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 Naked Emotion of God

Scripture Focus: Hosea 1.2
2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” 

Romans 9.25-26
25 As he says in Hosea: 
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; 
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” (Hosea 2.23)
26 and, 
“In the very place where it was said to them, 
‘You are not my people,’ 
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ” (Hosea 1.10)

Reflection: The Naked Emotion of God
By John Tillman

From the life of Daniel, exiled in Babylon, we travel back in time to a pre-exile Israel and the life of Hosea.

Abraham Heschel explained that other prophets focus on what God has done for his people, while Hosea tells us more of what God feels. (The Prophets)

Many prophets engaged in actions that today would be considered questionable stunts. They publicly insulted kings and officials. They wore strange clothing or no clothing, going naked. (Isaiah 20.1-4) They wore the yoke of oxen. (Jeremiah 27.1-15) They starved. They ate disgusting foods. They built and destroyed elaborate models. They lay in one place for months. They sang offensive songs with pornographic lyrics. (Ezekiel 23.14-21)

In marrying Gomer, Hosea engages in the most extreme performance art depicted in the Bible or performed anywhere. It is more all-encompassing than the way Sacha Baron Cohen plays his character of Borat in real life situations. It is beyond the way Steven Colbert created a character out of his own name and likeness for The Daily Show. Hoseas’s stunt goes beyond acting or putting on a show. It is his real life. There is no “character” to hide behind. Instead, he is exposing the character of God. 

Hosea strips bare the inner emotional life of God. Hosea and God are emotionally united in a unique way. Neither will hold back in expressing his love for the people but neither will they hold back in expressing pain, anger, bitterness, and sorrow at how callously they are betrayed. 

Pain and anguish of heart are front and center in a scandalous way in Hosea. This shows us a God unashamed of shame, nakedly confessing his love for the unlovable. 

Gomer is not chosen for her strength but her weakness. She is not chosen for her wisdom but her foolishness. The accusations of culture would fly the other way as well. Hosea, taking a promiscuous woman as his wife would be considered weak and foolish.

Our God uses the foolish to shame the wisdom of this world and the weak to break the strength of the strong. He loves us, the unlovable. He is faithful to us, the unfaithful. He is unashamed of us, the shameful.

When all else is stripped away, the naked emotion of God, seen in Hosea and seen on the cross, is love.

To the world, this is foolishness, but to we who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your way, O God, is holy; who is as great as our God? — Psalm 77.13

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

Today’s Readings
Hosea 1  (Listen – 2:08)
Psalm 119:73-96 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Christ, Our Undeserved Friend :: A Guided Prayer
Though my sins and weakness he sees,
My case before the Father, pleads.
He knows my state and yet he bends
God’s ear to me, for me contends.

Read more about The Flavors of Betrayal
Where do we find ourselves in the garden? What form does our betrayal and abandonment of Jesus take?

Cameos of Love :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture Focus: Romans 16.1-4
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Reflection: Cameos of Love :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

A cameo is a “positive relief” image and is often a profile image of an individual. This means that the item is carved so that the image to be shown is raised up from the surface. The process of carving a cameo involves cutting away everything that is not a part of the image.

As Paul winds Romans to a close, he carves us a quick image of Phoebe and others who ministered with him. Phoebe was a deacon from the port city of Cenchreae, which served the region of Corinth. She was a co-worker with Priscilla and Aquilla of Corinth. She was being sent to Rome (either carrying this letter or following shortly after) and she was trusted with a mission that was in need of assistance. Paul is confident that her work, which scripture does not specify, will be of spiritual benefit for he testifies that her ministry has already blessed his own life. Paul’s brief description of Phoebe is like a cameo, raising up for us the most important details of her life. And when we look closely, what we see raised up is, in reality, an image of Christ.

May we pray this prayer from Australia, asking that God raise up in us the image of Christ, and carve away from us other parts of our lives to show to the world, his perfect cameo.

Cameos of Love
A prayer of Intercession from Australia

Creator God, all-compassionate Father,
Source of life whose heart is passionate towards all,
May we, your people, be cameos of your love and
compassion to a hurting and fragile world.
Daily we are confronted with the harsh reality of violence, greed,
abuse, unrest, and tragedy. Stir our response by owning your heart and mind.
May we be courageous in challenging injustice,
Ready to listen but hesitant to judge,
Willing to welcome the outcast,
Diligent in seeking and claiming truth.
Oh God of hope,
Your light never fails, is never extinguished.
Warm our hearts with the fire of Christ’s love so that wherever we go we will communicate Jesus Christ.
In His divine name we pray.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Divine Hours Prayer:  The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O  Lord, I lift up my soul. — Psalm 86.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 12 (Listen -2:21)
Romans 16 (Listen -3:30)

Read more about Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer
Dear Lord, mold us into that perfect image that reflects the beauty of Christ in a broken world.

Read more about Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
Help us to let go of anything which strives to take your place.
Make of us a body that serves, be our head which gives us purpose.

Content Mastery vs the Master of the Content

Scripture Focus: Romans 15.14
I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Reflection: Content Mastery vs the Master of the Content
By John Tillman

Jeannette Clift George, in her book, Troubling Deaf Heaven, relates her early struggles with God’s word.

