The most despised verse in the entire Bible!

(Frank Hall)

“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:13

This is perhaps the most despised verse in the entire Bible!

Contrary to popular religious opinion, God does not love all people.

There are only two kinds of people in this world — Jacobs and Esaus.
These two men represent the entire human race.
Jacob represents God’s elect — and Esau represents the reprobate.
Jacob is loved by God — and Esau is hated by God.

God’s love is sovereign and free. God’s love for Jacob did not depend on Jacob. God loved Jacob, simply because He chose to love Jacob — not because He saw something in Jacob that merited His love. In fact, Jacob proved himself to be completely unworthy of God’s love — as do all whom God loves.

God’s love depends on God, not Jacob. Jacob can’t earn God’s love, and Jacob cannot lose God’s love — because it does not depend on him. The love of God is completely sovereign and free. God gives and withholds His love as He sees fit.

God’s love is discriminating love. Love is always discriminating. By definition, love is never common to all. Jacob was set apart by God’s love, and being set apart by God’s love — he had God’s special favor and the affection of God’s heart. God’s love is always particular and distinguishing. He does not love all people — He only loves Jacob.

God’s love for Jacob and hatred for Esau are according to His eternal purpose, not according to their works. “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works, but by Him who calls . . . Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy!” Romans 9:11-16

Jacob was elected to salvation before he was born, and Esau was rejected by God before he was born — according to God’s eternal purpose.

Because Jacob was loved by God — God sent His Son into this world to redeem him from his sins. Christ died for Jacob — not for Esau!“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

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9 responses to “The most despised verse in the entire Bible!

  1. Is this conclusion perhaps a little harsh and a tad presumptuous ? There is much Scripture here, however there is also a Scripture that ‘God gave to Isaac, Esau and Jacob’. Esau was certainly a man of the flesh; a profane person who did not value spiritual things and was not willing to control himself in order to enter into spiritual blessing. However, he submitted to God’s hand in not slaying his brother (in the end), but welcoming Jacob back to the Land. (Jacob’s sons only just escaped becoming murderers of their brother, also, and we don’t consign them to hell.)
    Surely Christ died for Esau too, although Esau was definitely not chosen to be the progenitor of the Christ. ‘God so loved THE WORLD … ‘

    • Distinguishing between Jacob and Esau

      By A.W. Tozer

            There are areas of Christian thought, and because of thought then also of life, where likenesses and differences are so difficult to distinguish that we are often hard put to it to escape complete deception. Throughout the whole world error and truth travel the same highways, work in the same fields and factories, attend the same churches, fly in the same planes and shop in the same stores. So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which Abel. We must never take for granted anything that touches our soul’s welfare. Isaac felt Jacob’s arms and thought they were the arms of Esau. Even the disciples failed to spot the traitor among them; the only one of them who knew who he was was Judas himself. That soft-spoken companion with whom we walk so comfortably and in whose company we take such delight may be an angel of Satan, whereas that rough, plain-spoken man whom we shun may be God’s very prophet sent to warn us against danger and eternal loss.

    • The Kingdom Shall Be The Lord’s

      By G. Campbell Morgan

      “And saviors shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau, and the Kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (Obadiah 21).

      The prophecy of Obadiah is admittedly a strange page in the Old Testament. One could almost imagine it being said that surely there is no message in it for us, and for our times. Nevertheless it is true that Isadore said of this prophecy in his book on the Allegories of the Sacred Scriptures: “Among all the prophets, he is the briefest in number of words; in the grace of mysteries he is their equal.”

      The book really consists of one set message. The identity of the prophet and the historic setting are of minor importance. It is impossible to say with any definiteness who Obadiah was. We meet the name in other places in Scripture, but we cannot identify him. Neither can the actual hour of his prophesying be fixed. Therefore we do not pause with these minor matters, but give attention to the message itself.

      The peculiar quality of the book is that in it the antagonism between Jacob and Esau is brought into clearer view than in any other of the prophetic writings. If we look at the first eight verses we shall find that much that Obadiah is recorded as saying is found in the prophecy of Jeremiah, which may mean that Obadiah was familiar with Jeremiah’s prophecy, or that Jeremiah was familiar with Obadiah’s prophecy.

      This antagonism is patent throughout the Bible in definite historic statement and in continuous suggestion. In Genesis we read that “the children struggled within her.” The fact thus stated created a premonition on the part of Rebekah which was most significant as it filled her with fear. A statement with which we are all familiar, “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated,” seems to have given pause to very many thoughtful people. Let it at once be said that God’s attitude did not create that in Jacob which He loved, or that in Esau which He hated. These men did not become what they were because God loved or hated. Rather it is true that God’s love or hatred resulted from what they were, and what their character was. The antagonism was always recognized in the Old Testament, and emerges again in the New Testament, and is finally revealed in an almost startling way in two outstanding personalities, those of Jesus and Herod. We must remember that Herod was an Edomite, and Jesus according to the flesh was a descendant of Jacob. It is a very arresting and appalling fact that Jesus never spoke to Herod. He once sent him a stinging message, asserting His own authority, and the definiteness of His antipathy, dismissing him with profound contempt.

      In this prophecy of Obadiah the background is Jacob. He is seen suffering, and suffering by the chastening hand of God; while in the foreground Esau is seen gloating over the suffering of Jacob, adding to his trouble; and God is seen dealing with both.

      The supreme value of the revelation of Edom is that of concrete godlessness. We are far away from the days of Jacob and Esau but the principles revealed in Jacob and Esau are still appearing, and indeed were never more manifest in human history than they are today. The two ideals, the two conceptions, the two methods of life are in the world still.

      In this prophecy we have brought before us first of all, and principally, an unveiling of the spirit of Esau, and the meaning of Edom. The prophet was dealing with these things as they were manifested at the time, not in the individual men, but in the races descended from them.

      What, then, is the revelation that we have here of Esau and Edom? It is a terrible picture of cruelty and violence. Edom is here seen watching, from her heights of self satisfaction, the suffering of the nation of Israel as it was passing through the chastisements of God. Edom is revealed as looking on, and presently crossing the border line, and acting so as to add to the suffering of Jacob.

      That, however, is not the beginning of the revelation. What is the profound wrong which is revealed? If we say, as we have said, that it was that of godlessness, let us remember that there was something prior to that, and causing it. It is found in the words, “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee.” Pride of heart expressed itself in carelessness about God. There are some scholars who hold that the Edomites not only did not acknowledge God, but that they had no gods. Other nations had gods, but were idolaters. The Edomites seem to have done away with any reference to God or to gods in any form. “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee.” That is to say, they did not feel that God was a necessity in any sense.

      When we come into the New Testament we encounter that tremendous phrase describing Esau, and applicable to all his descendants, and the attitude of life which he represented, “that profane person Esau.” Profane here does not refer to careless or lewd speech. It means, quite literally, against the Temple. The profane person is one who has no spiritual conception, whose life is that of pure materialism. The man who says, I do not want God; I am independent of God; that is pride of heart.

      If that conception does not shock us it is because in our thinking today we have come to lay emphasis on certain sins, and shudder when we hear of them, failing to recognize that underlying all sin there is this root sin, the pride of heart that says this life is sufficient in itself, without any relationship to God.

      That pride expressed itself in Edom as she climbed to the height of rocky fastnesses and said, “Who shall bring me down?” Mounting high as the eagle, making her nest among the stars, she was guilty of self deification. The whole thing is illustrated by the fact of the case at the time of this prophecy. The Edomites were living in a rocky district which we have now come to call Petra, and they felt that their position was absolutely invincible. Moreover, it was a long time before anyone was able to break through their fastnesses and overcome them. They were the very embodiment then of practical defiant godlessness, expressing itself in the deification of self, and the conviction that self was sufficient, and that the fastnesses which it had made for its own protection were enough to protect it against all opposition.

