Turn to Genesis 29:21-35. In this passage, we see God's tough love and His chastening mercy toward Jacob. Up to this point, we have been wondering when the Lord was going to get around to dealing with Jacob’s sin. Yes, Jacob has been exiled from his land, but God has protected him every step of the way. He has been blessed by both his earthly father and by God. He also has been given a beautiful woman who adores him to be his wife. However, we are finally going to see an example of God’s sovereignty in His divine parenting in these verses. This passage can easily be divided into two sections. First, the consequences of Jacob’s sin are revealed in verses 21-30. Then, God begins to build the patriarchs in verses 31-35. The first four of the patriarchs are born into what we would call today a dysfunctional family. Yet, even that is a sign of God's overruling grace.   

I. The consequences of Jacob's sin. 

In Genesis 29:21-30, we learn that God disciplines Jacob for the sin in his life with specific consequences. Those consequences are literally going to be with him for the rest of his life, and they are even going to outlive him. The Lord does that because He loves Jacob. Even though the Lord is going to use the deception of Laban to discipline him, the Lord's ultimate plan is to craft Jacob’s character. Thus, we see that God models an important first principle of biblical parenting from Proverbs 3:11-12 which is that “the Lord disciplines him whom he loves.” 

In Genesis 29:18-20, we learned that Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel. He had been promised Rachel as his wife by his uncle, and he had fulfilled seven years of labor for her. Finally, the day came for him to receive Rachel as his wife. It was customary in the days of Laban and in that culture that the bride would be veiled. There was an evening party and a great reception. They would have danced and fellowshipped well into the night. Then, the veiled bride would have been given to her husband. However, Jacob woke up the next morning with the wrong bride. Jacob discovers that he has married Laban’s older daughter, Leah. As such, Jacob had just experienced the first and greatest consequence of his own deceiving plan. Having deceived others, he is deceived in a way that will never leave him. 

God loves Jacob, and He has shown him His grace and His mercy. However, the Lord is also going to show Jacob that he is going to face the consequences of his sin. In fact, it is interesting that the consequences in this passage correspond precisely to Jacob's sin. There are three incredible ironies in this passage. First, God told Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 that “the older shall serve the younger.” In other words, Esau will serve Jacob in the future. However, Esau would not serve his younger brother until Jacob has served Laban for twenty years. The Lord knew exactly what Jacob needed which was the experience of engaging in hard labor for an unfair master for twenty years before he would be served by his older brother. Second, in receiving Leah, Jacob had to learn to respect the rights of the first born. He had conspired to usurp the rights of his first-born brother, and now he wakes up with the wrong bride. Jacob usurped the rights of his first-born brother, and now he will have to honor the rights of Laban’s first born. Laban’s deceitful actions were wrong. However, it is important to see that God is going to make Jacob taste the exact corresponding fruits of his own deception in his own life. Finally, Jacob is deceived by Leah's father in exactly the same way that he deceived his own father. Recall in Genesis 27:18-29 that Jacob went into Isaac's tent disguised as the first born to receive his father’s blessing. Then seven years later, Leah goes into Jacob's tent disguised as Rachel. He is fooled by the disguise of his father-in-law, even as he misled his father by disguise. In this passage, we see that the Lord gives consequences to Jacob that correspond to his sin. 

II. God blesses even as He disciplines.

In Genesis 29:31-35, we see that even while Jacob is being disciplined, God is blessing Leah and building His church. The Lord builds His church in spite of us, and He works His grace even in a dysfunctional family. Leah was an unloved wife, but she was a spiritually-minded woman. We see that in the names of her children. Even though Leah did not grow up in a God-fearing home like Jacob, she clearly knew something of the Lord. All of her first four children's names are named with reference to the covenant God. The first son’s name is Reuben, and his name sounds like “the Lord sees”. Specifically, Leah says, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me” in Genesis 29:32. The second son’s name is Simeon, and his name sounds like the Hebrew word for “heard.” Again, this name is given in reference to prayer as she says, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, He has given me this son also” in Genesis 29:33. The third son is named Levi, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “attachment.” Leah is longing for her husband to be attached to her, and she is praying that God would bring that about in Genesis 29:34. Finally, the fourth son is named Judah, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “praise” because she desires to praise the Lord as recorded by Moses in Genesis 29:35. Thus, Leah’s spirituality shows through in the names that she gives to her sons.

This passage is here to remind us that God is just and that God, in His own way, according to His own wisdom, is answering the needs and the circumstances of every individual in this passage. Everyone in this story will learn a divine lesson that God intends to teach them. Rachel would have to wrestle with barrenness. Leah would have to wrestle with being an unloved wife. Jacob would have to live with the consequences of his deception. Laban himself would finally be taken advantage of and vested in the end. However, in the very process of all this divine discipline, the Lord is building His church. The very patriarchs of God’s people will be born right in the midst of this character-molding process which He is working in Jacob. Satan wants you to think that the way of the treacherous is easy, and that nice guys finish last. However, God wants you to know that He loves His children too much not to discipline them. As we enter into this new year, may God continue to teach us to have hearts which are desirous of His Word and mold us to be compliant with His will.