Jacob, Esau, and Unconditional Election (Romans Sermon 63 of 120)
March 20, 2005 | Andrew Davis
Salvation by Promise, Election & Predestination
The Importance of Understanding the Scriptures
During this upcoming week, we have the opportunity to meditate on the death of Jesus Christ, and next week to celebrate His resurrection, as we do every week, as we seek to do every day as Christians. But I have always loved Easter, and I wouldn't mind actually preaching an Easter message right now, but I'll save that for next week, It's going to be a delight, to just proclaim the empty tomb, the power of Jesus Christ over death, what an incredible joy that is. But recently, I've thought about this passage in John 20, in which the Apostles, Peter and John, have the opportunity to investigate firsthand, the physical artifacts, of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have the opportunity to run in that early Easter morning up to that empty tomb.
They have the opportunity to go in if they dare. Took John a minute. Peter went right in, that's his nature, but in he goes, and he looks at the physical artifacts. John goes in as well, and they see the grave clothes, they see the cloth folded up by itself, they see all of the physical artifacts that just proclaim resurrection. And the scripture says in John 20, "They saw and believed." And then it gives a fascinating little addendum, they still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. And why do you think John puts that in there? You know why? Because we do not have that privilege. We don't have the advantage of going and finding that empty tomb. To as, it would just be a cave, it might not even be the right one. We don't know for certain that the cathedral is built in the right place or wherever it is, the signs, the tourist attraction, we don't know for sure, and we certainly aren't going to get the linen grave clothes and we're not going to get the head cloth, we're not going to get any of that, what are we going to get?
We're going to get the Scripture. We're going to get the Bible, and the Bible is going to proclaim to us that Jesus has risen from the dead, and there we stand at the fork in the road. If the scripture is true, then we have a ground for faith, we have a ground to believe, and if the scripture is not then we don't. It really just comes down to this. Do you believe the word of God or not? And I believe among other things, that that's what's going on in Romans chapter 9. Paul wants you and I as believers in Jesus Christ, to know how certain is the ground under our feet, concerning the promises of God. How lofty and how great are those promises. Nothing will separate us from the love of God. Paul soars with rhetoric, at the end of Romans Chapter 8, and gives us a sense of absolute total assurance, based on the word.
I. The Crisis of Confidence: Has God’s Word Failed?
All of you came this morning to sing and to praise, and now for the next few minutes, you're going to hear me do nothing but talk words. Does it mean anything? Is there any validity to the words that we speak? That's the issue. Well, what has brought this issue up? Well, the issue is that the Apostle Paul knows full well as he goes from place to place, city to city, throughout the Roman world there. He begins at the synagogue, he goes to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. As he goes in to the Jewish synagogues, and begins to reason with them from the scriptures, proving that Jesus is the Christ. Time and time again, the Jews are rejecting Christ. The Jews. Christ owns people, his own kinsmen, rejecting His claim to be God in the flesh. Rejecting His claim to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world. This is catastrophic. Why? Because the Jews are God's chosen people, and so Paul takes up this issue, it's really an argument against the great doctrine he's given us in Romans 1-8. If this is the gospel, if we have this incredible assurance there is no condemnation for those who are Christ Jesus, nothing will separate us in the love of God in Christ, then how can the Jews pretty much en masse, be rejecting Christ?
Does that not say to some degree that God's Word has failed? That God has spoken promises to the Jews that he is not fulfilling? And now, he's turned to us gentiles, and he's kind of speak promises to us, why should we believe him? If he has spoken a single promise to anybody ever, that has failed, has not come true, if his word has fallen, then what ground do we have under our feet. If He's lied about that, will He not also like us? And so Paul takes up this crisis of confidence concerning the Word of God, and we already saw his answer. Look at verse 6, he said, "It is not as though God's Word has failed or has fallen." he just makes a statement, God's word is secure, it's strong, it stands firm. The fact that the Jews are in such huge numbers, not universally, but in such huge numbers, rejecting Christ, does not prove anything concerning the Word of God. Well, how does he do it? How does he separate out these Jewish people and their unbelief in Christ from the Word of God?
Well, he says it's not as though God's Word has failed, for not all who're descended from Israel are Israel. And so he brings in this idea of election of the group, within the group. Of a larger group of physical descendants of Abraham. And then a more narrow group of spiritual descendants of Abraham, to whom the promises ultimately were given. And if any of those promises has failed, then God's word has fallen, but it hasn't. And so don't stand and look on the outside and say, "Oh look at all these physical descendants of Abraham, they're rejecting Christ, therefore, God's Word has failed." It hasn't, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. There's a smaller subset of Jews. The remnant chosen by grace, he says in Romans 11, that he is working with. And so he says, "It is not as though God's Word has failed, for not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children."
