shape. Or maybe we are wondering how we let that little moral thing escalate into a big problem.

“How did I get here?” This is an important question because it’s answer will determine how we live and view the world around us. It is easy to conclude that in every one of those scenarios that people made the wrong choices. There are a variety of reasons why we got to where we are, but the fact is this is our new reality and there is no easy way out on the horizon. 

As in all things, we can learn from Jesus’ example. After the baptism in the desert by John, and after God says, “This is my beloved Son,” Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by Satan. (Matthew 3:13-17; Matthew 4:1-10) The devil is trying to reach a compromise with Jesus. “Let’s partner together.” Then he asks Jesus to turn stones into bread  And finally, Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off the temple.   

In each instance, Jesus stands at the edge of a decision. He considers the consequence of each path before making a choice. He weighs each decision against his father’s will. Jesus chooses to make hard decisions that are best for His ministry, best for humankind, and most importantly, He makes decisions that will further the plan of God.

We also have to make choices. We are confronted by perhaps hundreds of choices a day. Sometimes our decisions are not well thought out, maybe even a little hasty. And maybe our cumulative choices have us asking “how did I get here?” Fortunately for us, that is not the end of the story. God’s providence includes your choices, your actions, and the consequences that flow from them. So when you make bad decisions, stupid mistakes, or careless choices, yes, you will have to live with the consequences in this world.

But not alone. And not in such a way that you have no way out. God has a hopeful plan for you that spans eternity. And no mistake of yours can undo it. The fact is we will have some ups and downs. We will make mistakes.

If you are in the process of finding a way out from those mistakes, ask God to help you change direction and lead you to Him. 

Spend some time considering the choices we have made; which ones bring us life and which ones lead us to scratching our heads asking, “How did I get here?”

Discussion Questions:

  1. The choices we make today will affect our lives in the future, but they don’t need to define who we are. Agree or disagree? Why?
  2. Do you believe that no matter how hard it may be to find a way out that you can make it right with God?
  3. Do you believe people need us to be more than we are? Who is counting on you to be more than you are?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you with your choices.

Genuine Generosity

“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” –  2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NLT

Martin Luther once said that “a religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” The fact is, being a Christian means that we must give of ourselves and our first fruits.

Generosity is measured by sacrifice, not amount. In Luke 21, we read the story of the widow and the two copper coins. Jesus watched the rich put in their gifts–undoubtedly much more than the two pennies the poor widow put in. But she put in more than all of them, because it was all she had. Luke 21:3-4 tells us, “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  

We start becoming generous when it really costs us. When I give, and it means that I can’t do something else I wanted to do–that’s generosity.  And it’s true of more than money–our time and energy too. If generosity is measured by sacrifice, no one is more generous than God who gave His only Son.

Many people feel that generosity is dependent upon your circumstances. It is easy for people who are wealthy to be generous because they are giving out of their excess. Or we explain that we will be more generous when we make more money, when we get on our feet, or when we get this promotion. John D. Rockefeller, the wealthy businessman, once said, “I never would have been able to tithe on the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” The way to be generous tomorrow is to start being generous today.

Being generous means seizing on opportunities. Generosity isn’t a one-off ad hoc moment in time and then you can check it off; it’s a lifestyle of seizing opportunities to help others. Generosity isn’t about “doing your good deed for the day,” it’s about looking for every opportunity to bless people.

Look for ways to help others, to be generous. My prayer is that God will make us generous as He is generous.   

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does God’s economy differ from that of our culture? 
  2. Generosity becomes contagious when a community of people buy into the reality that God’s economy can be trusted to take care of us far better than any other economy. Have you ever been a part of contagious generosity like this? What was it like?
  3. God’s work must be supported by God’s people. Do you agree? Why or why not? Do you typically assume that someone else will cover the cost if you don’t? Do you see yourself as a participant or a spectator in what God is doing in your community?
  4. What will you need from God to help you to become more generous? Pray and ask God to help you in those areas. 

First Tithing

“So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.” – 2 Corinthians 9:5

I love the story of a six-year-old boy who after listening to a what seemed an interminable sermon at church asked his father what the pastor did the rest of the week. “Bobby, the pastor is a very busy man,” the father replied. “He takes care of church business, studies and prays, works on his sermon, counsels people…and then he has to have time to rest up because preaching the word is not easy.” The boy thought for a moment and then said, “Well, listening ain’t easy, either!”

