From Esau to Jacob—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on June 2, 2022, based on Malachi 1.2-3, Matthew 12.48-50, and Romans 5.8
It was selected by reader, Barbara: 

“This was one of my favorites.”

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

Reflection: From Esau to Jacob—Readers’ Choice
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
It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick…And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners. — Matthew 9.12-13

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 27(Listen -3:52)
1 Corinthians 4(Listen – 3:15)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 28(Listen -3:05)1 Corinthians 5(Listen – 1:58)
Jeremiah 29(Listen -5:44)1 Corinthians 6(Listen – 3:03)
Jeremiah 30-31(Listen 11:21)1 Corinthians 7(Listen – 6:09)

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.

Readers’ Choice is Here!
There’s still room for your recommended posts from the last 12 months. Which ones did you share with a friend?

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.

Divide et Impera

Scripture Focus: Matthew 12:25, 36-37
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand…

36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

Genesis 13.8-9
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

Reflection: Divide et Impera
By John Tillman

Speaking of the impossibility of driving out demons by the power of demons, Jesus says “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined.” (Matthew 12.25) The word translated ruined is also used by Jesus in his prophecy of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. (Luke 21.20) It refers to destruction, being deserted, or desolation.

In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, American citizens and the world now have images in their heads of the consequences of a kingdom divided against itself that will be a part of history books for generations to come. A mirrored corollary of Jesus’ statement is the Latin phrase that began to appear often in the writings of the colonial period of the 1600s, Divide et impera (“divide and rule”). We know this maxim today as “divide and conquer.”

There are both earthly and spiritual emperors who wish to divide and rule over us through the use of division and conspiracy. Enemies without are not as useful to emperors as enemies within. They want us to suspect and turn on each other. 

Christians should be especially wary of shadowy, unknown “emperors” sowing division such as the mysterious, unidentified founder of QAnon. We should also be wary of popular leaders spreading this unknown manipulator’s messages. Truth-denying conspiracy theories such as QAnon lead Christians away from the concept of absolute truth and toward division and radicalization.

If nations or the Church allow ourselves to be divided, we will be conquered. Yet, we cannot be unified without the truth. When Christians participate in lies, we stain the gospel with falsity.

Let us pray (based on Matthew 12.31-36) that as we seek unity we will stand for truth.

Lord, you told us that every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 
Help us, Lord, to be made into good trees with good fruit of righteousness.
May our mouths speak good out of the good stored up us
May we speak the truth. May we hesitate to share the uncertain. May we refuse to participate in falsehood.
We know we will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word we have spoken, so fill our words with your truth and your love.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the ram’s horn.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is King of all the earth; sing praises with all your skill.
God reigns over the nations; God sits upon his holy throne. — Psalm 47.5-8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 13 (Listen – 2:16)
Matthew 12 (Listen – 6:41)

Read more about Good and Pleasant Unity?
Change our hearts, Lord. Arouse our compassion. Help us abandon anger.

Read more about Honoring The Truth
Seeking the truth is not only a spiritual quest. It is sometimes a civic one. Or a legal one.

Cultivation Leads to Harvest

Matthew 12.1
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.

Reflection: Cultivation Leads to Harvest
By John Tillman

Cultivation leads to harvest. Harvests, when shared, lead to celebration.

In the rural south, I often experienced touches of the generosity harvest brings. In northern Mississippi, you knew when someone’s harvest was in because the produce would show up unannounced at your door. Or sometimes in your kitchen.

I remember coming in from some errand with my Granny to find a bag of fruit on her table that hadn’t been there when we left. A neighbor, coming by while we were out had walked into the unlocked home and left a bag of fruit. My Granny recognized the giver by the gift and set to work baking the fruit in a cobbler to take back to his house. Of course we ate some as well.

The generosity of sharing in the harvest is not a southern or a northern phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that happens within communities where gains and pains are shared.

The fruit of harvest may be literal fruit—the fruit of the vine, the fruit of the grain, the fruit of trees. It may also be the fruit of beauty and peace—of fresh cut flowers from a garden, of sitting in cooling shade, of walking beneath vines whispering with wind, or of crossing a brook whose current waves the cattails at us in greeting.

Scripture has specific guidance for dividing the harvest. Some was to be left in the fields for the poor. A tithe was to be brought to the temple so that those who served the spiritual nourishment of the community could be physically nourished in return. Some was to be given in other sacrifices. Sacrifices for sins. Sacrifices for special requests to the Lord. Sacrifices on behalf of the community and for others. (Anyone teaching that all God wants from us financially is a tithe hasn’t read the Old Testament in depth.)

We are responsible for the care of our communities, spiritually and physically. This requires a financial and a spiritual harvest. We understand, if we don’t always follow, the principle of sharing our financial benefits with others. But often we are left with no harvest of wisdom, love, and mercy to share with our community, because we do not cultivate our spiritual growth.

How are you dividing up your spiritual harvest? To whom are you passing on biblical knowledge? With whom are you exploring the treasures uncovered in God’s Word? How are you supporting those who support your spiritual development?

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out.. — Psalm 65:3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 12 (Listen – 2:51)
Matthew 11 (Listen – 4:06)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 13 (Listen – 2:16), Matthew 12 (Listen – 6:41)
Genesis 14 (Listen – 4:04), Matthew 13 (Listen – 7:23)

Additional Reading
Read More about Redemption at Work in Generosity
Landowners, the CEOs of Israel’s agrarian society, had a holy responsibility to not wring every grain of profit from their fields—to not harvest the edges and corners of the field, and to not pick up dropped grain or return for forgotten sheaves.

Read More about Good News to the Poor :: Epiphany
When Mary sang about filling the hungry with good things, poverty and many other personal tragedies were considered markers of spiritual failure. Today we also see poverty as a result of sin.

How far will you travel in God’s Word this year?
On January 1st we restarted our two year Bible reading plan in Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew. Join us on the journey. We read the Old Testament over two years and the New Testament and Psalms each year.

Read with us at a sustainable pace. Subscribe and invite friends to join you using this link.

Where will a journey through the Bible take your faith in the coming year? Jesus calls each of us, saying, “Follow me.”