      We now inquire how was that pride of heart manifested? The one sin that is named as resulting from it was that of violence, cruelty, hardness of heart, opposition to everything that Jacob represented. It manifested itself first in passive cruelty. In the day of disaster they looked, and the day of destruction they rejoiced in. In the day of distress they vaunted themselves, and spoke proudly. Presently that which was passive became active. In the actual day of calamity they entered the gate, they looked upon the affliction, they robbed Jacob of his substance, and they cut off his escape when he endeavored to escape, and this is the expression of an attitude toward man which is the outcome of an attitude toward God. When God is ignored, violence is done to our fellow men.

      The question arises: How will this end? And it was in order to answer this, probably, that the prophet uttered his message. In that particular hour Jacob is revealed as depressed, suffering not only as the result of the chastisements of God, but from the brutal and violent opposition of Edom. Jacob heard that insolent cry of Edom, “Who shall bring me down?” and it seemed that the challenge had no answer, that Edom was always to flourish, that godlessness must perpetually remain in the ascendant. To that the reply is given in the words of Jehovah, “I will bring thee down.” I will “destroy the wise men.” I will dismay the “mighty men.”

      The prophet then shows that such action will be through the cooperation of events. The message to Edom was that “the men of thy confederacy” will be against you. “The men that were at peace with thee, that is under the covenant, will break their covenant. The men that are eating thy bread will become thine enemies. Thus, by cooperation of events under the government of God, Edom is to be brought down from her rocky fastnesses, and from her nest among the stars; and this issue will be what we sometime speak of as poetic justice. “As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee.” Then we come to the last word which is certainly an arresting and remarkable one. “Saviors shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the Kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

      That final sentence seems as though it were an outburst from the depths of the heart, as the result of profound conviction, “The Kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” The statement that there shall be saviors on the mount of Zion is open to two interpretations. Much depends upon the meaning of the word “judge.” “Saviors shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau.” The prime meaning of this word judge is that of government in righteousness. Of course it often refers to that action of government which is punishment. To me at least there ever seems to shine in the statement of the Prophet hope even for Esau, hope even for the godless; “saviors” on mount Zion, the hill of God, and there, if Esau so will, a judgment that deals with everything that is wrong, and sets it right, until at last “the kingdom shall be Jehovah’s.”

      This last sentence in the prophecy is in harmony with all the prophetic writings. It cannot be too often emphasized that no Hebrew prophet ended on a note of pessimism. These men saw the gloom and the darkness, saw the iniquity and the godlessness, but they saw beyond. None of them saw everything ended in gloom and darkness and godlessness. They looked through, and this Prophet in his brief message, in which he has shown us clearly the antagonism between godlessness and Godliness, utters as his last word: “The Kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” He saw beyond the present conflict, beyond the suffering of Jacob, and the taunting of Edom, and the judgment that must inevitably come upon Edom, an hour in which all these things should end, and the Kingdom should be Jehovah’s.

      This is the declaration that we need to hear and heed today. Perhaps godlessness was never more rampant and blatant than it is in this hour. The old days of infidel attack upon the Christian religion have largely passed away – and yet there never was a day when practical godlessness was more rampant than it is now. Men are saying in effect: We do not need God. We have made our nest among the stars.

      Who will bring us down? Men are acting as independent of God, and therefore without prayer. They have no vision of the unseen, and no spiritual conception.

      Yet in this very hour when men are taking up this attitude, all their confederacies and their self sufficiency are working together towards the bringing of them down from the position of pride, that they may stand face to face with reality.

      In spite of all these things, we affirm with Obadiah our conviction that “the Kingdom shall be Jehovah’s.” We are sure of it first because it is His today. He is reigning. The world has never escaped from the grasp or the grip of the government of God. There are so many things that we cannot understand today, but the one absolute certainty is that all these things are under the government of God. The fact remains, then, that the Kingdom shall be His because in this sense it is already His.

      It is being made His in the full sense of human realization, because of His proclaimed Word and Gospel.

      Though a wide compass round be fetched,
      That what began best, can’t end worst.

      “The Kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

      The question arises as to where we stand in relation to this fact? Are we with Jacob or with Esau? Jacob was not a very praiseworthy person, but he represents us, and that is why he stands out so clearly, blundering, failing, foolish, but always believing in God even in the hours of his folly when he did stupid things. God was patient with him because of that fact, gave him a vision when he was wandering from his home through his own duplicity, and met him on his way back, crippling him in order to make him.

      But am I with Esau, the profane person against the Temple, having no vision of the unseen, no sense of the spiritual, satisfied in rocky fastnesses as I imagine, and crying out, “Who will bring me down?” If that is where I live, I must remember first that an alternative is before me. God is waiting, and He has provided a Savior. The profane can be made sacred in the gracious economy of God. The final word, however, the only word with which to close this meditation, is the word of the Prophet, with its vastness of meaning, and its application to individual life. “The Kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

    • The Potter’s House


      by T. Austin-Sparks

      “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he wrought his work on the wheels. And when the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it” (Jeremiah 18:1-4).

      “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
      As we read this so well-known illustration of God’s workmanship seen in the house of the potter, to which the prophet was told to go, there are three possible effects that it can have upon us, depending upon which word we underline, where we stop, where we put the emphasis. There are three words which sum up this paragraph, and which of those words we choose and resolve into the message will decide a very great thing for us. It may affect our whole life.
      Three Possibilities

      There is the word ‘marred’. “The vessel that he made… was marred in the hand of the potter”. If we make that the word, then something of a spirit of hopelessness will come over us. We shall begin to find an inward sinking; we shall begin to say, ‘Yes, I made a mess of things, I spoiled it all. There is not much hope for me—my life is marred, spoiled.’ If you take that word and make it the message, it will have one effect upon your life. Thank God, that is not the message; but there may be someone reading who has got there. Looking back on your life, you do so with very little gratification or pleasure; rather with regret, perhaps remorse. Maybe you fall into this mood, if you think of yourself as the clay. You feel there has been a breakdown; you have perhaps made a mess of things, or you have not fulfilled all the promise, all the possibilities. And that sense of failure, of lost opportunity, and much more in that direction, creates a shadow over your life. It makes you feel, ‘Well, that is that. Now it is up to me to try and get through in some way and finish up as decently as I can.’ That is a despairing outlook on life, and that will most surely be the result of putting your circle round this word, variously translated ‘marred’ or ‘spoiled’.
      There is another word here: “he made it again another vessel”. If we put our line under that word and make it the message, that, too, will open the door to gloomy thoughts and considerations. We shall at once begin to say, ‘Well, God has not been able to fulfill His original intentions where I am concerned. I have to be content with being His second-best; something other, something different, something that He really did not mean me to be. He is making the most and the best of a bad job. He is just working with me on an alternative line. So—well, that reduces me to being something of a misfit, not what I was intended to be.’ You see the possibilities of putting your circle round that word ‘another’ vessel.

      But then there is another phrase here: “as seemed good to the potter to make it.” That introduces an altogether new possibility. If, after all, it is possible for Him to say, ‘It is good, My work is good’; to find His own pleasure and His own satisfaction in it, that will certainly be far better and greater and higher than my greatest satisfaction could possibly be. His standard is so much higher than my best. If He can say, ‘It is good’, that surely opens up a new outlook and prospect, does it not? That introduces the triumph of His grace, in spite of everything. In spite of what we are and of all our failure and of all His difficulty with us, His grace triumphs. His wisdom triumphs over all the problems in us—yes, over all the setback that He may have encountered in us; His love overcomes all the difficulties that He has with us. If the end is that it is good in His sight—”as seemed good”—I say, that brings into view an altogether new situation.