It is not easy to listen to a sermon about giving. It can seem like a self-serving topic that often prompts the pastor to launch into a roundabout apology for speaking on money. But it is impossible to ignore the subject when you look through the lens of Jesus, his teaching, and that of His followers. It becomes clear that giving and generosity are important subjects.

In the first Multiply series message I talked about a gift of first fruits. I also made mention of “tithes” and “a tenth” in the message. My conclusion is that all those are basically talking about the same thing.  Acts 20:35 tells is, “…remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Since I want everyone that attends Northstar to be blessed, it makes sense that we talk about it. But there’s another reason. We all want to honor God with our life. We want to do what pleases God. That includes honoring God with our actions, with how we spend our time, how we go about doing our job, how we interact with our neighbors, how we treat our spouse, how we raise our kids, and so on.

But perhaps you’ve spent less time, or have less clarity, on how to honor God with our first fruits and our money. The focus of the Multiply series is that generosity truly begins with the realization that God is a God who blesses and so He blesses those who bless others. The starting point in our journey toward generosity is to recognize the most fundamental giving principle in the Bible: 10 percent tithing. 

Leviticus 27:30 tells us: “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD.” So here is the bottom line: 10 percent of the income belongs to God. Tithing is not giving to God because it is His already. Tithing is merely redirecting God’s money, through my employer’s bank account, through my bank account, and into the church’s account so that God can use the church to continue his chain of blessings.

As God said to Abraham, He would also say to us as individuals and to us as a church: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)   

“I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.”

I’m sure God is blessing you. How much of that blessing are you giving back? 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What fears do you have about tithing? In your experience what are the benefits of tithing?
  2. Ecclesiastes 5:10: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”  Do you believe this is true? How do you go about determining how much money is enough?
  3. Read Philippians 4: 19: Is it easy or difficult for you to believe God will supply your needs? Have you ever felt that God has failed to provide for your needs?
  4. Are you willing to put God to the test by taking the Tithe Challenge? 

The First Fruits

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” – Proverbs 3:9-10

I believe the principle of first fruits can literally transform your life because it has transformed mine. But not only has this promise been a blessing to me, I’ve seen it work in the lives of many others. That is why I am so excited about our “Multiply” series. 

But what are first fruits? It’s a farming term and is at home in the agrarian culture of ancient Israel. It refers to the first portion of an Israelite’s produce, which for a farmer would be like the times a year you get paid or get a paycheck. In ancient Israel, this would mean bringing the first fruits of your olive oil or sheared wool or honey or grain or wine—whatever it is that you produce. 

First fruits is not referring to an amount that is required as it is the nature of the gift. First fruits is to give, as we would say today, right off the top. It is not about giving 10 percent; it is about which 10 percent. We have 10 options if we use the 10 percent example of which 10 percent to give. Which one of these should I give? You give the first and best. That’s first fruits. The first and best of whatever wealth the Lord has given you. This is a biblical pattern for giving.

In our culture giving the first fruits would be a shock. Most people give only what they feel like they can spare, what’s available because it’s leftover. Money comes in, they take care of their bills and other needs or wants, and give to God what’s leftover. But it’s hard to honor God with leftovers, isn’t it? If we give God the scraps of what we have left, do you think God feels honored as the Giver of every good and perfect gift in our lives? Imagine going to a five-star restaurant and ordering a sumptuous meal. After consuming most of the meal you notice there is a tiny piece of lobster and a stick of asparagus left. You ask to have them put it in a doggy bag so you could take them home.

In essence, that is what we give to God when we fail to give first fruits. We serve him our financial leftovers, not the first and best bites of the meal. We don’t insist that he be the first to have what we are about to eat; rather, we hand him a doggy bag with some bits and pieces of leftover inside.

Yes, that sounds harsh. But when we offer God our “first fruits”—an offering given to Him before we know we will have enough for ourselves, He will respond by truly blessing us with all we need.  In Malachi 3:10, God challenges us to test Him in His promise to bless us for putting Him first:  “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

Putting God first in your life by putting Him first brings His favor, His blessing, and a satisfied life. I hope you will learn more about the powerful principle of first fruits and apply it in your life. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the principle of first fruits mean to you, and do you agree or disagree that it is important? Explain.
  2. What are some things in our lives that might conflict with the principle of first fruits? 
  3. How can we move toward a first fruits mentality?
  4. Pray and ask God for the courage and faith to give Him your first fruits.

First Born

“Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” ? Exodus 13:2.

Exodus 13:12-14 says: “…All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord’s. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?”

