The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

June 24, 2018

Genesis 29:14b-35

Idols We Never Knew We Had—

The Idol of Love!

 

 

After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”  Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”  Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.  Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.”  So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.  When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.  Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”  And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.  When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”  She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.  Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.  She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. (NIV 1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Have you ever heard of AA?  AA (which stands for Alcoholics Anonymous) is a “12-step recovery program for people suffering from alcohol abuse and addiction.”  Have you ever heard of NA?  NA (which stands for Narcotics Anonymous) is modeled after AA.  It is a 12-step program that is designed to help drug addicts recover from their addiction to narcotics as they come together in groups to help each other get clean and stay clean.  Have you ever heard of SLAA?  I was completely unaware of this group until a member of one of my previous congregations joined a local group.  SLAA stands for Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Modeled after AA, SLAA states that it is a “fellowship” whose members “reach out to others in the fellowship, practice the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of S.L.A.A. and seek a relationship with a higher power to counter the destructive consequences of one or more addictive behaviors related to sex addiction, love addiction, dependency on romantic attachments, emotional dependency, and sexual, social and emotional anorexia.”

 

Since I didn’t even realize that there was such a thing as “sex addiction” or “love addiction” it was quite an eye-opening experience as I tried to help this child of God regain a proper God-pleasing perspective on both sex and love.  It also helped me to realize that there are many things that can cause a person to hurt on the inside.  There are many things that people turn to in hopes that they can numb that hurt and fill that void they feel inside.  Some people self-medicate with alcohol.  Some people self-medicate with narcotics.  And apparently some people self-medicate with sex and love.

 

Today as we return to our sermon series entitled Idols We Never Knew We Had let’s look at— The Idol of Love.  We have two goals this morning.  Our first goal is to look at an example of two believers and see how they had an improper view of love.  Our second goal is to see how staying focused on the only Source of true love (Pointing to the cross) will keep us from allowing an improper view of love from being an idol we set up in our hearts.

 

While there are many things worth studying in this text, in keeping with our sermon series we are going to focus on the relationship between Jacob, Leah and Rachel.  To be even more specific, we’ll see how both Jacob and Leah serve as an example of people who may not have even realized that they had set up an improper view of love as an idol in their heart.

 

Let’s start with Jacob.  We’re told here in our text that after living with his uncle Laban for just a month, Jacob “fell in love” with Rachel and wanted to marry her.  Why did Jacob love Rachel and not her sister Leah?  The only information we are given is found in the words, “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful.”  We get the impression that Jacob defined “love” in the same way that many people (especially men) define it right down to this very day.  Jacob “fell in love” with Rachel because he was physically attracted to the fact that she was “lovely in form and beautiful.”  Leah on the other hand is described as having “weak eyes.”  I read a number of comments on Leah’s “weak eyes.”  I read a number of comments concerning Leah’s “weak eyes.”  One commentator said that Leah had poor vision.  Another commented that perhaps she was cross-eyed.  And then there were two commentators who took a slightly different perspective.  One of them wrote, “In a culture where bright, flashing eyes were considered a mark of beauty in a woman, Leah’s ‘weak eyes’ were a handicap, especially when she was compared to her sister, a young woman of lovely face and figure.”  (The People’s Bible, Genesis, p 241.)

 

Jacob was so obsessed with Rachel’s beauty that he was willing to work for his uncle Laban for seven years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage.  And while we are told, “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her,” we are also told that when those seven years were up, Jacob went to Rachel’s father and very bluntly said, “Give me my wife.  My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.”

 

While I would be somewhat hesitant in stating categorically that Jacob had consciously set up an improper view of love as an idol in his heart, I do think that at the very least he serves as a warning to us, to our children and to our grandchildren so that we don’t fall into Satan’s trap and set up an improper view of love as an idol in our hearts.  Why do we even need such a warning?  Because Satan has been extremely effective in blurring the line and in some cases even erasing the line between “love” and “lust.”  Let me give you a real-life example.  In one of my previous congregations I was visiting with an elderly member who had moved in with her daughter because the member’s husband had died and her daughter didn’t think it was safe for Mom to live alone.  As we were visiting a young lady— who wasn’t wearing much of anything at all— pranced on by.  I knew the family well enough to know that she was not a granddaughter.  After the young girl had gone by my member grumbled, “That’s my grandson’s girlfriend.  He keeps telling me that they are ‘in love,’ but I keep telling him that they are ‘in lust.’  He has no idea what real love is.”  That example is undoubtedly much more prevalent today that it was some 25 years ago!