      These are the three possibilities that arise out of these words. We choose the third. That is the message that I want to bring to you.
      A Story of Vessels Re-made

      (1) The Earth

      Our method will be to take the principle that lies at the heart of this, lift it for a moment out of its immediate context and setting, and see it in its larger relationship and application. The Bible opens with a ‘potter’s house’. It is a very big Potter’s house, very much bigger than Jeremiah’s. In it we find at first a shapeless, distorted, chaotic mass. It must present to view the aspect of utter hopelessness and impossibility: What can you do with that? It is simply said: “The earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). It is chaos. But the very next thing we see is the great Potter getting to work on the shapeless, distorted mass of clay. “He made it again”, and when He stood back from the wheel of creation, of making again, He was able to look upon all things and say that “it was very good” (v. 31). That was God’s verdict: ‘It is very good.’ The principle is of very large application, is it not?
      (2) Adam and Abel

      But then it is not long before we come to another breakdown, and once more the vessel is marred. We know the story of Adam’s sin, by which he drew the whole creation into judgment, again under a curse. He himself came there: he was marred, spoiled; the creation came there. To the man God said: ‘Because you have done this, the earth is cursed for your sake. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth, and you shall eat bread by the sweat of your brow’ (3:17,18). Well, we know something about that! To the woman He said other things; there would be suffering associated with her life and her function (v. 16). The clay is marred in the hands of the Potter, spoiled.
      But does He throw it aside? Does He give it up? Does He say, ‘It is hopeless, it is impossible—I can do nothing with this’, and so discard the whole thing? That is not the God of the Bible. He has got poor stuff, poor clay, it is true; it is proved to be very poor stuff; but with that stuff He sets to work again, and He ‘makes again another’. And out of that poor stuff we see a man emerging, named Abel: a man who stands in the Bible with much honour, whose name has come right down through the ages as of one who found the approval of God. The New Testament puts the clear approval of God upon Abel. No greater approval could be given than that the Lord Jesus should call him ‘righteous’: “Abel the righteous” (Matt. 23:35).
      (3) Abraham

      And then Abraham. I am always so glad that with these great men God never, never hides what poor stuff they were in themselves. He lets us see their flaws—the flaws in the clay. He lets us see their weaknesses; He lets us see them break down; He lets us see that, but for that mighty hand of His, they would make shipwreck like all the rest. They in themselves are no better stuff than others. But they are in His hands—these are men in His hands. And out of that clay, that same clay, the same clay that we are made of, there emerges this man Abraham. How much there is in the Bible that is of this character—’It is very good, very good’; ‘as seemed good unto the potter’.
      (4) Jacob

      And what shall we say about Jacob? No one needs to be told that Jacob was poor clay. We know. That name has become the synonym for human frailty, weakness, and worse. Yes, he belongs to that clay. But he is in the hands of the Potter; and when the Potter has done His work, He forever afterwards is proud to say: “I am the God of Jacob”—the God of Jacob!

      (5) Elijah

      Think of Elijah, and then hear what the apostle James has to say: “Elijah was a man of like passions with us” (James 5:17). Yes, the same stuff, the same clay; we know that even in his life there was breakdown. He showed his weakness under the strain, under the tension. But he stands in great honour with God. “He made it again”. Out of that breakdown in Adam, out of that poor stuff that Adam’s broken-down race represents, He has taken this one and that, and ‘made it as it seemed good to the potter to make it’.

      And so we might go through the whole of the Old Testament. The principle, you see, is at work everywhere. We might go on to look at the men who failed and who—to use the translation of the Revised Standard Version, which I rather like—were ‘re-worked’. In that version it says: ‘He reworked it’. “We are his workmanship”, we have read in Ephesians. It would be difficult to know where to begin and where to finish with the men who broke down and whom He re-worked.

      (6) David

      But let us take one more from the Old Testament, who is quite an outstanding illustration and example—none other than David himself. We know the fifty-first Psalm. That Psalm is a Psalm of David—the cry of a heart overwhelmed with the consciousness of its failure, its breakdown, its sin. A great sob is rising out of that Psalm; and we know, from the history that lay behind it, that there was good cause for David to weep before God, confessing his sins, crying: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (v. 10). We know the tragedy of David’s life, the breakdown. Oh, this clay was indeed marred in the hands of the Potter. He failed, he broke down; from one standpoint he became a tragedy. You are amazed that the man was capable of such actions—until you know your own heart.
      But look again. Did God discard, did God cast away? God did not give him up. He made the vessel again, so that the David that comes down to us today is not the David of the failure, but another one. He is the David of honour, the greatest of Israel’s kings, “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1), the David of our beloved Psalms—what should we do without the Psalms of David? And listen: “I have found David… a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22)! Is it possible to say anything more, anything greater than that?
      (7) Peter

      If we pass out of the Old Testament into the New, at once there leap onto the stage men who embody this great principle. What about Peter? Did Peter break down? Was Peter poor stuff? In one breath—”If I must die with thee, I will not deny thee” (Mark 14:31), and in the next breath —’I tell you I know not the man’ (v. 71)—denying his Lord with oaths. We do not like talking about men in this way, bringing up their faults, but we have to see that dark side in order to see the marvel of Divine grace. Here is Peter: did that clay disclose flaws, seeming unworkableness, resistance? Hear him speaking to his Lord, to his Master: “This shall never be unto thee” (Matt. 16:22)! “Not so, Lord…” (Acts 10:14). There is something there in the clay.
      But what a Peter we have today, have we not? That is not the Peter we have—the old story of the clay that broke down. Remember that! The Peter we have now is a very different Peter. Wonderful help and inspiration come from his two letters in the New Testament; we love to read them. We love to see him standing up on the day of Pentecost; we love to see him later, dragged before the rulers, standing on both his feet and challenging them with all courage and boldness. What a changed picture from that fireside denial in the courtyard, when his Lord was standing trial for His life! What a change! Yes: ‘He re-worked it’; ‘He made it again, as it seemed good to the Potter.’ And we can only say, ‘It was good, and it is good.’
      (8) John Mark

      Take one other example from the New Testament—a young man by the name of John Mark. He lived in Jerusalem, evidently in a godly home, in the very place where the Lord Himself and His disciples were wont to gather and to have their fellowship. They had no doubt wonderful times in that home; and John Mark lived there. The day came when Barnabas and Paul took this young man with them on their great missionary journey (Acts 13:5b). From town to town and city to city John Mark saw the wonderful things that God was doing, beheld the wondrous works of the Lord. But it was strenuous going, it was costly; and, when he reached a certain point on the journey, he said, ‘I am not going any further. I can stand no more of this, I am going home.’ The narrative tells us that he left them and went back to Jerusalem (v. 13b). The clay has given out, it has broken down; the stamina been found wanting.
      And that is not all. When he reflected upon it, I wonder what his thoughts were. I am quite sure that they were very gloomy reflections. ‘Oh, I have made a mess of things!’ And then, on a later occasion: ‘To think that I have been the cause of separation between these two great men—Barnabas and Saul. I have been the occasion of their parting asunder and the end of their united missionary activity’ (Acts 15:37-40). For that is indeed what happened over him.

      Those are things which might well lead to gloomy reflections and a hopeless outlook. The clay seems to have been marred and spoiled. But that is not the end of the story. You know how the story finishes. Even Paul says: ‘Bring Mark; for he is profitable to me’ (2 Tim. 4:11b). There are some lovely things said about this young man in the end. He is recovered, restored, recommissioned, in full-time service; and it is he who has given us the beautiful book which goes by the name of the Gospel by Mark. And many scholars today believe that Matthew and Luke very largely built their Gospels upon Mark’s, that Mark was the source of the others. So, there is a story! ‘He made it again.’