I’m sure there are people who read this passage of scripture and have the same question: what does this mean? Let me explain in a little more detail. If you had an animal and your animal was considered a clean animal, then you sacrificed the first born. If your animal was considered an unclean animal, then you had to sacrifice a clean animal to redeem the unclean animal. You probably are thinking that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is wondering what God is doing.  As I said on Sunday, this all points to Jesus.

Think about what the verse says. If it’s unclean, it has to be redeemed with the sacrifice of the clean. Now, let me say that again. If it’s unclean, it has to be redeemed with the sacrifice of the clean.  And if it’s clean, it has to be sacrificed. I asked the question on Sunday whether all those in attendance at all of our campuses were clean or unclean. The answer: unclean. We were all born into sin.

But, was Jesus born clean or unclean? The obvious answer is clean. The clean Jesus had to be sacrificed so the unclean, or all of us, could be redeemed. In the Multiply series we are going to be talking about finances because the Bible teaches about finances. So think about this. Jesus was sacrificed so we could be redeemed. So let me say it another way because this is referring to giving the first to God. Jesus is God’s tithing.

God gave Jesus in hope, or in faith, that we would give our lives to Him, that we would give our lives to God. In other words, God didn’t wait to see if we would get our act together and then give Jesus. The Bible says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  So God gives Jesus before anyone really believes in Jesus. He gives Jesus as that sacrifice. So, the first born must be sacrificed or redeemed.

God said, “When your sheep has a lamb, give me the first one.” It takes faith to give the first one before you have any more. You don’t know if the sheep is going to produce any more. That takes faith. God didn’t say, “Wait until your sheep has ten, and then give me one of them. And You can give me the one that keeps getting into your garden that you don’t like.” No, He said, “You give me the first one before you have any others.”

When you begin your week with God, the rest is blessed. When you begin your day with God, the rest is blessed.  And when you give the first portion of your finances to God, the rest is blessed.  That’s this principal. The first born must be sacrificed or redeemed.

Discussion Questions:

  1. God is a God of order; if Christ is first in your life, everything else will come into order. Agree or disagree?
  2. What does the principle of first mean to you, and do you agree or disagree that it is important? 
  3. What are some things in our lives that might conflict with the principle of first? Explain.
  4. What types of fears or concerns, if any, do you wrestle with most when thinking about the principle of first? 
  5. Read Proverbs 3:9. How can we give our time and talents to God using the principle of first? How do you view the difference between commitment and trust? Which of the two values do you identify with the most?

First Things First

“In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” – Proverbs 3:6 (TLB).

I think most people accept the fact that are all kinds of things that contend for our attention and time; they include our spouse, children, job, interests and hobbies to name a few. None of those things are necessarily bad. They only become a problem when we let them become more important or more of a priority than our relationship with God.

Deuteronomy 5:8-9 (NLT) says, “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.”

We have to guard against the things that occupy our time, money, thoughts and attention taking the place where God is supposed to be. We need to ask ourselves, “Is God first in my life, or do I have some idols that have displaced Him? 

Having a deep, intimate relationship requires us to put Him first in every area of our life. First Thessalonians 2:4 (AMP) says, “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as [if we were trying] to please people [to gain power and popularity], but to please God who examines our hearts [expecting our best].”

Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

I say it on a regular basis: When you decide to serve God with your whole heart and make Him first in your life, your life will be better. I say it that often because I believe the “key” to the Christian walk is knowing how, moment by moment, to put God first and learning to lean on Him. 

Take an honest look at your current priorities. Reflect on your life right now to consider what factors most determine how you choose to live. Where are you investing most of your time, money, and energy? Which relationships and activities do you devote yourself to every day? Where do you currently place God on your list of priorities? If your relationship with God isn’t your top priority right now, consider the changes you need to make God first.

Your life will be better when you make God your highest priority, over everyone and everything else in your life. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why does God want us to put Him first?
  2. What prevents us from putting God first? Is is pride, greed or fear, or something else?
  3. What attitudes release me to put God first? Is it faith and/or love or something else?
  4. Is there an area of your life where you have put God first? What difference did it make in your life?
  5. What are some things Christians can do this week to put God first? 

A Marriage Made In Heaven

“To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

Life as you no doubt have learned, is full of imperfect things and imperfect people. Wives are not perfect. Neither are husbands. We all have our imperfections. But in an unforgettable marriage, the husband and wife have learned to accept the imperfections in each other. Over time, they have stopped trying to make each other in their own mold and have learned to celebrate their differences. Or in other words, they have learned to love each other for who they really are. That was the purpose and the motivation behind the Unforgettable Love Story series we finished this week.

