Jacob Have I Loved; Esau Have I Hated! There’s a Showstopper!
De 33:27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms....
This note is in support of the orthodox Christian doctrine that God does not change. One of the incommunicable attributes of God is immutability. Anytime you change the essential attributes of anything, it ceases to be what it was. If something has four legs, a tail, two eyes, chases rabbits, barks at squirrels, gnaws bones, wags its tail when friendly, and is filled with cement....it is not a dog. You can wiggle anyway you want to; such a creature may not exist at all, but if it exists it is not a dog, no matter how much you want it to be. It might have been a dog at one time, but it is a dog no longer.
Several things need to be said about Jacob and Esau. They are mentioned first in Genesis 25. Isaac's beloved wife Rebekah had no children for twenty years after they were married. Isaac prayed earnestly to the Lord and God heard his prayer and Rebekah conceived. [This was not a change is God's plans, for He had promised Abraham a blessed seed through Isaac--so cool your jets, you with changeable gods. The promises of God and His immediate providence often seem to contradict. It is a test of faith.].
God told Isaac that there were two nations in Rebekah's womb, two very different people, one stronger than the other, and the elder should serve the younger. When the twins were born Esau was born first [the elder] and Jacob was born second [the younger]. Jacob took hold of Esau's heel. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.. God is very often not in a hurry, nor does He feel it necessary for us to know everything. We are to walk by faith. Abraham waited for 100 years before Isaac was born; it was ok for Isaac to wait until he was sixty. There are several considerations about Jacob and Esau. There are others than the ones considered below, but these are major and to the topic before us.
Both had exactly the same parents, descended from Isaac and Abraham, the same mother and father, the same grandfather and grandmother. God said before they were born that the elder would serve the younger.
But Isaac loved Esau, who was a man's man, a hunter, one who made Isaac's heart glad. Jacob was a "plain" man, and quiet, ordinary sort of a person, but the word can also mean upright and honest, and even "perfect." Hebrews says that Esau was profane, but that doesn't seem to appear in the Biblical narrative. Esau delighted the heart of Isaac. Jacob was the delight of his mother.
When Isaac was old, he determined to give Abraham's blessing to Esau. Why not? He loved Esau, and surely God could see the advantages that Esau had over Jacob. Every Sunday School child knows the story--at least they did when I was a kid. Now, maybe they know more about giant pickles and carrots or other vegetables.
Isaac tried to change the decree of God. He knew what God had said concerning the elder serving the younger, but surely God needed Isaac's input into this decision. So he called Esau and told him to go make him some savory meat and he would bless him.
But Rebekah heard her husband, she called Jacob, and they deceived the old blind man and Isaac gave Jacob the blessing. There is no way to justify this deception; it was wrong and contrary to the duty of wife and son to so deceive their father. But that is not the lesson. The lesson at least is this:
1. Isaac has no authority to even seek to change the decree of God. Isaac recognized this, and after he saw that he had been deceived, he could not change the blessing. It is interesting that people think that God can change His decrees, but Isaac can't change his. The Bible says in Gen. 27: 33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed." The word indicated a violent shaking in the very being of Isaac.
2. There is nothing more humbling or more productive of the fear of God than the realization that after you have done all you could to NOT do the will of God, you have done it anyway. Esau did not value the birthright because he was a profane man and earthly minded. Isaac was a man of faith, but his sin could not be the cause of Esau's losing the birthright; Rebekah and Jacob's perfidy could not be the cause of the giving of the birthright and the blessing. This whole sordid and sorry mess has nothing in it anywhere that God could look down and see, "Well, that changes my mind." Nor did any of the mess stir Him to change His mind about blessing the children of Abraham. That was fixed in His immutability. The Calvinist doctrine of immutability ought to be embraced by every hopeful son of Abraham, for there is no greater foundation of the hope of Israel than the immutability of God. God is the Rock. As David said: 2Sa 22:3 The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence.
3. Even the Psalmist understood this idea: Our evil and our goodness cannot reach to God. He is transcendent, and above all things, although He is never absent from anything. He cannot be stained with our sins, nor can He be enriched with our goodness. In Psalm 50, the Lord has a controversy with the saints because they thought the blood of bulls and goats were something that He needed, when the cattle on a thousand hills were His. He didn’t drink the blood of bulls and goats. He said they should be thankful, call upon Him in the time of trouble, and keep their obligations to each other. They could do nothing for Him, but He could do plenty for them.
He was angry with the wicked because they took His covenant in their mouths and thought that He was just like them: 21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. 22 Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.