      The Triumphs of Grace

      These are men who broke down in the process of being worked, but grace triumphed. The Potter did not discard the poor clay. So much depends upon how we interpret this Potter, does it not? Let us look at Him: who is He? This Potter is not a man. How differently men would deal with these people! This is God. He has the clay—yes, the poor stuff: and, as He is seeking to work it, He comes suddenly upon something in it that resists, that does not yield. For a moment He pauses, and says, Oh, what is this? What does He do? It is not the way of this Potter to say: We can go no further, we must give it up; all our intentions are impossible of realisation; we will just throw it aside and look for something better. Not this Potter! That is not the God of the Bible! Watch Him. He may be sorry that He has met that something, whatever it may be; He may for a moment have to pause; but then you see light come into His face, you see the smile of the triumph of His grace and of His wisdom, as He says: We will not be defeated; we will have something for our pleasure and satisfaction, whatever we find. That is the God of the Bible.
      Behind all this there is one thought to which I want to come as quickly as I can. God is a God of purpose. And God does not undertake anything that He knows He can never achieve. When He starts something, He can perfect that thing: He has the resource, He has the wisdom, He has the patience, He has the grace, He has the love, He has the power. He can do it. He is the God of hope: that means the God who never despairs. It is something for our comfort.
      Vessels Unretrieved

      But we must always be perfectly honest and perfectly faithful. While all this is true in the Bible along the line that we have pursued, there is in it another line—the line of those who were spoiled and never re-made. It is a dark side—one hardly likes to look at it; but we must do so, in order to reach the point we have in mind. There were some spoiled and never re-worked. You can call them to mind at once. There is Abel’s brother, Cain; there is Jacob’s brother, Esau; there is Saul, the first king of Israel. In the New Testament there is Judas. Yes, these are people who have gone out into the dark; there is nothing about them that is to God’s pleasure.
      But one mentions that for a purpose. To see the reason for this means two things. Firstly, it will explain their opposites; that is, it will tell us why these others did come out to the glory and praise of God. And, secondly, it will bring us to the door of hope and promise.
      (1) Cain

      Let us look at these men quite quickly. Cain. Why was he unretrieved? Why was he not reworked, made again? In him, it seems, a sense of sin was completely lacking. Cain was a self-righteous man, a self-sufficient man. Yet, withal, he was a man who had some religion. He brought an offering to God. If he had lived today, he would have gone to church. But his religion was either mere superstition, or else patronage. It was the religion of one who acknowledges God for fear that, if he does not, it will go ill with him—a sort of ‘safeguard’ religion. Oh, yes, you recognise God; you acknowledge that God is: but you have no sense of sin. It is, indeed, only too possible to be religious without having that essential consciousness of sin and of the need of a substitute who is your Saviour.
      That is Cain. Cain was the man who did not know his own heart. If you had said to Cain, earlier on: ‘Cain, it will not be very long before you commit the foulest murder: you will take the life of your own brother. By your act, your own brother will lie dead at your feet, his blood trickling into the sand.’ What would Cain have said to that? He would never have believed it! But that was what was in him. He had no sense of sin. He did not know his own heart. And God cannot do anything with a condition like that.
      You notice that all the men of whom I have spoken on the other side were men who had this deep consciousness of sin, men who believed in the law of sacrifice for sin. Men like David: “I acknowledge my transgressions… Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight” (Ps. 51:3,4); men with a consciousness of sin and of the need of a Saviour, every one of them. But Cain was not like that, and that puts him out of the hands of God. He can do nothing with that; He cannot re-work that.

      Which brings us to this: The way of the purpose, the way of the glory, the way of the realisation, the way of the Divine satisfaction, is the way of the consciousness of sin. If you have that, it is a way of promise. That leads to the door of hope. The most hopeless person before God is the one who does not, in their heart of hearts, realise that they need what He has provided in His Son—a Saviour.

      (2) Esau

      Consider now Esau, Jacob’s brother. We know about him. Here, again, there was a fatal lack. He lacked a sense of the supreme importance of things spiritual. The birthright brought him, or would have brought him, into the place of standing for God. The firstborn was supposed to stand for God, that is, to be God’s representative. He was the priest in the family; he had to do with holy things. He it was that led the family into the presence of God. And much more was bound up with the firstborn and his birthright. But Esau, the Bible says—and this is the final condemnation of the man—”despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34). That is, he lacked this essential consciousness of the supreme importance of things spiritual. And whatever else you may say of Jacob, that, at least, was not true of him. He maybe stole the birthright, but he did at least recognise the superlative value of spiritual things.
      And how much there was hidden in the veins of Esau!—a long, long history—the history of Edom. How that breaks out in the Bible story again and again! Think of Doeg, the Edomite, whose vile treachery resulted in the slaying of all the priests of God (1 Sam. 22). Yes, Edom and the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, and wherever you find them in the Bible you find an utter lack of the sense of the importance of spiritual things: holding spiritual things lightly and cheaply: thinking that a mess of pottage, to gratify some passing whim and pleasure, is more important than the things of God. God can do nothing with that. He never works that over again.
      (3) Saul

      We pass to Saul. Saul’s fatal lack was of that spirit of meekness which trusts and obeys the Lord. That is how it came out in the end. The final downfall of Saul came about because, first of all, he did not trust the Lord. He was put to the test; he was given a magnificent opportunity of showing that he implicitly trusted the Lord; and he showed that he did not. His trust in the Lord would have led him to do a certain thing that Samuel the prophet, in the name of the Lord, had told him to do; and he disobeyed, because he did not trust. That is fatal. God cannot do anything with that. The kingdom was rent from Saul; he went out a marred and never re-made vessel. If God is going to do this thing, He must have in us that simple faith which trusts Him and obeys Him. It is the very least that He asks of us.
      (4) Judas

      And, finally, Judas. Many things can be said about Judas, but let us try and sum it up. Judas fatally lacked an adequate sense of the greatness of his opportunity. Just what would you give to have been called by Jesus Christ into the circle of immediate discipleship; to be with Him wherever He went, and to share His ministry; to be His companion, to be His helper? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was here in the flesh, and here was a man called into fellowship with Him in His life and in the great purpose of God for which He came into the world: and then to throw it away for thirty pieces of silver! Yes, he was utterly lacking in a sense of the greatness of his opportunity.
      We, every one of us, are called into the most honourable company and circle that this universe has—into living fellowship with God’s Son, in life, in service, in companionship, in suffering for Him. That, all that, is the call for every one of us. Oh, what an opportunity! What an honour, what a privilege, what an unspeakable blessing! “Called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:9)—that is Paul’s phrase. If God is going to realise all His great designs, fulfill all His purpose, make out of this poor clay something that is pleasing to Him, that is good in His sight, you and I need to have this: a sense of the great, the immense honour that is conferred upon us, in being thus “called into the fellowship of his Son”.
      So there must be in us—not as in these men, Cain and Esau and Saul and Judas—an overmastering sense of the transcendent importance of eternal things. Eternal things must outweigh for us all other considerations in this life. To use a phrase of the Lord Jesus: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’ (Matt. 6:33). The things of the Kingdom of God shall be to us of such paramount importance that nothing is to be compared with them, or to come in their way. All else, however great, is worthless. The kingdoms of this world—’What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ (Matt. 16:26; Luke 9:25)—which means lose the purpose for which Christ redeemed you.

      No, we may be poor stuff, we may be very poor stuff; but, if there is in us and with us an overmastering sense of the transcendent importance of things eternal, He will ‘make it again’ a vessel that is good to the Potter—good. To think that, at long last, He might look upon His work in you and in me, and say, ‘Through grace, it is very good’! That is the possibility, that is the prospect. May the Lord find in us the things that will make it not only a possibility, but an actuality.