“Someone told me to read the Bible until I understood something from the reading. After an hour of intense reading I threw my copy of the Bible across the room and cried aloud to God, “Yes, I have learned something! I have learned that I don’t understand your Book! Now can I stop reading it?” And then, still muttering over the details of my problem, I went over and picked up my Bible, with it’s tossed pages all askew, and read again. My early Bibles show the wear and tear of my struggle.”

Kierkegaard asserts that the Bible is easy to understand and we merely feign misunderstanding to shirk its demands on us. However, many, especially in the early steps of discipleship and study, do struggle with it.

Too often, immature disciples approach the Bible as consumers, treating it as a store full of solutions to our problems. When we do this, we are easily overwhelmed by its shelves, confused by its organization, and frustrated by seemingly inexplicable products. The Word of God is not a store, a catalog, a manual, or a textbook, and our approach to scripture must go beyond scholarship. No accumulation of facts will feed our faith.

Our hope of gaining meaning from God’s Word is listening for his voice, personally calling to us. We must trust that the Holy Spirit Jesus promised will break the silence. George continues:

“Then, one day, one reading, all of a sudden I saw me in the Scripture. My need—my question for the day, my tears for the evening, my fears for the morning, me—in God’s Holy Word. That made all the difference in the world.

That’s why I keep praying even when God’s silence infers the communication is out of order. I found me in his Word because he put me there. God put me in his Word that I might hear him in the silence, that I might hear him in the midst of arguments with him, that I might know that he knows me and loves me because he said so.”

In our rhythms of prayer and reading, we do not pursue mastery of content as much as we pursue a relationship with the Master of the content—a relationship with the Holy Spirit that goes beyond bringing the text to life and joins us in walking through our life.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind. — Psalm 26.2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 11 (Listen -2:01)
Romans 15 (Listen -4:32)

Read more about How Not to Read Scripture
No one ever found joy and companionship from re-reading an instruction manual. The Bible is more akin to a pointillistic painting…You have to step back to see the likeness the artist has created.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/how-not-to-read-scripture/

Read more about The Scripture Cannot Be Set Aside
Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture.

God Shivering on Concrete :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Pastor Terri Phillips, from Fort Worth, Texas.
My daily routine these days includes moments, or even hours, of inner rage about injustice. Most of the time, I am limited in my verbal response, and often my hands feel tied in responding in action. This post reminded me to look for evidence of God’s love, even in the most wretched of circumstances and events.  And to remind myself that the loving justice of God is sure. I may not be an instrument to render justice, as I fantasize to do, but I can more than imagine ways to deliver the fruit of the Spirit to the “least” of those around me. I don’t have to wait for a politicized, public moment to express love, kindness, joy, patience, and goodness. I can purpose to do that every time I see a need. I can share the Gospel, AND I can give a cup of cold water, give my finances, and shield the helpless.  When I am with Jesus on the Concrete, I am empowered by the Holy Spirit of God.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.50-53, 61, 64
My comfort in my suffering is this:
   Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
   but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
   and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
   who have forsaken your law…
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
   I will not forget your law…
The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
   teach me your decrees.

Only the suffering God can help. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reflection: God Shivering on Concrete :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published June 24th, 2019
By John Tillman

There is great wickedness in the world. Yet, in such a world, the psalmist proclaims God’s love, the power of God’s laws, and the strength of his desire to know his God more deeply.
Even in a world in which a person may be bound with ropes, or separated from their family, or denied justice, or put into a cage, or killed for the convenience of others, or hung from a tree, or gunned down in a church… Even in such a world, the psalmist tells us, “God’s love is evident.”

Wickedness is evident. But God’s love is also evident.

It is evident in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden, the poor, and those purposely excluded from justice. It is evident in the disaster that our God promises to bring upon a nation that ignores its responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own. Our God sends help to the helpless, no matter the owner of the goods, the ship, the truck, or the organization.

God’s love is evident in God’s help, but more so in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer. Our God lies on concrete floors under aluminum blankets with abandoned children. He bleeds on the floor of a sanctuary with victimized worshipers. His arms bear wounds of unjust captivity. He bears scars familiar to those who have been brutalized by government forces.

God’s love is, of course, most fully evident in what we call the gospel. The gospel puts wickedness to death in the way it deserves. Christ, through the cross, drags evil to Hell and abandons it there, setting free Hell’s captives. But merely chuffing about “the gospel” in the face of evil makes us into signposts on the road to Hell rather than gatekeepers in the house of our God.

One of the endlessly repeating themes of scripture and especially the Old Testament is that God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to foreigners and strangers.

Reach out in God’s love in any way that is available to you, whether through financial means or political. Even giving a cup of water in the name of Christ to the least of these will be remembered.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed be the Lord! For he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city. — Psalm 31.21

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 18 (Listen – 4:30) 
Romans 16 (Listen – 3:30)

Thank You!
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Read more about In Denial about Injustice
To judge our cities (to lead them) we cannot be in denial about injustice. Denying the existence of injustice is not how to be a patriot. It is how to get exiled.

Read more about Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
Remind us, Lord, that this world is not our home to defend, but it is the world you died for and we can expect to do no differently.