And then he gives his first evidence. You want to say, Okay, Paul, prove it. Does the Scripture teach what you're saying about the group within the group? Can you prove any evidence or bring forth any evidence that not all of Abraham's physical descendants are guaranteed eternal spiritual salvation? Says, "Yes I can." He brings up the first evidence, and it concerns Isaac and Ishmael. Look what he says, "On the contrary, it is through Isaac, that your offspring will be reckoned." We covered this last time, but the idea is, it is through Isaac and not Ismael, that's what he's saying. It is through Isaac, that your offspring will be reckon. In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise, who are regarded as Abraham's offspring, for this is how the promise was stated: 'at the appointed time. I will return and Sarah will have a son.'" Bottom line, just by way of summary from last the time, biology does not determine spiritual destiny. It doesn't matter who your physical father was. Even if it's Abraham himself, that doesn't guarantee salvation. Physical descent from Abraham does not guarantee salvation.
Now God had made a promise to Abraham, remember this, "So shall your offspring be, like the stars in the sky and like the sand by the sea" Abraham heard the promise, he believed, his faith was credited him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 is a beautiful thing. And in that same way all people that have ever been saved, are saved simply by hearing and believing the promise of God. Well, Abraham looks around and says, "You know, I don't have many children. The fact of the matter is, I don't have any children, so I don't know what's going on here, but I think we need to help God out. He seems to be in a pickle. He's having a problem here, He's made these grandiose promises, and Sarah and I, it just isn't happening with us. And so Sarah says, "Well, I have an idea, why don't you take my maid servant, the Egyptian woman Hagar. And why don't you sleep with her and because she's my servant, it'll be credited to me as my son. And they do it all the time, is what people do. And so they help God out. Can I tell you something? God doesn't need your help, He doesn't need the arm of flesh to try to accomplish the spiritual promises. He doesn't need it. It's not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord. That's how he's going to do it. And so they help God out, and all they do is they have Ishmael for a son.
Now, Abraham is told very clearly, "Alright. If you didn't understand, let me spell it out. Your wife, Sarah, will have a son, and it is in Sarah's offspring, Isaac that your offering will be named, and not Ishmael." Genesis 17, He makes it very, very plain. Now, you remember Abraham, pleads for Ishmael. He thinks Ismael is the answer, maybe some of his pride is wrapped up, "You know, God. I came up with a good solution here. Accept my answer." And God says, "No, it is in Isaac, that your offspring will be reckoned." Remember how I noted that both fathers in both cases, Abraham pleading for Ishmael, and Isaac wanting Esau, both of them are off. God's ways are not our ways. It's just the way it is. And so he says, "No, it's going to be Isaac and not Ishmael." And we noted last time, that it had to do with the supernatural power of God. At the appointed time, I will come, and Sarah will have a son. This is a son born by the power of God. That's how it's portrayed. You remember the account, how it says very plainly in genesis 21:1, God kept His word, and he visited Sarah. There was a sense of the power of God, and Isaac was a supernatural baby. He was born by the power of God.
So then you have two paradigm examples. You have Ismael, who's the paradigm, the example of an ordinary person, born in the ordinary way, a child of the flesh, no different than anybody else. Born, he lives, he breathes, he does all kinds of things, and then he dies. No faith, nothing special about Ishmael. That's the one, he's the paradigm of the one. Then you've got Isaac, who's a supernatural baby, wouldn't even be walking the earth if God hadn't done it directly, by the power of God, and specifically according to the Promise, he's a child of the promise, a child of God. And so that's what we have. Throughout all ages, then you have this same paradigm. You have the children of the flesh, and then you have the children of the Spirit, or you have the children of the flesh, and the children of God or of the promise, just as it says in John 1:11-13, Jesus or Christ "came to that, which was His own, but His own people, the Jews, received Him not. They didn't receive Him.
But in John 1:12, "As many as did receive Him, to them He gave the power or the right to become children of God." Listen, "children born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." Do you remember what we said last time? Isn't this incredible? If you are a Christian, you are a supernatural miracle of God, you're born of God, God spoke something into existence, that didn't exist before. You're a new creation in Christ. Isn't that amazing? You're not a normal person, you're supernatural in your origin. Born of God, just like Jesus said to Nicodemus, that unless you're born of water and the Spirit, you cannot go to Heaven. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit. It's what Jesus taught, it's the consistent teaching in the Bible.