      First published in “A Witness and A Testimony” magazine, May-June 1958, Vol. 36-3

      The New Park Street Pulpit

      Jacob and Esau

      A Sermon
      (No. 241)Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 16th, 1859, by the
      REV. C. H. Spurgeon
      At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.


      “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”—Romans 9:15.

      O NOT IMAGINE for an instant that I pretend to be able thoroughly to elucidate the great mysteries of predestination. There are some men who claim to know all about the matter. They twist it round their fingers as easily as if it were an everyday thing; but depend upon it, he who thinks he knows all about this mystery, knows but very little. It is but the shallowness of his mind that permits him to see the bottom of his knowledge; he who dives deep, finds that there is in the lowest depth to which he can attain a deeper depth still. The fact is, that the great questions about man’s responsibility, free-will, and predestination, have been fought over, and over, and over again, and have been answered in ten thousand different ways; and the result has been, that we know just as much about the matter as when we first began. The combatants have thrown dust into each other’s eyes, and have hindered each other from seeing; and then they have concluded, that because they put other people’s eyes out, they could therefore see.

          Now, it is one thing to refute another man’s doctrine, but a very different matter to establish my own views. It is very easy to knock over one man’s hypothesis concerning these truths, not quite so easy to make my own stand on a firm footing. I shall try to-night, if I can, to go safely, if I do not go very fast; for I shall endeavour to keep simply to the letter of God’s Word. I think that if we kept more simply to the teachings of the Bible, we should be wiser than we are; for by turning from the heavenly light of revelation, and trusting to the deceitful will-o’-the-wisps of our own imagination, we thrust ourselves into quags and bogs where there is no sure footing, and we begin to sink; and instead of making progress, we find ourselves sticking fast. The truth is, neither you nor I have any right to want to know more about predestination than what God tells us. That is enough for us. If it were worth while for us to know more, God would have revealed more. What God has told us, we are to believe, but to the knowledge thus gained, we are too apt to add our own vague notions, and then we are sure to go wrong. It would be better, if in all controversies, men had simply stood hard and fast by “Thus saith the Lord,” instead of having it said, “Thus and thus I think.” I shall now endeavour, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to throw the light of God’s Word upon this great doctrine of divine sovereignty, and give you what I think to be a Scriptural statement of the fact, that some men are chosen, other men are left,—the great fact that is declared in this text,—” Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

          It is a terrible text, and I will be honest with it if I can. One man says the word “hate” does not mean hate; it means “love less:”—”Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I loved less.” It may be so: but I don’t believe it is. At any rate, it says “hate” here; and until you give me another version of the Bible, I shall keep to this one. I believe that the term is correctly and properly translated; that the word “hate” is not stronger than the original; but even if it be a little stronger, it is nearer the mark than the other translation which is offered to us in those meaningless words, “love less.” I like to take it and let it stand just as it is. The fact is, God loved Jacob, and he did not love Esau; he did choose Jacob, but he did not choose Esau; he did bless Jacob, but he never blessed Esau; his mercy followed Jacob all the way of his life, even to the last, but his mercy never followed Esau; he permitted him still to go on in his sins, and to prove that dreadful truth, “Esau have I hated.” Others, in order to get rid of this ugly text, say, it does not mean Esau and Jacob; it means the nation; it means Jacob’s children and Esau’s children; it means the children of Israel and Edom. I should like to know where the difference lies. Is the difficulty removed by extending it? Some of the Wesleyan brethren say, that there is a national election; God has chosen one nation and not another. They turn round and tell us it is unjust in God to choose one man and not another. Now, we ask them by everything reasonable, is it not equally unjust of God to choose one nation and leave another? The argument which they imagine overthrows us overthrows them also. There never was a more foolish subterfuge than that of trying to bring out national election. What is the election of a nation but the election of so many units, of so many people? and it is tantamount to the same thing as the particular election of individuals. In thinking, men cannot see clearly that if—which we do not for a moment believe—that if there be any injustice in God choosing one man and not another, how much more must there be injustice in his choosing one nation and not another. No! the difficulty cannot be got rid of thus, but is greatly increased by this foolish wresting of God’s Word. Besides, here is the proof that that is not correct; read the verse preceding it. It does not say anything at all about nations, it says, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger,”—referring to the children, not to the nations. Of course the threatening was afterwards fulfilled in the position of the two nations; Edom was made to serve Israel. But this text means just what it says; it does not mean nations, but it means the persons mentioned. “Jacob,”—that is the man whose name was Jacob—” Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Take care my dear friends, how any of you meddle with God’s Word. I have heard of folks altering passages they did not like. It will not do, you know, you cannot alter them; they are really just the same. Our only power with the Word of God is simply to let it stand as it is, and to endeavour by God’s grace to accommodate ourselves to that. We must never try to make the Bible bow to us, in fact we cannot, for the truths of divine revelation are as sure and fast as the throne of God. If a man wants to enjoy a delightful prospect, and a mighty mountain lies in his path, does he commence cutting away at its base, in the vain hope that ultimately it will become a level plain before him? No, on the contrary, he diligently uses it for the accomplishment of his purpose by ascending it, well knowing this to be the only means of obtaining the end in view. So must we do; we cannot bring down the truths of God to our poor finite understandings; the mountain will never fall before us, but we can seek strength to rise higher and higher in our perception of divine things, and in this way only may we hope to obtain the blessing.

          Now, I shall have two things to notice to-night. I have explained this text to mean just what it says, and I do not want it to be altered—” Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” To take off the edge of this terrible doctrine that makes real some people bite their lips so, I must just notice that this is a fact;and, after that, I shall try to answer the question,—Why was it that God loved Jacob and hated Esau?

      I. First, then, THIS IS FACT. Men say they do not like the doctrine of election. Verily, I do not want them to; but is it not a fact that God has elected some? Ask an Arminian brother about election, and at once his eye turns fiercely upon you, and he begins to get angry, he can’t bear it; it is a horrible thing, like a war-cry to him, and he begins to sharpen the knife of controversy at once. But say to him, “Ah, brother! was it not divine grace that made you to differ? Was it not the Lord who called you out of your natural state, and made you what you are? “Oh, yes,” he says,” “I quite agree with you there.” Now, put this question to him: “What do you think is the reason why one man has been converted, and not another?” “Oh,” he says, “the Spirit of God has been at work in this man.” Well, then, my brother, the fact is, that God does treat one man better than another; and is there anything wonderful in this fact? It is a fact we recognize every day. There is a man up in the gallery there, that work as hard as he likes, he cannot earn more than fifteen shillings a week; and here is another man that gets a thousand a year; what is the reason of this? One is born in the palaces of kings, while another draws his first breath in a roofless hovel What is the reason of this? God’s providence. He puts one man in one position, and another man in another. Here is a man whose head cannot hold two thoughts together, do what you will with him; here is another who can sit down and write a book, and dive into the deepest of questions; what is the reason of it? God has done it. Do you not see the fact, that God does not treat every man alike? He has made some eagles, and some worms; some he has made lions, and some creeping lizards; he has made some men kings, and some are born beggars. Some are born with gigantic minds and some verge on the idiot. Why is this? Do you murmur at God for it? No, you say it is a fact, and there is no good in murmuring. What is the use of kicking against facts? It is only kicking against the pricks with naked feet, and you hurt yourself and not them. Well, then, election is a positive fact; it is as clear as daylight, that God does, in matters of religion, give to one man more than to another. He gives to me opportunities of hearing the word, which he does nor give to the Hottentot. He gives to me, parents who, from infancy, trained me in the fear of the Lord. He does not give that to many of you. He places me afterwards in situations where I am restrained from sin. Other men are cast into places where their sinful passions are developed. He gives, to one man a temper and disposition which keeps him back from some lust, and to another man he gives such impetuosity of spirit, and depravity turns that impetuosity so much aside, that the man runs headlong into sin. Again, he brings one man under the sound of a powerful ministry, while another sits and listens to a preacher whose drowsiness is only exceeded by that of his hearers. And even when they are hearing the gospel, the fact is God works in one heart when be does not in another.

