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What Goes Around, Comes Around
Proper 12
Genesis 29:15-28

One of the strangest phenomenons of recent years is the ever-changing perception of sin in American culture. While the days of hiding in the closet are long since gone, the contemporary fascination with and promotion of blatant sin is almost staggering. Forbes magazine recently examined the seven deadly vices of lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy and pride by naming the ten cities that rank the highest in each category. Despite somewhat surprising results, most of us instinctively know what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.

Few people, however, seem willing to accept any responsibility for their sin. In his book, A Nation of Victims, Charles Skyes writes (11, 15): “Something extraordinary is happening in American society. Crisscrossed by invisible wires of emotional, racial, sexual, and psychological grievance, American life is increasingly characterized by the plaintive insistence, I am a victim.

He continues, “Now enshrined in the law of jurisprudence, victimism is reshaping the fabric of society, including employment policies, criminal justice, education, urban policies and in an increasingly Orwellian emphasis on ‘sensitivity’ in language. A community of interdependent citizens has been displaced by a society of resentful, competing and self-centered individuals who have dressed their private annoyances in the garb of victimism.”

Apparently, Jacob was prone to playing the blame game when it came to his sin. Thus, in Genesis 29, God provides the perfect storm to help him take responsibility for his actions. Though every trespass brings certain consequences, occasionally God allows us to experience our sin from a surprising perspective. Such was the case for Jacob.

I. God Uses the Consequence of our Sins to Produce Character in Our Lives (Genesis 29:15-25)

These chapters of the Genesis narrative juxtapose Jacob’s past deception with his present misfortune. After meeting the love of his life Jacob agrees to serve his future father-in-law Laban for seven years in order to marry Rachel. With a sense of accomplishment and anticipation, the young patriarch seems a bit frustrated by Laban’s delay after fulfilling his obligation (Genesis 29:21).

What follows is the first episode of Wife Swap before it was cool. Through deceptive maneuvering, Jacob unknowingly entered his tent to consummate a marriage to the wrong woman (Genesis 29:23). The next morning, he awoke with a headache and a bride whose name literally means “wild cow.” At least for Jacob, Leah lacked the “beautiful form and face” of Rachel.

Who would do such a thing? How could Laban be so manipulative? We could ask the same questions about Jacob. His question in Genesis 29:25 is telling: “Why then have you deceived me?” The same word is used in Genesis 27:35 to describe Jacob’s deception of Esau for his birthright. Despite his obvious frustration, God is clearly using Laban to produce character in Jacob’s life. During his 20 years in Haran, the young deceiver is on the receiving end of his former tactics (Genesis 30:14-20), yet he fails to grasp God’s lesson (Genesis 31:20).

II. Momentary Sin Can Lead to Continual Consequences (Genesis 29:26-28)

After an extended seven-year commitment, Jacob finally secures Rachel as his wife, but not without consequence (Genesis 29:28). His deceptive past finally catches up with him and the results are disastrous. Imagine having two sisters for wives (one that is beautiful and another that is not) along with two concubines who are all insecure mothers. Added to this, Jacob pledged seven more years with a conniving father-in-law who selfishly took advantage of him at every opportunity. Unable to break his commitments, Jacob was now living with the continual consequences of his sin.

Several years after inventing radar, Sir Robert Watson Watt became a victim of his own invention. After speeding through a radar trap, Canadian police arrested Watt for speeding. He wrote this poem: Pity Sir Robert Watson Watt, strange target of his radar plot, and this, with others I could mention, a victim of his own invention. Surely this is how Jacob felt as God used the consequences of his sin so meticulously.

III. God Grants Mercy Even When We Suffer Because of Our Sins

Despite the providential suffering Jacob faced, the mercy of God is evident in his house as well. All total, the house of Jacob produced 13 children (12 boys and one girl). Though Leah did not have the heart of her husband, God used her to produce eight of Israel’s 12 tribes, including the messianic line of Judah. The same God who disciplined Jacob for his sin also comforted him with His mercy. With great love and patience, God replaced the young patriarch’s deception with character so that he accurately reflected the name Israel.
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