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.

Our Least Favorite Commandment :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, CJS
It is so hard in this world today to not see the injustices around us—every single day.  Some days I don’t even want to read the news feeds or listen to the TV.  Injustice is everywhere. This post helped me bring my own personal struggle with this entire topic into a spiritual zone.  It calmed me and helped me think more clearly about the whole subject. The title is so very appropriate!

The next time we think, “someone has to pay,” may we also hear the voice of Christ speak within us saying, “I will pay. It is finished. Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Scripture Focus: Psalm 137.4-6
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.

Reflection: Our Least Favorite Commandment :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 5th, 2019
By John Tillman

When violence or injustice harms those close to us, we typically react with admirable compassion toward the victims. “Even sinners do that.”

What is more revealing of a heart shaped by Christ is how we act toward perpetrators. Down in the comment streams below fundraisers and bake sales, you will also find our baser instincts. You will find those vowing violence against the perpetrators. You will find those calling for merciless application of the fullest extent of the law’s punishment. You will find those wishing prison rape on the attackers.

All hearts shaped by our violent culture react this way. Even Christian communities react this way—sometimes when they have only been attacked with harsh words. There is, perhaps, no commandment of Jesus that we flout with more impunity than, “do good to those who hate you.”

Our first instinctive thought regarding injustice is, “someone has to pay.” And we prefer “justice” done by our own hands, in our own way. 

In scripture there are often violent men and calls for violent actions. Psalm 137 has long been struggled over by faithful believers as almost too terrible to exist in the same Bible with Psalm 139 that speaks tenderly of life in the womb. (Yet, even Psalm 139 calls for the death of the wicked.)

Speaking of this most violent of Psalms, Charles Spurgeon recognized that as bitter as the psalmist’s cry is, he still is relinquishing his own anger to be tempered by God into the sword of justice and administered by God at a time of his own choosing. 

“We may rest assured that every unrighteous power is doomed to destruction and that, from the throne of God, justice will be measured out to all whose law is force, whose rule is selfishness, and whose policy is oppression…shall despots crush virtue beneath their iron heel and never be punished? Time will show.” — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Injustice is before us, behind us, beneath us, and above us. Yet we rest assured that Christ who is before us, behind us, beneath us, and above us sees it too. God has given judgment to the Son and he will carry it out. All “whose policy is oppression,” will answer to the judgment of Christ.

The next time we think, “someone has to pay,” may we also hear the voice of Christ speak within us saying, “I will pay. It is finished. Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will give thanks for what you have done and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly. — Psalm 52.9

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 5-6 (Listen – 6:03) 
Romans 5 (Listen – 3:53)

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Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
Our verbal hyperbole is being borne out in actions…online opinion, that leads to opposition, that leads to violence or threats of violence.