      Though, I believe to a degree, the Spirit works in the hearts of all who hear the Word, so that they are all without excuse, yet I am sure he works in some so powerfully, that they can no longer resist him, but are constrained by his grace to cast themselves at his feet, and confess him Lord of all; while others resist the grace that comes into their hearts; and it does not act with the same irresistible force that it does in the other case, and they perish in their sins, deservedly and justly condemned. Are not these things facts? Does any man deny them? can any man deny them? What is the use of kicking against facts? I always like to know when there is a discussion, what is the fact. You have heard the story of King Charles the Second and the philosophers—King Charles asked one of them, “What is the reason why, if you had a pail of water, and weighed it, and then put a fish into it, that the weight would be the same?” They gave a great many elaborate reasons for this. At last one of them said, “Is it the fact?” And then they found out that the water did weigh more, just as much more as the fish put into it. So all their learned arguments fell to the ground. So, when we are talking about election, the best thing is to say, “Put aside the doctrine for a moment, let us see what is the fact?” We walk abroad; we open our eyes; we see, there is the fact. What, then, is the use of our discussing any longer? We had better believe it, since it is an undeniable truth. You may alter an opinion, but you cannot alter a fact. You may change a mere doctrine, but you cannot possibly change a thing which actually exists. There it is—God does certainly deal with some men better than he does with others. I will not offer an apology for God; he can explain his own dealings; he needs no defence from me,


      “God is his own interpreter,
      And he will make it plain;”
      but there stands the fact. Before you begin to argue upon the doctrine, just recollect, that whatever you may think about it, you cannot alter it; and however much you may object to it, it is actually true that God did love Jacob, and did not love Esau.

          For now look at Jacob’s life and read his history; you are compelled to say that, from the first hour that he left his father’s house, even to the last, God loved him. Why, he has not gone far from his father’s house before he is weary, and he lies down with a stone for his pillow, and the hedges for his curtain, and the sky for his canopy; and he goes to sleep, and God comes and talks to him in his sleep; he sees a ladder, whereof the top reaches to heaven, and a company of angels ascending and descending upon it; and he goes on his journey to Laban. Laban tries to cheat him, and as often as Laban tries to wrong him, God suffers it not, but multiplies the different cattle that Laban gives him. Afterwards, you remember, when he fled unawares from Laban, and was pursued, that God appears to Laban in a dream, and charges him not to speak to Jacob either good or bad. And more memorable still, when his sons Levi and Simeon have committed murder in Shethem, and Jacob is afraid that he will be overtaken and destroyed by the inhabitants who were rising against him, God puts a fear upon the the people, and says to them, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophet no harm.” And when a famine comes over the land, God has sent Joseph into Egypt, to provide corn in Goshen for his brethren, that they should live and not die. And see the happy end of Jacob—” I shall see my son Joseph before I die.” Behold the tears streaming down his aged cheeks, as he clasps his own Joseph to his bosom! See how magnificently he goes into the presence of Pharaoh, and blesses him. It is said, “Jacob blessed Pharoah.” He had God’s love so much in him, that he was free to bless the mightiest monarch of his times. At last he gave up the ghost, and it was said at once, “This was a man that God loved.” There is the fact that God did love Jacob.

          On the other hand, there is the fact that God did not love Esau. He permitted Esau to become the father of princes, but he has not blessed his generation. Where is the house of Esau now? Edom has perished. She built her chambers in the rock, and cut out her cities in the flinty rock; but God has abandoned the inhabitants thereof, and Edom is not to be found. They became the bond-slaves of Israel; and the kings of Edom had to furnish a yearly tribute of wool to Solomon and his successors; and now the name of Esau is erased from the book of history. Now, then, I must say, again, this ought to take off at least some of the bitterness of controversy, when we recollect that it is the fact, let men say what they will, that God did love Jacob, and he did not love Esau.

          II. But now the second point of my subject is, WHY IS THIS? Why did God love Jacob? why did he hate Esau? Now, I am not going to undertake too much at once. You say to me, “Why did God love Jacob? and why did he hate Esau?” We will take one question at a time; for the reason why some people get into a muddle in theology is, because they try to give an answer to two questions. Now, I shall not do that; I will tell you one thing at a time. I will tell you why God loved Jacob; and, then, I will tell you why he hated Esau. But I cannot give you the same reason for two contradictory things. That is wherein a great many have failed. They have sat down and seen these facts, that God loved Jacob and hated Esau, that God has an elect people, and that there are others who are not elect. If, then, they try to give the same reason for election and non-election, they make sad work of it. If they will pause and take one thing at a time, and look to God’s Word, they will not go wrong.

          The first question is, why did God love Jacob? I am not at all puzzled to answer this, because when I turn to the Word of God, I read this text;—”Not for your sakes, do I this saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways O house of Israel.” I am not at a loss to tell you that it could not be for any good thing in Jacob, that God loved him, because I am told that “the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth.” I can tell you the reason why God loved Jacob; It is sovereign grace. There was nothing in Jacob that could make God love him; there was everything about him, that might have made God hate him, as much as he did Esau, and a great deal more. But it was because God was infinitely gracious, that he loved Jacob, and because he was sovereign in his dispensation of this grace, that he chose Jacob as the object of that love. Now, I am not going to deal with Esau, until I have answered the question on the side of Jacob. I want just to notice this, that Jacob was loved of God, simply on the footing of free grace. For, come now, let us look at Jacob’s character; I have already said in the exposition, what I think of him. I do think the very smallest things of Jacob’s character. As a natural man, he was always a bargain-maker.

          I was struck the other day with that vision that Jacob had at Bethel: it seemed to me a most extraordinary development of Jacob’s bargain-making spirit. You know he lay down, and God was pleased to open the doors of heaven to him, so that he saw God sitting at the top of the ladder, and the angels ascending and descending upon it. What do you suppose he said as soon as he awoke? Well, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Why, if Jacob had had faith, he would not have been afraid of God: on the contrary, he would have rejoiced that God had thus permitted him to hold fellowship with him. Now, hear Jacob’s bargain. God had simply said to him, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed.” He did not say anything about what Jacob was to do: God only said, I will do it,—”Behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Now, can you believe, that after God had spoken face to face with Jacob, that he would have had the impudence to try and make a bargain with God? But he did. He begins and says, “If—” There now, the man has had a vision, and an absolute promise from God, and yet he begins with an “If.” That is bargain-making with a vengeance! “If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my Father’s house in peace, then“—not without—mark, he is going to hold God to his bargain—”then shall, the Lord be my God: and this stone which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” I marvel at this! If I did not know something about my own nature, I should be utterly unable to understand it. What! a man that has talked with God, then begin to make a bargain with him! that has seen the only way of access between heaven and earth, the ladder Christ Jesus, and has had a covenant made between himself and God, a covenant that is all on God’s part—all a promise—and yet wants after that to hold God to the bargain: as if he were afraid God would break his promise! Oh! this was vile indeed!

