By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed April 30, 1985)
How did God love or prefer Israel over Edom? The manner of Jacob’s preference is biblically declared. Paul writes, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of Circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:1,2).” Israel received a clear, complete body of revelation from heaven. Who would claim such a body of revelation is not to one’s advantage? Stephen spoke of such in Acts 7:38 when he said, “…and our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”
The Psalmist speaks clearly of how Jacob was preferred. “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD (Psalms 147: 19,20).” For those who prematurely affirm such actions were not proper for the sovereignty of heaven, let it be remembered Israel had to obey the revelation given to obtain righteousness. Amos 3:2 reads, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Furthermore, the completed revelation leaves no doubt that God is just and far more aware of justice than man’s development. God is far more capable than man to see the demands of justice are fulfilled. Therefore, be silent when you begin to question the justness of the creator and sustainer of man.
The manner of Jacob’s preference is documented in Romans 9:4. “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.” Israel had been adopted as a nation, no other nation had received the covenants, were eyewitnesses of the Sinai drama and had a sacrificial system so completely outlined from the heavens. Think what Israel had seen and heard, that others had not seen or heard (Hebrews 12: 18-21). The very glory of heaven dwelt among them in the tabernacle and the temple. See Exodus 20:22-24 and Deuteronomy 12:5. Recall the role of the ark and its meaning to Israel. “And she named the child Ichabod saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel for the ark of God is taken (1 Samuel 4:21,22).” Paul recalls the position of the nations prior to the new covenant. He wrote, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”
The manner of Jacob’s preference is documented in Romans 9:5. It reads, “Whose are the fathers and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” The lineage of Christ was of Jacob’s seed, as it came down from Abraham and Isaac. (The people of old often pondered the seed of Genesis 3:15). It was to be of Jacob and not of Esau. “Both were alike the seed of Abraham, but God chose to limit the blessings of Abraham’s covenant to his seed in the line of Jacob to the exclusion of his seed in the line of Esau, that is, He decreed the Christ should be born, not an Edomite, but an Israelite… (Spalding, p.300 ).” Hebrews 2:16 reads, “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” True, but we see how it was restricted to the line of Jacob and it was in this sense that Jacob was preferred.
Israel was the first to receive and therefore was first in line to receive more. Matthew 15:24 says, “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Mark 7:27 reads, “But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.” Luke 24:47 reads, “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Acts 2:5 reads, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” Read Acts 3:25,26. But let not the critic raise his voice, for it also says the first shall be last. “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Again, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen (Matthew 19:30; 20:16 ).”
The phrase Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated should now be more within our understanding. The Bible explains itself when permitted, so we have the teaching of heaven and not simply an explanation suitable for man’s theories. We must be ever cautious that man’s thoughts are not just hid in heaven’s words. The claim that Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated teaches the preference given was eternal life against eternal condemnation should not trouble us anymore. The conclusion that men are eternally predestinated to taste of heaven or hell on the mere sovereignty of God without any consideration of man’s response is not supported by Romans 9. We suggest such teaching be labeled the doctrine of man and leave it alone for the good of all.
The availability of the privileges were not an instant assurance of salvation. The reality of salvation then and now must grow out of a responsive faith to a thus saith the Lord. Paul’s words in Romans 3:9 proves the reality of this statement. “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” We constantly find Abraham’s salvation misunderstood in our day and presented as mental assent and mental assent alone. This is not true. “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:18 ).” Again, “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws (Genesis 26:5).” Don’t let anyone try to confuse the issue and say that is teaching salvation by works. Why? Because Paul says in Romans 3 and 4 it is not. People must face the issue that salvation by faith involves obedience. Grace has always and always will provide the way, when there is a way. The way given by favor does not remove the need for responsive faith. Bible faith is not presented as a replacement for obedience or an antithesis to obedience. Obedience is a part of that faith and faith is part of that obedience. Spalding writing in regards to Israel’s salvation said, “ … this could be secured only by a due improvement of those privileges (p.232 ).” A casual reading of the Bible discovers passage after passage that teaches the destiny of the Israelite was dependent on their faithfulness. It was not a mere matter of simply receiving the granted privilege of eternal life.
Psalms 95:11 reads, “Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” Reflect on the many examples of the Old Testament brought to our attention in the New Testament to warn of the result of failing to hear the testimony of God. Read 1 Corinthians10:5-12. John’s stern preaching emphasized this truth. Matthew 3:10 reads, “And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Jesus made clear Israel had not used her privileges well, so she faced drastic punishment. Matthew 24:21 reads, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” The immediate context of Matthew 24 is the destruction of Jerusalem and the fact of that destruction stands without controversy.
The fleshly seed of Israel was not in position for new privileges under the new covenant, except the gospel would first be preached unto them. Israel would be restored by faith in Christ. Yes, Israel was the first to hear and one can view the established church as the scriptural restoration of Israel. But these results grow out of the preparation and privileges of the old and are not the results of new privileges under the new covenant. The new is strictly universal in plea and adaptation.
Let us approach the subject briefly from Esau’s side. God was just in his dealings with Esau. Edom’s position was not favorable in the amount of revelation given or their being in the immediate lineage of the Messiah. But the fact remains they were not shut off from such knowledge nor were they totally ignorant of knowledge of the Lord. Their near kin had revelation from heaven and they could have easily availed themselves of it. But Edom treated Israel sorely time after time. Edom’s punishment related to their malicious treatment of Israel and disobedience to God. (to be continued… )