Jacob I Have Loved, But Esau I Have Hated

I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
— Romans 9:15

Romans chapter 9 is one of the most perplexing chapters in the Bible to me. This is one of those chapters that those who make much out of election and predestination use to prove their point. And they make a strong case... I'm just not convinced. I think the truth here is something else, and I hope to make my point. 

Paul begins chapter nine with a list of Jewish advantages (1-5). "To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law" etc. The deck was stacked in their favor!  

But in spite of these advantages, many Jews were not following Jesus. Why? What went wrong? The answer is: Nothing went wrong. This was the way God set it set up from the beginning (6-13). The issue was never about being born "in the family;" that is: being one of the elect. It was something else--something Paul gets to in a moment. He concludes this section with the quote from Malachi 1:2-3: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I have hated." 

That is a very strong, very difficult statement. How could a God of love choose to hate someone? The answer is that God did not hate Esau, or Pharaoh, or Judas. He loved them, but He definitely hated what they represented. Yes, they represented something... something supremely bad. What? Unbelief. They did not believe God or trust His promises. God knew this about them before they were even born. God therefore chose to display His power in them--He set them up as examples of His wrath. He hardened their hearts. Those who will choose not to believe will be confirmed in that unbelief. We still see this today in those who call themselves "Christian" but then they "fall away." They never had faith in Jesus, and this becomes apparent in their turning from Christ and His church. The reason for God's rejection of Israel--the elect--was not their wickedness, but their unbelief (which, of course, is the greatest wickedness!). Then in time, to everyone's amazement, God chose to display His mercy on those who descended from outside the Abrahamic line (verse 24-26). 

The climax of Paul's argument comes in verses 30-33. There he declares that the Gentiles (even those who descended from Esau) who did not pursue righteousness, have nevertheless obtained it--but not through good efforts. They have received it through faith. What is that faith? It is trusting in Jesus Christ ("the stumbling stone"), and Him alone, to save us (verse 30-33). 

The bottom line is this: God honors faith because faith honors God! Faith in Jesus is the whole issue in Romans 9. Our faith in Him is what gives Him glory. Ultimately, that is what we will see in heaven... when we get there and see that no one present deserves to be there... least of all me! Those who are there are those who have put their trust in Jesus alone as their Savior.

Is this what you have done?   

Overcoming Fear

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’
— Mark 5:36 ESV

This was a bold step for Jairus. Be is described as a "ruler of the synagogue." This means he was a part of that Jewish religious establishment that opposed Jesus. He was therefore going against his peers. He could possibly have been stripped of his title and position. But Jairus was also a desperate man, for his little daughter was terminally ill. Jesus was his last hope for saving her life. Desperation will cause normally compliant men to step outside their comfort zone and act in uncharacteristic ways. 

I love the response of Jesus! Immediately He went with Jairus. I cannot find where Jesus ever denied anyone who came to Him with a need.

As they were going to Jairus' house a crowd engulfed them. One lady, who was suffering from a long and debilitating illness, touched the tassel of His robe. She was healed! Jesus stopped to minister to her. 

But rather than rejoicing in this miracle Jairus was about to come unglued! These interruptions were slowing them down. His little girl was hanging onto life by a thin tread. He was becoming more anxious by the second. "Couldn't they move faster? Why was this happening now?" Then he saw his servant approaching them through the crowd. He knew instinctively this was not good. Indeed, it was the worst possible news: his little girl had died. Jairus was crushed! But Jesus said to him, "Do not fear, only believe." But to Jairus this seemed an impossible request. His daughter was dead! 

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. It can be good. Fear can keep us from doing something dangerous--or stupid--like speeding on a winding mountain road. But sometimes fear can be bad, such as when it keeps us from trusting God. Satan comes to us and says, "What if you trust in God and He does not come through? What then?" Fear grips our heart and paralyzes us. 

But fear can be overcome. 

How? 

Many years ago I was big into waterskiing. I belonged to a club called "The Aqua Nuts." Once I decided to try my hand at ski jumping. Before my first jump I received some last minute instruction. "When you hit the ramp bend your knees, pull the rope handle to your waist, and focus on the tops of the trees. Don't look down! The tips of your skis will go wherever your eyes focus." 

As soon as I hit the base of the ramp I assumed the position. My knees were bent. I pulled the handle to my waist. I focused my eyes on the tops of the cypress trees. But as soon as my skis cleared the ramp my eyes immediately shifted their focus. I took my eyes off the trees and looked at the tips of my skis. Guess what? They were right--your ski tips go where your eyes focus--and mine went down. Bad things happen when you hit the water with your ski tips pointing down! My skis dug into the water like a shovel. I did the worst face-plant of my life! I remember actually seeing stars! The guy in the boat said, "It's like riding horse--you have to get right back on." I said, "Not me." Some time later I did try it again. I stuck the landing, climbed into the boat... and never did it again! 

Faith follows focus--but so does fear. When we listen to Satan and focus on our circumstances fear is the result. Remember: Satan is a liar and your circumstances are never what they appear to be. So what do you do? Shift your focus. Look up to the faithfulness of God. Look back and remember the times when God has come through for you. He has never abandoned you. He has provided for you. Then look forward to the promises of God. He has a great future for you. Look up to God, not down at your circumstances. When Peter looked at his feet he began to sink. So determine to keep your eyes on Jesus! Focus on Him with all your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin--what makes the difference is the side of the coin you focus on. Focusing down at your fears will send you crashing, but focusing on Jesus will keep you flying. So look up dear friend! 

Tested By the Word

Until the time his prediction came true, the word of the Lord tested him. 
Psalm 105:19 (HCSB)

 

These words refer to Joseph. In the Egyptian prison God gave Joseph a dream. In that dream God revealed that He was going to send a famine to the land of Egypt. God showed Joseph how to prepare for that disaster. But Joseph had to endure years in prison until that dream came true. During those years he was tempted to doubt that the dream would ever come to fruition. 

God gives us promises in His Word. But there are times when God gives us a specific promise from His Word about some special thing He is going to do in our lives. But then there comes a time of testing when we are tempted to doubt that promise. This time of testing is just as inevitable as the fulfillment of the promise itself. So why are we surprised when it comes? We should not be. Indeed, we should be expecting it! 

What do we do when the time of testing comes? We do what Joseph did--what he had no choice about actually--we wait. And we trust. We hang onto the promise and refuse to let go. We keep reminding God of His promise and His faithfulness. 

I had a friend say to me many years ago, "Refuse to doubt God." I have not forgotten those words, although I have struggled many times to keep his advice. But his words are still true. When we go through the test to doubt God's promise to us let us refuse to doubt His Him!