If you missed any part of this series, I encourage to go back and listen to any you missed. You can find them at northstar.cc. I would like to summarize some points we covered in the series. 

First, is that love is an unconditional commitment, not a fleeting, fickle feeling. When you hear couples say that they are “falling out of love,” I always wonder if they really grasp the meaning or implications of true love. Love isn’t a fairy tale feeling, but a commitment, a choice each of us make. Love isn’t a fairy tale story with a happy ending. Love is a story without end. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) reminds us that, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  Marriage needs commitment to each other and to God to flourish and deepen.

Second, every wife needs love and every husband needs respect. There will be times when your spouse is doing something that is unlovable or disrespectful. Loving them and showing respect during those times is not easy, but it is important that we do it anyway. God gives us His best when we’re at our worst, and He calls us to do that for each other in marriage. People usually need love most when they “deserve” love least. Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” 

Third, your spouse’s needs have to come before your own. In each of us there is some level of selfishness. Let’s be honest. So we tend to look at every relationship, including marriage, as an avenue to getting our needs met. But as we have seen in this series, marriage is laying down your own rights for those of our spouse. This requires mutual submission and serving your spouse even when they’re not inclined to reciprocate. Mutual submission is modeled by how Jesus served us and even died for us when we were undeserving. “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

And fourth, a marriage takes three. The third member of a marriage is God Himself. He created marriage not just to be a man and a woman, but rather, a man and a woman in a growing relationship with each other and with God. The more you love God, the more capacity you will have to love each other. Marriages that put God at the center of their marriage are happier than those that don’t. They focus on God for the source of their happiness rather than their spouse. Deuteronomy 31:8 “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

My hope and prayer is that this series will enrich your marriage/relationships and your walk with God in some way. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you view as the most important theme for the Unforgettable Love Story series?
  2. What do you want the legacy of your marriage to be?
  3. What is the one thing you plan to do or not do as a result of this series?
  4. How can God be a bigger part of the marriage/relationship going forward?

Be Content

“…thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment.” – Song of Solomon 8:10.

There is a popular Bible story that I think illustrates contentment in a less than an ideal situation. It is the story of Leah. Her story starts in Genesis 29. Jacob’s uncle, Laban, had two daughters. Leah, the eldest, had eyes that were “delicate.” Rachel, with whom Jacob fell in love, was Laban’s younger daughter; and she “was beautiful of form and appearance” (Genesis 29:16-17).

Jacob made an agreement to serve Laban seven years for the opportunity to marry Rachel. Laban deceptively gave Leah, instead of Rachel, to Jacob.  When this switch was discovered, Jacob was of course a little irritated. Laban said it was customary to give the older daughter away in marriage first. So, in order to have Rachel for his wife, Jacob had to give Laban seven more years of service (Genesis 29:26-27).

This cruel deception was her father’s idea, and her new husband, Jacob, clearly “loved Rachel more than Leah” (Genesis 29:30). Meanwhile Leah was married to a man who didn’t choose her, love her, or want her. But in fact she was loved and her plight did not go unnoticed. Genesis 29:31 tells us: “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, …”  God noticed Leah, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:31). The Lord showed Leah she had value in her society and was indeed loved—if not by her father or by Jacob, then surely by her heavenly Father.

Leah gave birth to three sons in a row, hoping she would win Jacob’s love: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me” (Genesis 29:34). But after the birth of each son, not a word was heard from Jacob. Then came a turning point. Three times she’d turned to a man for love. This time she turned to God. “When she gave birth to a son she said, “…”This time I will praise the LORD.” (Genesis 29:35).

At last, on her fourth son, Leah realizes an eternal truth; nothing and no one but God can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. People will always let us down; God never will. So we must praise Him, for that is where our contentment and fulfillment may be found. Leah found it. God loved her. She could not control Jacob’s heart. And she learned that even her children could not replace that longing for Jacob’s love. But in praising the Lord, she learned to be content in whatever state she found herself.

Your spouse may not be perfect, or even all you wanted, but God is. Can you praise God and find contentment in Him? Because really He is what you are looking for.  You can find contentment in your marriage, your children, and your life if you look to God to sit on the throne of your heart.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss some of the values of a lengthy and close acquaintance before marriage. How can couples who married without it now compensate for it?
  2. What can we learn from Leah? What would you have done in her situation?
  3. How did Leah eventually find contentment? 
  4. Pray and ask God that you find contentment and trust in Him?