          Then notice his whole life. While he lived with Laban, what miserable work it was. He had got into the hands of a man of the world; and whenever a covetous Christian gets into such company, a terrible scene ensues! There are the two together, greedy and grasping. If an angel could look down upon them, how would he weep to see the man of God fallen from his high place, and become as bad as the other. Then, the device that Jacob used, when he endeavoured to get his wages was most extraordinary. Why did he not leave it to God, instead of adopting such systems as that? The whole way through we are ashamed of Jacob; we cannot help it. And then, there is that grand period in his life, the turning point, when we are told, that “Jacob wrestled with God, and prevailed.” We will look at that—I have carefully studied the subject, and I do not think so much of him as I did. I thought Jacob wrestled with God, but I find it is the contrary; he did not wrestle with God; God wrestled with him. I had always set Jacob up, in my mind, as the very model of a man wrestling in prayer; I do not think so now. He divided his family, and put a person in front to appease Esau. He did not go in front himself, with the holy trust that a patriarch should have felt; guarded with all the omnipotence of heaven, he might boldly have gone to meet his brother, but no! he did not feel certain that the latter would bow at his feet, although the promise said, “The elder shall serve the younger.” He did not rest on that promise; it was not big enough for him. Then he went at night to the brook Jabbok. I do not know what for, unless he went to pray; but I am afraid it was not so. The text says, “And Jacob was left alone: and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” There is a great deal of difference between a man wrestling with me, and my wrestling with him. When I strive with anyone, I want to gain something from him, and when a man wrestles with me, he wants to get something out of me. Therefore, I take it, when the man wrestled with Jacob, he wanted to get his cunning and deceit out of him, and prove what a poor sinful creature he was, but he could not do it. Jacob’s craft was so strong, that he could not be overcome; at last, the angel touched his thigh, and showed him his own hollowness. And Jacob turned round and said, “Thou hast taken away my strength, now I will wrestle with thee;” and when his thigh was out of joint, when he fully felt his own weakness, then, and not till then, is he brought to say, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” He had had fall confidence in his own strength, but God at last humbled him, and when all his boasted power was gone, then it was that Jacob became a prevailing prince. But, even after that, his life is not clear. Then you find him an unbelieving creature; and we have all been as bad. Though we are blaming Jacob, brethren, we blame ourselves. We are hard with him, but we shall be harder with ourselves. Do you not remember the memorable speech of the patriarch, when he said, “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me?” Ah, Jacob, why cannot you believe the promise? All other promises have been fulfilled. But no! he could not think of the promise; he was always wanting to live by sight.

      Now, I say if the character of Jacob, be as I have described it, and I am sure it is—we have got it in God’s word—there was, there could have been nothing in Jacob, that made God love him; and the only reason why God loved him, must have been because of his own grace, because “he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.” And rest assured, the only reason why any of us can hope to be saved is this, the sovereign grace of God. There is no reason why I should be saved, or why you should be saved, but God’s own merciful heart, and God’s own omnipotent will. Now that is the doctrine; it is taught not only in this passage, but in multitudes of other passages of God’s Word. Dear friends, receive it, hold fast by it, and never let it go.

          Now, the next question is a different one: Why did God hate Esau? I am not going to mix this question up with the other, they are entirely distinct, and I intend to keep them so, one answer will not do for two questions, they must be taken separately, and then can be answered satisfactorily. Why does God hate any man? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly—it is the same thing—created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. You are quite right when you say the reason why God loves a man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. If God deals with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all he gets. In hell there will not be a solitary soul that will say to God, O Lord, thou hast treated me worse than I deserve! But every lost spirit will be made to feel that he has got his deserts, that his destruction lies at his own door and not at the door of God; that God had nothing to do with his condemnation, except as the Judge condemns the criminal, but that he himself brought damnation upon his own head, as the result of his own evil works. Justice is that which damns a man; it is mercy, it is free grace, that saves; sovereignty holds the scale of love; it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty? That were to libel God and to dishonour him;

          Now, let us look at Esau’s character, says one, “did he deserve that God should cast him away?” I answer, he did. What we know of Esau’s character, clearly proves it. Esau lost his birthright. Do not sit down and weep about that, and blame God. Esau sold it himself; he sold it for a mess of pottage. Oh, Esau, it is in vain for thee to say, “I lost my birthright by decree.” No, no. Jacob got it by decree, but you lost it because you sold it yourself—didn’t you? Was it not your own bargain? Did you not take the mess of red pottage of your own voluntary will, in lieu of the birthright? Your destruction lies at your own door, because you sold your own soul at your own bargain, and you did it yourself. Did God influence Esau to do that? God forbid, God is not the author of sin. Esau voluntarily gave up his own birthright. And the doctrine is, that every man who loses heaven gives it up himself. Every man who loses everlasting life rejects it himself. God denies it not to him—he will not come that he may have life. Why is it that a man remains ungodly and does not fear God? It is because he says, “I like this drink, I like this pleasure, I like this sabbath-breaking, better than I do the things of God.” No man is saved by his own free-will, but every man is damned by it that is damned. He does it of his own will; no one constrains him. You know, sinner, that when you go away from here, and put down the cries of conscience, that you do it yourself. You know that, when after a sermon you say, “I do not care about believing in Christ,” you say it yourself—You are quite conscious of it, and if not conscious of it, it is notwithstanding a dreadful fact, that the reason why you are what you are, is because you will to be what you are. It is your own will that keeps you where you are, the blame lies at your own door, your being still in a state of sin is voluntary. You are a captive, but you are a voluntary captive. You will never be willing to get free until God makes you willing. But you are willing to be a bond slave. There is no disguising the fact, that man loves sin, loves evil, and does not love God. You know, though heaven is preached to you through the blood of Christ, and though hell is threatened to you as the result of your sins, that still you cleave to your iniquities; you will not leave them, and will not fly to Christ. And when you are cast away, at last it will be said of you, “you have lost your birthright.” But you sold it yourself. You know that the ball-room suits you better than the house of God: you know that the pot-house suits you better than the prayer-meeting; you know you trust yourself rather than trust Christ; you know you prefer the joys of the resent time to the joys of the future. It is your own choice—keep it Your damnation is your own election, not God’s; you richly deserve it.

          But, says one, “Esau repented.” Yes, he did, but what sort of a repentance was it? Did you ever notice his repentance? Every man who repents and believes will be saved. But what sort of a repentance was his? As soon as he found that his brother had got the birthright, he sought it again with repentance, he sought it with tears, but he did not get it back. You know he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage; and he thought he would buy it back by giving his father a mess of pottage. “There,” he says, “I will go and hunt venison for my father. I have got over him with my savoury meat, and he will readily give me my birthright again.” That is what sinners say: “I have lost heaven by my evil works: I will easily get it again by reforming. Did I not lose it by sin? I will get it back by giving up my sins.” “I have been a drunkard,” says one, “I will give up drinking, and I will now be a teetotaller.” Another says, “I have been an awful swearer; I am very sorry for it, indeed; I will not swear any more.” So all he gives to his father is a mess of pottage, the same as that for which he sold it. No, sinner, you may sell heaven for a few carnal pleasures, but you cannot buy heaven by merely giving them up. You can get heaven only on another ground, viz., the ground of free-grace. You lose your soul justly, but you cannot get it back by good works, or by the renunciation of your sins.

          You think that Esau was a sincere penitent. Just let me tell you another thing. This blessed penitent, when he failed to get the blessing, what did he say? “The days of mourning for my father are at hand: then will I slay my brother Jacob.” There is a penitent for you. That is not the repentance that comes from God the Holy Spirit. But there are some men like that. They say they are very sorry they should have been such sinners as that, very sorry that they should have been brought into such a sad condition as that; and then they go and do the same that they did before. Their penitence does not bring them out of their sin, but it leaves them in it, and, perhaps, plunges them still deeper into guilt.

      Now, look at the character of Esau. The only redeeming trait in it was that he did begin with repentance, but that repentance was even an aggravation of his sin, because it was without the effects of evangelical repentance. And I say, if Esau sold his birthright he did deserve to lose it; and, therefore, am I not right in saying, that if God hated Esau, it was because he deserved to be hated. Do you observe how Scripture always guards this conclusion? Turn to the ninth chapter of Romans, where we have selected our text, see how careful the Holy Spirit is here, in the 22nd verse. “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore preparded unto glory.” But it does not say anything about fitting men for destruction; they fitted themselves. They did that: God had nothing to do with it. But when men are saved, God fits them for that. All the glory to God in salvation; all the blame to men in damnation.