In explaining why the Jews then were so adamantly opposed to the gospel. Paul spoke to the Gentile believers in Galatia, and he uses the same arguments here. In Galatians 4 he writes, "Now, you brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise." Stop a moment. I know we're not preaching Galatians 4, but that's fine. What is he saying? He's saying you Gentiles, you're Isaac, those Jews they're Ishmael. Do you see how striking that is? The unbelieving Jews are more like Ishmael the believing Gentiles, more like Isaac. You're children of promise, that's what he says, it's incredible. "But just as at that time, he who was born according to the flesh, persecuted him who is born according to the Spirit. So it is now." Remember how Ismael was mocking little boy Isaac when he was weaned, there's that mockery and he picks up on it, in Galatians 4. So also, the persecution of the child of the flesh, toward the child of the spirit. So what do we have? In John 1, we have born of God, John 3, born again, born of the spirit. Galatians 4, children of the promise, or born according to the Spirit. All of these are the same thing, basic idea, if you're going to Heaven, you must be born again supernaturally, by the power of God, according to the promise of God.
Apart from that you're not one of his children. It's a direct supernatural act of the power of God. This is all review from last week. Not that I wouldn't mind preaching the same sermon as last week, it'd be worth hearing again, but Paul wants to bring another example up. He wants in effect in my opinion, to close a giant loophole. Now, you may think, "Why do we have to close loopholes?" It's because we're so sneaky and tricky and lawyer-like, and we're thinking, "Okay, alright, I see that not all the physical descendants from Abraham are going to heaven, Ishmael. But if you're a Jew, you're a law abiding Jew, your saying, 'This is not even a case. Isn't it obvious, the difference between Ishmael and Isaac? Who is Ismael's mother? She's a gentile, an unwashed gentile. She is an Egyptian, she's Hagar. That's no proof.'" And so, my feeling is, you know, what I think? The Apostle Paul went from place to place, and he had thoroughly tested his doctrine against every possible argument, the Jews could bring against. By the time he writes Romans, he understands everything that he needs to say, he knows very well what they're going to say back.
III. The Second Example: Jacob and Esau
He says, "That's no case. You haven't made your point." Okay, so just because Abraham is your father, you're not going to heaven, but what about the mother? He says, "Well, alright, I haven't even better example. Let's zero in on this case study of Jacob and Esau, and let's remove all arguments. So look at verses 1013. "Not only that, but Rebecca's children, had one and the same Father, our father Isaac. Yet before the twins were born or had done anything, good or bad, In order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls, she was told the older will serve the younger. Just as it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'"
Now we have the second case. What is he trying to prove? Take a step back, let's remember, we're dealing with the case in Romans 9, of why are the Jews rejecting Christ? Has God's word fail? Has he made all these promises to the Jews, he's not fulfilling? His answer, no. God's word has not failed. Why not Paul? Because they're not all Israel, who are descend physically from Israel. There's a set within the larger group that God has been dealing with. Prove it, Paul. Okay, case study one, Isaac and Ishmael. Both of them had Abraham as their father, but only Isaac was a child of the promise. "That's no good example. Ishmael had Hagar, a Gentile, an Egyptian for a mother." Okay, case study two, Jacob and Esau. Now what I want to say to you folks, it's not so much the case study, although that's potent, it's what Paul says about it, that we as Christians must accept and understand. What is he teaching? He's teaching the Doctrine of unconditional election, as an answer to the question: Why are the Jews rejecting Christ? If you don't put the two together, you will not see how explosive and potent this is. Why are they rejecting Christ? Answer, Look at Jacob and Esau. Well what answer? In order that God's purpose in election might stand, that's his answer.
Next week, God willing, I'll be preaching on the middle phrase here, "in order that God's purpose in election might stand, not by works but by Him who calls." That has so much doctrine in it. It would take probably years to understand it all. We'll just give it one sermon, but we're not covering that today. I want to understand this case study of Jacob and Esau, and what is he doing, he's closing the loophole concerning the mother of Ismael, she's Hagar, okay? So he zeros in on what I think is an even better case study. Now, why is it a better case study? Jacob and Esau, a better case study than Ishmael and Isaac? Well, reason number one, unlike Isaac and Ishmael, they had one mother; Rebecca. Secondly, unlike Isaac and Ishmael, God called them before they were born, or had done anything good or bad, because of this little prophecy that God gave to Rebecca, concerning the twins that were inside her womb. And so there's a clear statement in the Old Testament account, concerning their future. And so, that's secondly, why they're a better example.