Esau was hated of God because he did evil and God did not elect him to life and righteousness, but abandoned him to his sin and wickedness. God didn’t owe either of them anything, for He could of the stones raise up children to Abraham. God did not abandon Jacob as He did Esau, though Jacob was born a sinner just as Esau was. Jacob understood this, for at the end of his life he confessed when he blessed the sons of Joseph: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Genesis 48:15,16. The doing of righteousness and faith are wonderful gifts of God; not the purchase price of God's gifts. If you have them, don’t boast in them, but rejoice and be thankful.
The first consideration, then is this: Jacob was blessed of God and neither the stubbornness of Isaac, the duplicity of Rebekah and Jacob, the begging of Esau, nor the sleaziness of any of the family could change this. The eternal decrees of God cannot be affected by the actions of men. Concerning Israel, Paul would write, “as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Rom. 11. This was true even though that generation had made themselves enemies of the Gospel—but that is not unique to Israel. Many “Christians” are enemies of the Gospel. Those who hate Jews because of the actions of some in the first century are as wicked as those who hate Christians because…. Well, you fill in the blank. Paul loved Israel.
It is perhaps significant, that the openness of God people will appeal to mystery to secure the validity of man’s actions to change the mind of God, but reject the true mystery that God’s mind is unchanged no matter what the actions of men. They will cry ‘mystery, mystery” in order to insist that God is changed by men’s actions, but they cannot see the real mystery how the real actions of men cannot change the mind and person of God. They cannot even get the mystery right.
They want me to believe that God is big enough to include in His “Mystery” the things that He says are not true [like libertarian free will], but they cannot conceive of a mystery that the will of man and the actions of men cannot change the mind and will of God, which He says is true. They plead mystery when they want to believe something that isn’t so, but cannot find the mystery involving in believing something that is so.
Malachi was the last of the prophets to Israel. He prophesied some five hundred years before Jesus of Nazareth and predicted dark days for Israel because of their sins. It was he who wrote of God, “Jacob have I loved and Esau I have hated.”
He wrote these words because Israel despised their special election of God. They were like the openness people and other Arminians today who reject God’s special grace. Malachi wrote: “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” Mal. 1:2,3. God appealed to special, electing love as the proof of love. I rejoice in this kind of love in my marriage. I would not be happy if my wife loved every man like she does me. God’s love is special, electing, and personal, as a bridegroom does his bride.
God said to them, Jacob and Esau were brothers. There was no difference between them except my favor, the very favor that you despise. “How have you loved us?” they protested. They despised the great favor they had been given and counted God’s gifts of grace as nothing. To them God said, “A son honored his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name.” [Mal. 1:6] God charged them with ingratitude and dishonoring His name, and rejecting His authority. They replied insolently, “How have we despised Thy name?”
“You have despised my name by polluting your sacrifices, by offering polluted bread, by giving me the sick, and the maimed, and the blind. You light the fires on your altars for nothing, for your hearts are far from me. You do not lay it to your hearts, but have corrupted my worship. You do a lot of stuff, but your heart is not in it.”
You say, “How weary we are of this worship.” God said, “So you continue to give the torn and the polluted and you sniff at my sacrifices. You show that you despise Nty covenants by the way you treat your wives, by casting them off, divorcing them, and living in fornication, all the while covering my altar with your false tears, thinking that God will hear and receive your sacrifices because of your bitter weeping and crying.”
Isaiah had written the same thing in Isaiah 1:
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
The people of Israel and their priests had wearied the Lord with their words. “How did we weary him with our words?” they protested. “When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment? Mal. 2:17
And so God reaffirmed that, in spite of their sins and iniquities, there is a God of judgment who has not changed. In Malachi 3 God promised that the Messenger of the Covenant would come, that he would enforce the provisions of the covenant.
This would not be a happy time for Israel with the Messenger of the Covenant would come. Who could abide the day of his coming, Malachi asks. Amos had said the same thing when he predicted the Babylonian Captivity. Amos had written:
14 Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.
16 Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.
17 And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the LORD.
18 Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.
19 As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
20 Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?
Just as many Christians today sigh and groan and wish for the coming of the Lord, the men of Israel had no idea what the day of the Lord would be like. It would be a time of very great darkness for Israel. Just as in the days of Babylon the Messenger of the Covenant would
“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Mal. 3:5,6
In spite of their despising of their election of God; in spite of their polluted offerings, in spite of their wicked sorcery, their false swearers, their social sins against labor, widows, fatherless, and strangers, in spite of their adultery and false dealings with their wives one thing remained constant: “I am the Lord, I change not.” The only reason that Israel and all related to them had not been cast into the fires of hell was the eternal election of God. His promise was good.