          If any of you want to know what I preach every day, and any stranger should say, “Give me a summary of his doctrine,” say this, “He preaches salvation all of grace, and damnation all of sin. He gives God all the glory for every soul that is saved, but he won’t have it that God is to blame for any man that is damned.” That teaching I cannot understand. My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man’s soul at God’s door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that. I delight to preach this blessed truth—salvation of God, from first to last—the Alpha and the Omega; but when I come to preach damnation, I say, damnation of man, not of God; and if you perish, at your own hands must your blood be required. There is another passage. At the last great day, when all the world shall come before Jesus to be judged, have you noticed, when the righteous go on the right side, Jesus says, “Come, ye blessed of my father,”—(“of my father,” mark,)—”inherit the kingdom prepared”—(mark the next word)—”for you, from before the foundation of the world.”

      What does he say to those on the left? “Depart, ye cursed.” He does not say, “ye cursed of my father, but, ye cursed. “And what else does he say?” into everlasting fire, prepared”—(not for you, but)—”for the devil and his angels.” Do you see how it is guarded, here is the salvation side of the question. It is all of God. “Come, ye blessed of my father.” It is a kingdom prepared for them. There you have election, free grace in all its length and breadth. But, on the other hand, you have nothing said about the father—nothing about that at all. “Depart, ye cursed.” Even the flames are said not to be prepared for sinners, but for the devil and his angels. There is no language that I can possibly conceive that could more forcibly express this idea, supposing it to be the mind of the Holy Spirit, that the glory should be to God, and that the blame should be laid at man’s door.

          Now, have I not answered these two questions honestly? I have endeavoured to give a scriptural reason for the dealings of God with man. He saves man by grace, and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault. “How,” says some one, “do you reconcile these two doctrines?” My dear brethren, I never reconcile two friends, never. These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God’s Word, and I shall not attempt to reconcile them. If you show me that they are enemies, then I will reconcile them. “But,” says one, “there is a great deal of difficulty about them.” Will you tell me what truth there is that has not difficulty about it? “But,” he says, “I do not see it.” Well, I do not ask you to see it; I ask you to believe it. There are many things in God’s Word that are difficult, and that I cannot see, but they are there, and I believe them. I cannot see how God can be omnipotent and man be free; but it is so, and I believe it. “Well,” says one, “I cannot understand it. My answer is, I am bound to make it as plain as I can, but if you have not any understanding, I cannot give you any; there I must leave it. But then, again, it is not a matter of understanding; it is a matter of faith. These two things are true; I do not see that they at all differ. However, if they did, I should say, if they appear to contradict one another, they do not really do so, because God never contradicts himself. And I should think in this I exhibited the power of my faith in God, that I could believe him, even when his word seemed to be contradictory. That is faith. Did not Abraham believe in God even when God’s promise seemed to contradict his providence? Abraham was old, and Sarah was old, but God said Sarah should have a child. How can that be? said Abraham, for Sarah is old; and yet Abraham believed the promise, and Sarah had a son. There was a reconciliation between providence and promise; and if God can bring providence and promise together, he can bring doctrine and promise together. If I cannot do it, God can even in the world to come.

          Now, let me just practically preach this for one minute. Oh, sinners, if ye perish, on your own head must be your doom. Conscience tells you this, and the Word of God confirms it. You shall not be able to lay your condemnation at any man’s door but your own. If you perish you perish by suicide. You are your own destroyers, because you reject Christ, because you despise the birthright and sell it for that miserable mess of pottage—the pleasures of the world. It is a doctrine that thrills through me. Like a two-edged sword, I would make it pierce to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. If you are damned it shall be your own fault. If you are found in hell, your blood shall be on your own head. You shall bring the faggots to your own burning; you shall dig the iron for your own chains; and on your own head will be your doom. But if you are saved, it cannot be by your merits, it must be by grace—free, sovereign grace. The gospel is preached to you; it is this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

      May grace now be given to you to bring you to yield to this glorious command. May you now believe in him who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Free grace, who shall tell thy glories? who shall narrate thy achievements, or write thy victories? Thou hast carried the cunning Jacob into glory, and made him white as the angels of heaven, and thou shalt carry many a black sinner there also, and make him glorious as the glorified. May God prove this doctrine to be true in your own experience! If there still remains any difficulty upon your minds about any of these points, search the Word of God, and seek the illumination of his Spirit to teach you. But recollect after all, these are not the most important points in Scripture. That which concerns you most, is to know whether you have an interest in the blood of Christ? whether you really believe in the Lord Jesus. I have only touched upon these, because they cause a great many people a world of trouble, and I thought I might be the means of helping some of you to tread upon the neck of the dragon. May God grant that it may be so for Christ’s sake.

    • Romans 9:13-33

      13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

      14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

      15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

      16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

      17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

      18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

      19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

      20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

      21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

      22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

      23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

      24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

      25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

      26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

      27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

      28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

      29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

      30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

      31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

      32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

      33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

    • A Mess of Pottage

      William MacDonald

      “Esau … for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Hebrews 12:16

      It is often possible to barter life’s best values for a momentary gratification of physical appetite.

      That is what Esau did. He had come in from the field tired and hungry. At that moment Jacob was cooking a pot of red bean soup. When Esau asked for a bowl of the “red stuff,” Jacob said, in effect, “Sure, I’ll give you some if you’ll sell me your birthright in return.”

      Now the birthright was a valuable privilege which belonged to the oldest son in a family. It was valuable because it gave him the place of eventual headship in the family or tribe and entitled him to a double portion of the inheritance.

      But at that moment, Esau considered the birthright worthless. What good is a birthright, he thought, to a man who is as famished as I? His hunger seemed so overpowering that he was willing to give almost anything to satisfy it. In order to pacify a momentary appetite, he was willing to surrender something that was of enduring value. And so he made the awful bargain!

      A similar drama is being reenacted almost daily. Here is a man who has maintained a good testimony for years. He has the love of a fine family and the respect of his Christian fellowship. When he speaks, his words carry spiritual authority, and his service has the blessing of God upon it. He is a model believer.

      But then comes the moment of fierce passion. It seems as if he is being consumed by the fires of sexual temptation. All of a sudden nothing seems so important as the satisfaction of this physical drive. He abandons the power of rational thought. He is willing to sacrifice everything for this illicit alliance.

      And so he takes the insane plunge! For that moment of passion, he exchanges the honor of God, his own testimony, the esteem of his family, the respect of his friends and the power of a sterling Christian character. Or as Alexander Maclaren said, “He forgets his longings after righteousness; flings away the joys of divine communion; darkens his soul; ends his prosperity; brings down upon his head for all his remaining years a cataract of calamities; and makes his name and his religion a target for the barbed sarcasms of each succeeding generation of scoffers.”

      In the classic words of Scripture, he sells his birthright for a mess of pottage.


  2. People tend to forget, YHVH (GOD) knew us in the womb, before our parts were formed, and also knew through -His foreknowledge who would respond to Him, His love, His mercy, who would be very -aware of their shortcomings and need for grace, and thus would respond accordingly. I would have to say that yes, Yeshua according to John 3:16 came into the world in obedience to the Father, to provide the means by His sacrifice, and resurrection, by which all could be redeemed, but NOT ALL seek to be redeemed. Esau fell into this category.

    • God’s love for Jacob and hatred for Esau are according to His eternal purpose, not according to their works. “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works, but by Him who calls . . . Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy!” Romans 9:11-16

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