But the overall lesson is clear. We are teaching, Paul is teaching the Doctrine of unconditional election. God chooses who will be his children with absolutely no recourse to their deeds or anything in them, anything He sees in them, His only point of reference is his own free and sovereign choice. That's what he's teaching. That's what makes Romans 9 such a challenge for people to accept. But that's what it is teaching.
Now, let's look at the facts of the case. How were Jacob and Esau conceived? Well, you remember the story that Isaac and Rebecca were unable to have children, they were barren. Rebecca was barren in particular. And unlike Father Abraham who contrived, a fleshly response with Hagar, and so Ismael was conceived. Isaac did the right thing, he got down on his knees and prayed for his barren wife, and he asked that God might move in a mighty way, and give them a child, give them a son. And so, in Genesis 25:21, it says, "Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was barren. The Lord answered his prayer and his wife Rebecca became pregnant." Parenthetically, just by way of application. I love Isaac's example here. It's so much better than Father Abraham. When you are facing this kind of a challenge, get on your knees and pray. Husbands and wives, pull together and pray. If you're facing a challenge financially, challenge with one of your children, challenge with one of your parents, or some other situation, joblessness, some depression, some issue, just follow Isaac and Rebecca example. Get down on your knees and ask God, see what he can do. Okay, end of application. We're back in the doctrine now. They get down on their knees, and they ask, and God answers. Paul, now Zeros in on the act of conception. Basically, he says literally, very strongly in the Greek, one act of marital relations, produced the two children. Out of one act of marital relations, you get Jacob and Esau. Paul is removing any distinction between these babies.
Do you see how much he's laboring to do that? It's just a husband and a wife, and from it they get two children. At one moment in time, Israel's forefather Isaac, lay with his wife Rebecca, in that one act of marital relations, Rebecca got two sons, one father, one mother, one act, two children; Jacob and Esau. Those are the facts of the case. That's what Paul is highlighting here. Now one of them was chosen and one was not. Now, notice also parenthetically, that Paul identifies himself with the Jews here, he says, "Our father Isaac." He's doing everything he can to teach this in a winsome and attractive way. He's not trying to offend the Jews, he wants to identify with them, but he's still teaching them the truth. Now, furthermore, you remember what happened? We've been through this recently, as I was preaching through Genesis. But just to review, the babies inside of Rebecca were pushing and shoving each other. They were two manner of people, remember? And they were pushing and shoving, and just simply not getting along. Early sibling rivalry, I guess, or just in cramped quarters, there just wasn't a lot of space.
But Rebecca was feeling the pain, and she inquired of the Lord beautifully, just like her husband led in prayer, she also brings her problem to the Lord. She says, "What is happening to me? What is going on?" And so the Lord gives this prophecy, this incredible statement, she went to inquire of the Lord, and the Lord said to her. "Two nations are in your womb, and two people from within you will be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." Now, that is exactly what Paul is talking about here, isn't it? In Romans Nine, "before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand, not by works but by Him who calls." She was told what? "The older will serve the younger." That's very significant, in Paul's argument. Now, their origin, Jacob and Esau, could not have been more indistinct. They could not have been closer at conception, they could not have been closer at birth. One act of marital relations, one moment in time, one womb, God is doing absolutely everything imaginable to say there is no difference between these children.
God's Predetermined Role for Each One of Them
What is Paul's point? The prophecy showed God's predetermined role for each one of them, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad. It was determined before birth. Paul's point is clear, the choice of one, Jacob over the other Esau, had nothing to do with their performance. How much performing can you do in the womb? And Paul says, literally, they had done nothing good or bad. You may say there were some shoving going around and Esau shoved more than Jacob, and on the basis of that, God didn't choose him. That is exactly not what he says. He says, before they had done anything good or bad, literally no choice.
Now, America, prides itself as being what you call a meritocracy, not an aristocracy, a meritocracy. What do I mean? Well, you go up on the merits of what you can achieve. You make something of yourself. Like Abraham Lincoln, you can go from a log cabin to the White House. Maybe, probably not, but there's always that idea, there's the thought that you might be able to because he did it, right? And so there's that sense. Or our ancestors that came over through Ellis Island, and look what they made of themselves, through their hard work, through their discipline, their character, they built a world for themselves. America, meritocracy. And as a result of that, we want to feel that we can achieve, we can work, we can accomplish, we can earn anything that comes our way, that is the very thing we cannot do with Heaven. It can't be done. There is no meritocracy here. Exactly the opposite situation. The twins hadn't done anything yet. And frankly, contrary to all custom and all expectation, the older is going to serve the younger. That's not the way it's done. The first born got everything, the second born hoped that he had a good relationship with the firstborn. That's how it worked.