But the Messenger of the Covenant would be “like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” Mal 3:2, 3
Every son of Israel who hopes in the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob should rejoice at Calvin’s doctrine of the immutability of God, the doctrine confessed by the Apostle Paul, St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, Luther, Beza, Knox, and the other fathers of the Reformation. “I am the Lord, I change not. Therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
It is interesting that one of the sins that Malachi said that the Messenger of the Covenant would deal with was “sorcery.” Sorcery is the attempt to hitch the power of God to human desire and will. It is the attempt to use divine power to foretell the future, bring blessings and sometimes destroy enemies by this power. It was one of the sins of Israel, just as it is a major sin among Christians in our day.
Summary of the Second Consideration: Israel despised the election of God, corrupted their worship, and turned to sorcery. They were not content to live by the favor and grace of God, but wanted to control their own destiny. It was the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden: “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” The desire to be masters of their own destiny, to plug the power of God into their own wills and desires. The flames of the wrath of God would sweep them away, without any change in God or His promise to Israel. Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar.
David confessed before God his double sin of murder and adultery, taking full responsibility and not hiding behind the fiction of freedom. “I was born in iniquity; I acknowledge my sin; I was shapen in inquity, I was conceived in sin.”
David acknowledge that his will was under bondage to sin. He confessed it was the result of rebellion against God Himself: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” Because His sin was against God Himself, his business was with God and with a rebellion that only God could diagnose.
God will just men for being sinners, of being in bondage to sin, of being corrupt in thought, words, deeds, will, and affections, utterly with hope. He will not change, as men will discover in the Day of Judgment. David must be changed; God will not, cannot change, for He cannot deny Himself.
Simon the Sorcerer [Acts 8] tried to buy the power to give the gift of the Holy Ghost. The sorcerer will not submit to God, to the church, to the gospel, to the word of God; he wants God, the church, the gospel, and the word of God to submit to him, so he can use it for himself. Simon gave his name to the practice of simony in the Roman Church, the practice of buying and selling church office that was a disgrace to the church and a horror to God. There are still those who think that gain is godliness and turn aside from the wholesome words of the Gospel to perverse disputations and destitute of the truth. You know them because they will not speak the truth for fear of losing their jobs.
Sorcery will be one of the major things dumped into hell with all who practice it, when the Messenger of the Covenant makes His appearance.
The Apostle Paul is in great agony of spirit when he writes the ninth chapter of Romans. He knows that he must write what some will think are bitter and harsh words. He affirms with a most solemn oath that He has no bitterness in his heart, that he would willingly suffer hell itself, if it were permitted, to secure the salvation of his countrymen. It is very difficult for him to write the words that have to be written. His purpose in Romans 9-11 is to affirm the immutability of God with respect to His promises to Israel, to whom is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises…” vs. 4. It is no wonder that Calvin and the others who understood Paul’s doctrine so well, would also affirm the immutability of God’s promise to Israel.
But Paul must also affirm that the promise was to the real Israel, and not all Israel was Israel. Even as the promise that the seed of Abraham would be blessed did not include all the children of Abraham, so the promise did not include all the children of Jacob. Paul’s argument:
1. Not all of Abraham’s children were blessed. Ishmael was not; the sons of Keturah were not. In Isaac would His seed be called. The others were born of the flesh; Isaac was the child of the promise, and only the children of promise are counted for the seed.
2. Not only this, but even not all the children of Isaac are blessed, for it was said that the elder should serve the younger and Jacob have I loved and Esau I have hated. Vs. 12,13.
3. This [the elder should serve the younger—and its interpretation by Malachi] was said before the children were born, before they had done either good or evil, so that it might be evident that the cause of the election was of God and not of their works.. vs. 11.
4. Anticipating the doctrine of election as the choice of God apart from works, Paul knows that his enemies will object, “God is not fair; God is unrighteous if this is true.” When Bud Powell preaches this, he gets this same objection. Bud Powell is accused of involving God in sin. But I am in good company for Paul, St. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and the other fathers of the Reformation also taught this and got the same objection.
5. Paul’s answer to the “fairness fairy tale” is this: It is unthinkable. God’s will is free, not man’s sinful will. 15 “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” By its very nature mercy and compassion are not deserved. Hence, God does no disservice to those who do not have anything coming to them. If you are talking about fairness, everyone goes to hell, because all are born in sin, under the curse of Adam’s sin. A man is very foolish to have the judgment of God depend upon fairness to him, for he will certainly be lost if that is the case. Vs. 15. Shall we limit God’s freedom in order to secure a gossamer of freedom to man?
6. In case we thickhead sinners missed it, Paul says very clearly, so that everyone will know what he means, “It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs [works], but of God that showeth mercy.” The cause is not in the will, nor in the works, but in the mercy of God. It was not Jacob’s works nor his will that caused his election to life, but the mercy of God. God’s will is free, not man’s. David recognized that he sinned because he was a sinner, and so must we. But David’s bondage to sin did not limit God’s will to show mercy from the foundation of the world. God did not change because of David’s bondage. Amen and Amen!!!!
7. Paul then affirms that God may have some other purpose in the life of a sinful son of Adam than the salvation of that man. Just as he raised up Pharaoh to show his power in the earth, there is no reason not to suppose that others may have a similar purpose. Vs. 17. Everything does not revolve around me or my comfort. The world was created for the glory of God, not the comfort of men, and some hell-deserving person might be used in ways that have nothing to do with the Gospel of the love and mercy of God. Because of this, God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will he hardens. Vs. 15. It is also true that He never has hardened a good man’s heart, for the good heart is His gift to His elect: He takes away their hearts of stone and gives them soft hearts of flesh as He promised in Ezekiel 35: 25ff, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
8. Now I know that some old sinner will get angry for me saying these things. Some weak Christians may wish I were more diplomatic. Some ministers who are hired to keep quiet about some doctrines will wish that I didn’t say it. But if men do not come to Christ because of the truth they hear, do they really come to Christ because they only hear part of the truth?
9. It is about now that we get the puppet defense. “Oh, that just makes man a puppet,” is the argument of the ignorant. Paul anticipates this argument, too. In verse 16 he says that the ignorant will say, “Why does he then find fault?” Bud Powell used to make this argument in his own ignorance, ignorance from which he could not deliver himself. How could man be responsible for what he did if salvation was by grace only, the free gift of God, that had nothing to do with my will or my works? The blind will never see, but this doctrine will be deeply offensive to every son of Adam, who has “Ye shall be as gods” written deeply in his own sinful heart and dreams the fiction of his own liberty of will.
10. Paul then appeals, against the puppet defense, that the reality of the relationship between God and man is that of the Potter and the clay. The Potter forms the clay, not the other way around. Vs. 20-21. The clay cannot complain about the use to which it is put by the Potter.
11. The figure here of the clay assumes that it is bad clay. It is bad clay because of the use to which God puts it: either a vessel of mercy, meaning that it doesn’t deserve to be used that way; or a vessel of wrath, hardened for the glory of God. Either uses assumes it is bad clay. This is Adam’s clay, and does not address how the clay became bad; that story is told in Genesis 3.
12. But God does what He pleases with the sons of Adam. They deserve nothing from Him. If He, in his kindness and mercy, postpones the judgment of the world until His purposes of grace and mercy are fulfilled, what wrong has He done. If He is “willing to show His wrath’ –frightful words these are indeed—what wrong has He done? To some wicked pip-squeak who frets out His objections to the divine judgment we might cite the words of God to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” It isn’t all about you, you miserable sinner, belching out your shame and sorcery and fornication and wickedness before His face. He puts up with you for now simply because He has other things to do right now, like saving His elect from the fires that will consume you and all your seed. I include myself among the pip squeaks, for I used to vomit this nonsense. Verses 22-23. But thank God for his wonderful grace.
13. His elect are those who were ‘afore prepared unto glory.” Vs. 23. Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Titus 1:1,2 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
14. Paul sums up with a quotation from Isaiah 10: 22, 23 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.
15. Isaiah also specifically denies that God’s blessing to Israel had anything to do with their works or their sacrifices: Isaiah 43: 22 But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. 23 Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honored me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. 24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. 25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. 26 Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified. 27 Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me. 28 Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches. 44:1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: 2 Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: 4 And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. 5 One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. 6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
Summary of the Third Consideration:
Israel’s selection over Esau’s, in the same way as Isaac’s selection over Ishmael and the other sons of Abraham’s flesh, reveals that the election of God is not according to the flesh or the creation, but originates in the wisdom and mind of God. Nothing in time and space can influence or change the eternal decree.
The fall of man left the sons of Adam without hope. When Adam and Eve came from the Garden they came under the curse and under a terrible dilemma. They could not have fellowship with God because they were not holy; they could not be holy because they could not have fellowship with God. There was nothing they could do, but wait for the Seed of the Woman who would overthrow the Kingdom of the Serpent, a kingdom energized by sin and guilt. But they must believe this promise and wait with patience, and God would show mercy to whom He would and He would harden whom He would. It was only by His grace that any believed the promise and those few were found in Israel, fenced in and protected until the Day would come.
God would not change in any of His eternal purposes. Man, on the other hand, would seek out many inventions.
The clear doctrinal passages of Scripture trump the narratives. What is said and done is certainly said and done, but the “obvious” meaning might be corrected in the doctrinal passages. God was not looking for information when He said, “Where art thou, Adam?” But why did He ask? Why? Indeed.
God bless you, as He wills.