Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jacob I loved, Esau I hated

Most discussions about election and free will within the process of salvation typically end up looking like the above drawing. It's a highly emotional debate. I want to thank you gals for patiently receiving the scripture you did today, that I threw in your lap in a hit and run fashion during study. I must admit, a few of you smiled, one nodded in agreement, one scowled and the rest of you had wide-eyed blank stares. I fear I hit this a bit aggressively without the context being fully understood, so for the three of you who read the blog, if you are still checking, I am going to clarify here a bit.

The Bible is highly unique in the fact that its author is Divine, yet His scribes were human. His message is inspired, but the personality of the writers is evident. Paul shared about his thorn in the flesh, Jeremiah mourned over his persecution, Habakkuk questioned the Lord's purposes and David begged for help. In the same vein, however, we are given God's instructions, His commandments and His promises clearly from His heart as well as His mouth (thus saith the Lord).

Throughout the Word we are given two perspectives - God's and man's. Paul said to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, and yet he eloquently taught that salvation was by faith, through grace alone. Is this confusing? Well, of course it can be, especially if you confuse the perspectives. When it comes to salvation, there are mounds of scripture on both sides, that talk of man's responsibility to act on the gospel message and God's sovereign choice of man. So there has to be a balance, there has to be truth in both. God's Word is infallible, so this cannot be a contradiction.

I have no aspirations of solving this theological debate with one simple blog. But I want to encourage you ladies to continue to seek God when you study the Word. Yes, there is plenty about ourselves in there, but let's not start with us. Let's start with Him. We want to see Him and know Him and love Him for who He is. So for now, let's set aside the human perspective and seek God's perspective on salvation.

As we look at the lives of Jacob and Esau, using our consistent hermeneutic of comparing scripture with scripture, we come upon those verses we read today stating that God hated Esau, that God loved Jacob, and that no matter how hard the offspring of Esau would struggle and battle for survival, God was going to wipe them out (Romans 9:10-13, Jeremiah 49:7-17, Malachi 1:1-4). Esau gives us reason to understand God's hatred because he is described as an immoral and despicable man (Hebrews 12:6), that he lived for the day (Isaiah 22:13) and that he eventually married heathen women (Genesis 26:34,35). So, we get it - Esau was a rotten guy, that's why God hated him. Right?

But we have to remember that Romans 9 tells us clearly that God's choice was not dependent on future actions of either child, but solely for His glory so that His purposes would be accomplished. The fact that without previous knowledge of character or actions, God loved one and hated the other is very difficult to grasp, if we look from a human perspective. Here's why: we want to assume that we all start on an even playing field - that we are all relatively good and that when we choose to reject God, the bad takes over and it's all down hill from there. This is seen in our court systems where each man is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Shift to God's perspective now - "There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God; ...for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:10, 23) No one starts innocent until they are proven guilty. All are guilty. Period. End of discussion. Jacob was just as guilty in his sin as Esau. Abel was as guilty as Cain. Noah was as guilty as the people clamoring to get into the ark. Joseph was as guilty as his brothers. But Kristen, you say, Jacob, Abel, Noah and Joseph were good guys. And my response to you is, Why were they good guys?

Because of God's work in their lives.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Can you see God's perspective here? First of all "But God" always shows us a shift in action - we are one way, BUT GOD changes everything! We were dead - He made us alive. His great love. He raised us up. He seated us with Jesus. He will show the riches of His grace to us for ages to come. Kindness toward us. It's all about Him and His actions, His work. Dead people cannot do anything to help themselves.

So any good you see in the men listed above came from the work of God in their lives. And in like manner, any bad you see in the list of other men is exactly who the first list of men are without God's work in their life. Make sense? It's exactly who we are without Christ.

Just as Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 1:26-31, "...so that no man may boast before God. But BY HIS DOING you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." It's all about Him - His work, His doing, His choice, His plan.

So, great, Kristen. Then I should just sit back and do nothing? I have no responsibilities? Remember the Word gives two perspectives. It assures us that God has a plan and a calling for each of us, and then holds us responsible to act by faith upon the Word of God. Faith without works is dead. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Hear the Word of the Lord and respond today.

It is a mystery, how God's sovereignty and man's will are intertwined, but as we go through Genesis, we cannot study the story of these two men solely from man's perspective. Their specific stories are given from God's perspective as well, and we must handle scripture responsibly. So like it or not, hate means hate and love means love.

Do me a favor and read the whole chapter of Romans 9 and summarize its teaching in one sentence, then post it in the comment section. Just wondering what you'll find...


  1. “I am God; you are not; from whom I withhold My wrath is My choice; My mercy is not according to your will.”

    Great post...

  2. I tried to summarize this but I kept coming back to verse 16 which in my translation says, "So it is He who decides to whom He will show mercy. we can niether choose it not work for it." It amazes me, His mercy. It is something that we cannot earn, if we could it wouldn't be mercy.

  3. I agree, scripture backs it up. It also occured to me;
    2-2=0 or for extreme thought analgy
    positive 2 (Abraham)+ (Jacob)= Glory to God
    2+ (-2)=0
    positive 2 (Jacob) + negative 2 (Esau) = Glory to God.
    Okay, maybe I've been doing too much homeschooling ;-)

  4. That'll teach me to post while being interrupted....
    Skip the first one - and before you say it, NO I do not believe God is the equivalent of zero, I was looking at it from the standpoint of the sum of everything = GOD. me and my fast fingers.....

  5. Okay...now I get it! Thanks for the clarification! I agree, by the way...

  6. Question; I had heard a sermon (not at our church) where the pastor kept emphasizing that God does not hate, it is not in His nature. The pastor tried to back it up with some scripture but I always thought about Jacob and Esau where it clearly says the word hate, and also Soddom and Gomorrah where the word detestable is used. It got me off on a tangent trying to find the "best" "most accurate" translation of the Bible in order to make sense of how the sermon made sense. Why is it so hard to believe that God would be adverse to something and act accordingly? I mean, how does the statment that God does not hate hold water when you read scripture? Oh and on a second thought, my daughter and I both agreed on the way home that neither of us wanted to be Esau ;-)

  7. I think we struggle to understand the word hate because of our fallen nature. We are instructed by God to love our enemies, our neighbors and our husbands. Where is there room for hate?

    But God, who is holy, isn't simply offended by sin. Sin is His opposite. We can tolerate sin because it is a part of our nature, but God cannot tolerate sin. It is completely contrary to His character, therefore He hates it. Sin cost Him the life of His Son so that He could have an eternal relationship with us. How can He not hate sin?

    But scripture doesn't stop there. It's not that He hates the sin but loves the sinner. In this circumstance, we are told He hates Esau. Period. And that is what people struggle the most with - how can a loving God hate what He created? Because our sin aligns us with what is completely contrary to God, God, in His perfect and holy character, is capable of hate. His wrath does not flow from His love, it flows from His character. It is righteous, therefore, it is possible to have a righteous hatred.

    I guess I could try to logic through this all day, and no doubt, this one is hard, but we have to trust the Word and take it at face value. In the very least, when it comes to Esau, God displays true hatred.

  8. It doesn't get any plainer in Psalm 5:5 as well. "The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity."

    Not to take that at face value is to compromise scripture. His hatred is directed toward people in this verse, not towards their iniquity.

    I like that statement, His wrath does not from from His love, it flows from His character.