More than that, the reversal of order spoke to a deeper issue. God had chosen Jacob, but not Esau. And Jacob, not Esau would be receiving the richness of God's blessing, may I say directly, it would be Jacob and not Esau who would be the heir of the promises God had made to Abraham. That's the point. Jacob is the heir of the promises. What is the doctrine here? Well, it's the doctrine of unconditional election. Paul's overall the point is clear, God chooses. God chooses, and makes the final decision, not Man. He's going to say later in Romans 9, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or on man's effort, but on God who has mercy."
Now his choice is absolutely unconditional. It's not based on achievements, it's not based on merit, if anything God's choice runs directly counter to what we would've done or would do. No human quality or achievement ever comes into play in any way. This is the thrust of Paul's argument, the whole election is rooted in God, not in man. "Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose and election might stand, not by works but by Him who calls, she was told the older will serve the younger." What does it mean? Not by works but by what? By Him who calls. The focus is on God; we'll get to that in a couple of weeks.
Human Responsibility Not Decreased in Any Way
Now, let me say just for a moment, human responsibility is not decreased in any way by this teaching. It's not decreased in any way. Romans 9 does not in any way contradict the clear teaching that both Jacob and Esau, made real choices in their lives that really impacted their lives. It does not contradict that in any way. If Jacob is to be saved, he will be saved by faith in the promises of God, just as his father Abraham was. If Esau is to be condemned, he will be condemned by sins he actually commits and by not having faith in the promises of his father, Abraham. Unconditional election, therefore, does not contradict human responsibility. And while election is unconditional, final salvation and final damnation, folks, are not unconditional. There are conditions you meet. You must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. You must sin and not believe in Christ in order to be condemned. These are conditions that God has set up.
And I can assure you that no one will be able to say before being thrown in the lake of fire. I don't deserve this. And can I say the other way? Every child of God will be saying on Judgment Day, "I don't deserve this." You know the insight I came to this morning as I was going over this? This is written to humble us the believers. Unbelievers are never going to listen to this anyway, it's ludicrous, preposterous. This is for us, so that we might be humbled, and that we might say, "I don't deserve what God's doing for me, I don't deserve it." Isn't that beautiful thing? To be able to say from the heart, "There's nothing I did." It's humbling to the core, to know I was chosen not through anything of myself, but because God willed it. Frankly, in my opinion, it's more accurate to say we are chosen contrary to, rather than because of things in us. In the face of things that we deserve rather than what we truly deserve. Therefore we are not ultimately, finely autonomous beings, making final decisions. You realize in the universe, there can only be one truly free, truly sovereign being. There can't be two, it's impossible. And so how can it be that there would be both God free, sovereign and choosing and also individuals.
In 1894, William Ernest Henley, lost his six year old daughter, Margaret, and he wrote this poem, "Invictus" that some of you perhaps have heard. The word in invictus means "I have not been conquered." In the midst of his grief, and his sadness, he wrote this. "Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." Romans 9 was written to slay that thought, that we would understand that ultimately God is the master, God is the captain.
A Great Mystery to Accept
Now, in the midst of this, there is a great mystery that we have to accept. And that is this; How does God guarantee that each individual person will believe or not believe without in any way undermining our responsibility? Can I tell you, I don't know. I'm saying to you, I don't know. So those of you who are hoping for a mystery, you got one. I don't know how He does that, I don't know how He unconditionally elects without looking at all, at anything into the individual. And then each of those destinies is set in some way without in any way diminishing the free and real choices they make. I don't know how that's done. And frankly, there's not a person on the face of the earth who can answer all of these questions without in the end saying, "I don't know it's a mystery." But there it is.
Can I ask you this, as you're thinking about what I'm saying, some of you perhaps for the first time, don't reject it, just because you can't understand it fully. Can I ask you just to keep working on it? Remember at the beginning when we started Romans 9, I said you're not going to be able to get all this at once, it's going to take time. Some people it takes years before they can finally accept it. John Piper put it this way: "If this stretches your mind to the breaking point, better that your minds be broken, then that the scriptures be broken. And better yet would be to let your mind and your heart be enlarged rather than broken. So they can contain all that the scriptures teach." And Martin Lloyd Jones said, "Don't give up thinking on it, just because it's difficult." He said this, "This is one of the most difficult statements in the whole of scripture. So do not be discouraged or blame yourself, if you have found it difficult to swallow. But on the other hand, do not give up and say that because it is difficult, you cannot be bothered with it. You should never say that about any portion of scripture. Christian people who do not apply what mind and understanding they have to a passage of scripture because it is difficult, are sinning grievously."
Now listen, evidently God wants you to know this, evidently He wants you to think about it. You know why I say that, because it's in the Bible. It is not Paul, ultimately, it's not your pastor, it is God who wants you to think about this. Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad. He wants you to ponder it. He wants you to know that it's God Almighty, your creator and your redeemer speaking.
III. Jacob I Loved
Then Paul, for a secondary support to this, reaches for a quote from Malachi. "Just as it is written, Jacob, I loved and Esau I hated." Now, what I want to understand is, in all of the 39 books of the bible, with all of the thousands of verses that there are there. Why does he reach for this one as the tool in this argument? What does he see in Malachi one that helps his case? What is he trying to prove there from Malachi? What I did was I printed Malachi 1: 1-5, in your bulletin, so you don't have to take the time to turn there. Look what it says.
I'll begin reading at verse one. It says, "An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. "I have loved you," says the LORD. "But you ask, 'How have you loved us?' "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" the LORD says. "Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals." Edom may say, "Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins." But this is what the LORD Almighty says: "They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD."
Now he makes his opening statement, I'm going to stop there, he makes his opening statement from God to Israel, He says, "I have loved you." I have loved you. And they answer back, "How have you loved us?" Israel did not grasp the love of God, frankly, none of us truly grasped the love of God. We don't fully understand, you know why? Because we think of love wrongly. We have two basic understandings of love. The First is, "because I see this in you, I love you." I see some attributes in you. You're pretty, you're handsome, you do great things on a basketball court. You're really smart, I like your personality. There's things in the person, the loved one, and you say, "I love that about them, and so I'm attracted." So basically there's something like a magnetic pull in that person attracting love from us to that person. The second is because you do these things for me, I love you. Because of all the stuff you bought me, because of the way you serve me, because of the things you do for me, I love you. The problem is both of those are insecure, aren't they?
Suppose those attributes, let's say a beautiful face, change. Suppose the person has a car accident or gets in a fire and needs plastic surgery and never looks the same again. Suppose they're so disfigured you really can't even look at them without flinching. Does not that individual have the right to say, "Do you still love me?" If that was the ground of the love, isn't it gone now? Or what about the second case? Because you do these things for me, what if I stop doing those things? Will you still love me? We don't understand unconditional love, we're not used to it. And so therefore, the idea that God loves us in spite of, rather than because of things in us, is foreign to us, it's very hard for us to understand. And so Paul in Ephesians three says, "I pray that you would have power to grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep is a love of Christ." It's not natural for us to accept this love. And so he says, "I have loved you." "Well, how have you loved me, or how have you loved us?" And then he gets to this answer. "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" How is that an answer? Basically saying I love you by choosing you. There was no difference between Jacob and Esau, but I chose Jacob and blessed him. But Esau I rejected and I did not bless him. Yet I have loved you, but Esau I have hated.
Now, let's look at Jacob. You say, "Well, Jacob's got some good qualities, right?" Can I say to you, pretty much every human being has some good qualities. If that's what you're looking for, that's contrary to the scripture here, but that's not the issue. Let's look at Jacob. Alright, how did God love Jacob? Well Jacob departs, running away because his brother wants to kill him. Why? Well you know why. We'll get to that a minute. But there's Jacob fleeing for his life, and on route to Heron, God appears to him in a dream at Bethel. You remember? He's lying down and he puts a rock under his head for a pillow. Doesn't that tell you something about Jacob? I mean, could you sleep on a rock? You say maybe he was really tired. I think he had a hard head, or something. But at any rate, there he is resting with a rock for a pillow, and while he's doing that, his head is filled with light. It's filled with vision. And what is the vision? It's a ladder or staircase going up to heaven and God Almighty at the top of the staircase and angels ascending and descending on that staircase.
And he has this vision, his head filled with light, and God stands at the head of the staircase and says, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the Earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you, and your offspring." That's Abraham's blessing. Now he inherits it. "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and I will watch over you, wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you." "How have you loved us?" Jacob says. "I loved you by choosing you. I loved you by committing myself to bless you. That's how I loved you. Esau was your brother and I didn't do that for him. I loved you by unconditionally electing you, that's how I loved you."
Now why? Why did God love Jacob? Jacob was a sinner, he was a conniver. He was a con artist. He was a shifty tricky business man. You remember when his brother Esau comes in and he's famished and he's... Jacob saw it as a business opportunity. He saw it as a chance to advance himself a little bit. He said, "You want some of my stew? It's going to cost you." "What's it going to cost?" "Well, the birthright." "Oh, what's the birthright to me?" says Esau, in character. "What's the birthright to me?" So he sells it for a bowl of stew. But who sold the stew to him? Jacob did. And even worse was how he treated his blind father at this key moment of prophetic power, when this patriarch Isaac wants to bless his son Esau, and he is going to extend his hand and put his hands on Esau, his first born, and he's going to bless Esau. No, no, he's going to bless Jacob. Why? Because Jacob lies to his face, his blind father, he lies right to his face. And he steals Esau's blessing.
Even worse, in my opinion, is how he treated God, after the vision that God gave him, remember? Head filled with light, the staircase angels ascending and descending. You've never had a dream like that. God standing at the top promising he'll be with you in everything you do, et cetera. Do you know what Jacob said to him, after he woke up? "Surely, this is an awesome place, God is in this place." I didn't even know it. Tell you what God, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey, I'm taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear, so that I returned to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God." Jacob the camel trader bargaining with God. If you do these things for me, then you can be my God. Come on, God, pony up. I need the performance God. And if you keep it coming, you can be my God. He doesn't understand, does he? He doesn't know who he's dealing with. Is it because of things God saw in Jacob that he chose him? I'd tell you no, but Jacob is a sinner just like you and me.
Later Jacob's descendants, the Jews, sinned greatly against Him, against God. In Ezekiel 32, God said, "I want you to know that I'm not doing this for your sake, declares the sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, oh house of Israel." God's love for Jacob is unconditional not based upon anything he saw in him. It is based on something he saw totally in himself. Listen, if you think that God's love for you is in essence, His making much over, or celebrating something he sees in you, you don't understand His love. John Piper said this, "God's love for us does not consist in His making much over you, but rather enabling you to make much of Him." That's how He loves you, by showing Himself to you. God isn't loving you, because of something He keeps seeing in you, rather He loves you in Christ, by His sovereign will. Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand, not by works, but by Him who call, she was told, the older will serve the younger.
IV. But Esau I Hated
Just as it is written. "Jacob, I loved…" But what about the second part? "Esau I hated." Now, this is jarring, isn't it? This isn't the God you were taught, perhaps, in Sunday school. You know, God is all knowing, all powerful, all loving... Stop just a minute. Is God all loving? We also say this saying, we're to "hate the sin," but what? "Love the sinner." And so we are, that's what we're commanded to do. You know why? Because a sinner might actually be an elect brother or sister in Christ, but it's different from God's perspective, you see? It doesn't here say, "Jacob I love, but Esau's sins I hated." He did hate his sins, but that's not what it says. It says, "Jacob, I love, but Esau I hated." Now, what does that mean? What does it mean? Well, I think that there are two aspects to the hate here. There's a passive aspect and an active aspect. What is the passive aspect? First, he passed over Esau and didn't choose him. Just passed him over. Jacob was the one chosen, not Esau. Passed him over. Was not Esau Jacob's brother? The Lord says, "Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I hated."
Secondly, passively, God gave Esau over to his wickedness, his predispositions, he gave him over, he didn't fight it. From Romans 1:24, it says, "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts." And then in Romans 1:26, "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts." So it's a giving over that God does to a sinner's way, say, "Have your way." It's the worst thing God can ever do to you, but it's the very thing He will not do to us who are his children. He's not going to give us over to our sin. Passively then He hates Esau by not electing him and by giving him over to his wickedness. Actively however, He pours out the wrath that Esau deserves for his wicked actions. Look what it says in the Malachi quote, it's right there in verses 3-4, "Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals. Edom may say though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins. But this is what the Lord Almighty says, "They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called "The wicked land…" Aou see that's God giving them over their wickedness, and a people always under the wrath of the Lord."That is God's active hatred, and that is wrath for sins actually committed.
Now, concerning Esau himself, is his wickedness not clearly depicted in the text? Did not Esau actively despise his birthright? Did he not say, "I don't care about that. What's a birthright to me? I'll sell it for a bowl of stew." Did God force him or compel him to do that? Absolutely not, it was a choice he made in concert with his desires. Can Esau say to God, "You forced me to sell God." Cannot God say to Esau, "I gave your birthright to Jacob by decree, but you sold it freely because you despised it. How can you charge me for wrong doing?" And you could say after that did not Esau repent? Didn't he repent with tears, right? And seek it with tears? Did he? Charles Spurgeon put it this way. You know how he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, and he thought he would buy it back by giving his father a mess of pottage. "There," he says, "I'll go hunt some venison for my father. I've got it over him and he likes my savory meat and he'll readily give me my birthright again."
But this is what the sinner does, this is what the sinner says. "I have lost Heaven by my evil works. I will easily get it again by reforming my ways. Did I lose it by sin? Well, I'll get it back by giving up my sins. Well, I've been a drunkard. Well, now I'm going to be a teetotaller." "I've been an awful swear, I'm very sorry for it, indeed, I will not swear anymore." No sinner. You may sell Heaven for a few carnal pleasures, but you cannot buy heaven merely by giving them up. And what was the nature of Esau's repentance after his father died? Well, he consoled himself with one thought, "I'm going to murder my brother," and that's exactly why Jacob fled to Heron.
Ultimately then, this act of wrath of God doesn't just mean that he's going to lay some country down, and so that their crops and harvest don't work. This is the picture of heaven and hell, isn't it? That's the issue. We're talking about eternal destiny. Spurgeon put it this way. "If God deals with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all that he gets. In hell, there will not be a single solitary soul that will say to God, "O Lord, thou has treated me worse than I deserve, but every lost spirit will be made to feel that he got what he truly deserved, that his destruction lies at his own door and not at God's."
What is the difference then between Jacob and Esau? You tell me. They're both sinners. Both in some respects, in one way, reprehensible people. "Before the twins were born or had done anything, good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand, not by works but by Him who calls. As she was told, the older will serve the younger just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated." Spurgeon summarized Paul's doctrine this way, he preaches salvation, all of unmerited grace, just free grace, and he preaches damnation, all of sin. God is speaking to us. You know what He's saying? You don't deserve the good things I'm giving you. And that humbles us, doesn't it? And I rejoice in that humbling. I'm delighted to know that I'm saved by grace.
V. A Loving Warning: Let God Be God in Salvation
Let me say one final word by way of application. Let me give you a loving warning. Let God be God in salvation, not that He needs your permission, but just let Him be God. Let Him be the ruler, do not presume to tell God how He should save souls and how He shouldn't. So many sinners born yesterday who know nothing, think to tell God what He may and may not do with His creation. Who are we to question what God does? Do not tell God how He must save or what he should do. Our wisdom is like nothing, we were born yesterday. Our perspective is so low as to be below the worm compared to God. The ultimate freedom of God is His glory alone, not ours. We're not ultimately King of the universe. "The secret things belong to the Lord…" Deuteronomy 29:29 says this, in other words, they'll come a point where we have nothing but mystery, and beyond that, we can go, "but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever." Has God revealed this to us? Yes, he has, here in Romans 9, it's right there. You can read it on the page, if you have a different Bible at home, open up it'll say the same thing, maybe a little different translation, but it'll say the same thing. It's there. God is speaking this to us, He wants us to understand.
Now, when we are striking a coin, making a coin, like a quarter or something like that, the die comes down and the blank is in there, the blank must be made of softer metal than the die. Do you understand why? Because at the moment of conflict, something has to give, something. Either the coin is going to give, or the die is going to give. If the die gives, you got to throw the die away and make another one. Well, they learned a long time ago, you're not going to throw the die away, you need to make the die out of something so hard, it will not yield to anything. If your mind and the scripture are having this moment of conflict, what's going to give? The scripture is not designed to give. There is nothing more unyielding than God in His word and thank God for it. That's the whole point of Romans nine. God's Word cannot fail, it will never fail. Heaven and Earth will pass away, but His word will still be there. Then let your mind yield and be conformed to what He's saying. Think differently if you need to. Be conformed rather to what He's saying.
There is a very sweet and practical application to this. You know what it is? If election is unconditional it means that any of you sitting here any of you can be His children, any of you, no matter how much sin you've committed. No one can say to me, "My sin excludes me from being elect." This text eliminate that forever. You may think, "You don't know what I've done. I'm saying, your sin doesn't have the final word over grace. Isn't that sweet? So if today you hear His voice, calling on you to trust in Him to believe in this incredible Savior, don't walk out of here without trusting in Christ. This is a great time of year, frankly, any time of year is a great time of year to be a Christian, but trust in Him believe in Him, allow Him to be your King, your sovereign, your ruler. Close with me in prayer.