From Esau To Jacob

Scripture Focus: Malachi 1.2-3
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. 
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ 
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

Matthew 12.48-50
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Romans 5.8
…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Reflection: From Esau To Jacob
By John Tillman

“Esau I have hated.”

We may wonder: Does God randomly hate people? Am I one of those arbitrarily hated by God?

It is normal to struggle with difficult passages, especially those that have been misused. For example, some passages in Malachi 1, including this one, have been twisted to support slavery. Those who did this surrendered to culture and profit and selfishness, all the while proclaiming themselves wise, biblical, and superior. May we not make similar mistakes.

It’s impossible in a 400-word devotional to unpack a difficult passage like this. I won’t attempt it. Let us simply meditate on a few details from scripture.

  1. “Esau” doesn’t mean the individual. God is using these names as collective nouns to speak to the descendants of these brothers, not the brothers themselves. We don’t do this much in our culture. The closest thing we might understand is using the name of a country’s leader to refer to actions of that nation. For example, “Volodymyr Zelensky” meaning Ukraine, or “Xi Jinping” meaning China.
  2. God’s “hatred” isn’t arbitrary. It refers to justice for Edom’s actions—what they collectively did and continued to do. Esau, the individual, while reconciled to his brother, enjoyed God’s blessing. His descendants continually opposed Israel throughout their history and came to represent, poetically, all people opposed to God and God’s people.
  3. God’s “hatred” is not absolute. Edomites are not arbitrarily cursed or hated throughout history or in totality. In many places, God implies hope for Edom. He shows he cares for them, gives them their own land, and commands that no Israelite should despise an Edomite. (Deuteronomy 2.1-8, 12; 23.7)
  4. This statement’s purpose is to show love, not hatred. God speaks poetically to reassure his people. He points to justice done on their behalf, which proves his love. To Micah’s readers, this justice was the downfall of “The Wicked Land” (Malachi 1.4) that harmed them.

We can be assured of God’s love and justice. We are not innocent. Yet, we are not hated. We are loved. This is demonstrated in Christ as God turns “Esaus” into “Jacobs.”

God loved us when we were like Esau—sinners, rebels, and persecutors. (Romans 5.8) All of us have been children of Esau, but by God’s grace, we can become children of Jacob and brothers and sisters of Christ (Matthew 12.50). Through Jesus, we cry “Abba, father,” (Romans 8.15; Galatians 4.6; Mark 14.36) for “Jacob, have I loved.” (Malachi 1.2)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living. — Psalm 116.8

Today’s Readings

Malachi 1 (Listen – 2:47)
Matthew 12 (Listen – 6:41)

Read more about Identity Lost, Identity Gained
God, our father, longs to bless us…No one who comes to him will need cry, “Do you have only one blessing, my father?”

Read more about Running to Forgive
In this moment, in a limited way, Esau demonstrates the welcome of the gospel. The wronged party shows undeserved mercy.

The End of Evil

Scripture Focus: Zechariah 14.6-9
6 On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.
8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
9 The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.

Reflection: The End of Evil
By Erin Newton

In times of great tragedy, the weight of evil is unbearable. Hope can be elusive. Each new day feels darker. Sometimes, evil is inflicted upon us and other times it comes from our corrupted hearts.

Israel lost her way and became a community that abused power over foreigners and the poor. They indulged in sexual immorality and killed their children. They only cared about satiating their greed, lust, or power. This degradation of morality and breach of the covenant led them into exile.

Zechariah recalled how the people had sinned and God’s judgment as the consequence. They had already started rebuilding the city, the temple, and reinstating proper justice. Yet, it was still met with struggles from outside (Nehemiah 4) and from within the community (Ezra 9). In the depths of their grief, we can imagine their desire for a glimmer of hope. God tells them of the future restoration.

The final prophetic vision is a land of never-fading light that never grows cold. The preceding verses are harsh and jarring—possessions are stolen, women are violated. The message of this future hope feels out of place, maybe a little impossible.

Recurring tragedies can leave us with an endless sense of dread. We ask ourselves, Will this evil ever stop? Can we learn to love one another? Ourselves? Pain has a way of stealing hope. The weight of grief can drown out any optimistic thought of better days.

The last few weeks have been incredibly painful. Adults and children have been murdered at the hand of evil. Clergy sexual abuse had been covered up and victims shamed. Countless other tragedies in local communities and personal lives never reach the headlines. It is an act of faith that makes a sense of hope possible. We need to know things will be made right.

God gave us these glimpses into a brighter future because he knew our souls would grow weary. Like the Israelites, we are called to repent and return to the Lord. We can begin to reform our community, to enact justice, to seek peace, to create environments that cherish the lives of every human being. But in the end, it’ll never fix every wrong.

As we read through the prophets, let us remember that while it feels like our world is “always winter and never spring” God is coming to make an end of evil.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

Today’s Readings

Zechariah 14 (Listen – 3:52)
Matthew 11 (Listen – 4:06)

Read more about Revelation of Love
Ultimately, fear is not what Revelation is about. It is about love.

Read more about The Urban Sprawl of the City of God
As we anticipate the ultimate fulfillment of this promise, may we participate in work God calls us to which fulfills it in part.