 

Since our society has “evolved” in its understanding of what love is and since our society has very few inhibitions when it comes to “expressing” love for someone else, we need to be very careful that we do not take the easy road and just give in to how society defines love or— God-forbid— actively follow society’s example.  We also need to help our children and our grandchildren understand that being physically attracted to someone does not automatically mean that they are “in love” with that person.  The simple fact that an organization like SLAA exists reveals to us that countless people have fallen into Satan’s trap and either consciously or unconsciously set up an improper view of love as an idol in their heart.  If we struggle with that temptation or if we have ever given into that temptation we need to kneel at the foot of the cross and confess, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

 

Now let’s look at Leah.  Leah gives us an opportunity to look at the Idol of Love from a slightly different perspective.  Since Leah went along with her father’s plan to deceive Jacob into thinking he was marrying Rachel, we get the impression that Leah did not want to end up being alone in life.  She wanted a husband who would love her and cherish her— even though she knew that people described her as the sister who had “weak eyes.”  We learn a lot about what was going on in Leah’s heart and mind by the names she gave to her children.  We’re told in our text that the Lord saw that Jacob “loved Rachel more than Leah.”  So in His mercy— and perhaps as a way of helping Jacob grow in his understanding of what true love is— God blessed Leah with children, but not Rachel.  But notice Leah’s reaction after she give birth to her sons.  We’re told, “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.  Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘It is because the LORD has seen my misery.  Surely my husband will love me now.’  She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.’  So she named him Simeon.  Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said; ‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me because I have borne him three sons.’  So he was named Levi.”

 

What was Leah looking for?  She was looking for a way to get Jacob to “love” her.  She was looking for a way to get Jacob to become “attached” to her.  And yet, even after giving Jacob three sons Leah did not feel loved or cherished.  Even after giving Jacob three sons she did not feel as though Jacob was “attached” to her.

 

There is no shortage of Leah’s— or Leo’s! — in our world today.  Over the course of the last 33 years I have met people who so dearly wanted to “feel” loved and to “feel” cherished by someone that they were willing to do just about anything that person wanted them to do.  Satan can easily use that desire to be loved and cherished as an opportunity to push Jesus off the #1 spot in a person’s heart and replace Him with the Idol of Love.  When that happens a person can easily take their eyes off of the cross (Pointing to the cross) and drift further and further away from the Lord, from His Word and from His Church.

 

How do we battle against this temptation?  What has the power to defeat Satan’s attempts to set up the Idol of Love in our heart?  I think we find the answer to that question in the closing verse of our text.  We’re told concerning Leah, “She conceived again and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the LORD.’  So she named him Judah.”

 

If we allow the world to define love for us or if we try to define love all on our own, we will always have an improper and incomplete view of love.  But when we stay focused on the only Source of true love (Pointing to the cross) then we will always know what true love is, then we will always know deep down in our hearts that we are indeed loved, we are indeed cherished.

 

Let me share with you three passages from the quill of the apostle John, three passages that prevent us from setting up the Idol of Love in our hearts, three passages that clearly proclaim to us the only Source of true love.  The first passage you can easily guess— John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  Even before you were born God’s love for you was so overwhelming that He had a Plan to save you from your sins.  His Plan for your salvation has always been motivated by pure unconditional love.  His Plan for your salvation has always been focused right there— on the cross of Calvary’s hill.

 

The second passage dovetails perfectly with the first.  On the night that Jesus’ love for us would lead Him to surrender Himself to His enemies He said to His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  Jesus knew that one of His own disciples would betray Him.  Jesus knew that one of His own disciples would deny Him.  Jesus knew that all of His disciples would desert Him.  Jesus knew that you and I would sin against Him countless times and in countless ways.  And still, He loves us so very much; He cherishes us so deeply that He was willing to die for us so that we might live with Him and live for Him.

 

The third passage wraps all of this together and puts a bow on it.  In 1 John 3:1 we are told, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!  And that is what we are!”  Does God love us the way that Jacob loved Rachel?  In other words, is God’s love for us simply superficial?  Does the holy and perfect God of heaven love us because of how we look or how we act on the outside?  Of course not!  Does God try to gain our love the way Leah tried to gain Jacob’s love?  In other words, is God hoping that if He does this for us and if He gives that to us then maybe hopefully someday we’ll love Him back?  Not in the least!  God’s love for us is the purest and the most amazing love we will ever receive!  When God’s love for us is the standard that we use in our own lives then Satan will never be able to get us to take an improper perspective on love and set it up as an idol in our hearts.

 

While it did indeed surprise me that there are enough people who are addicted to sex and love that there are groups designed to help them, it doesn’t surprise me at all that many people have taken an improper perspective on love and set it up as an idol in their heart.  Satan is very good at taking beautiful blessings that our God has given to us and twisting them into something that the good Lord never intended them to be.  My prayer this morning is that we will always stay so focused on the only Source of true love (Pointing to the cross) that we will not only be able to avoid setting up the Idol of Love in our hearts, but will also be able to help someone who may have fallen into Satan’s trap.

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen