By Lisa Huddleston
What I propose to write today may be heresy. I hope that it is not, but I am no longer as sure of my beliefs as I once was. Please, forgive me if what I say offends or angers. That is not my intention. Rather what I hope is to bridge division—at least across a few of the chasms that lie in my own mind.
Lately I have been pondering the purposes of God, and wondering if our actions as American Christians have much of anything at all in common with them. We live in an “us” and “them” world. We boycott them and they boycott us. We call them names and they call us names. We say we are right and they say they are.
For some unknown reason, I woke up last night thinking about Esau and Jacob. Specifically that terrible verse in Romans 9 where God is quoted (correctly) as saying, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” I just can’t stand it. I remember arguing to the point of tears with a fellow grad student over this one. I kept saying, “I know what it says, but I just can’t help feeling how terrible it is. I mean how would you feel if God told your wife a similar message concerning your kids?” I mean who wants to hear this?
I really believe it probably had a lot to do with their mother’s preferential treatment of Jacob—self-fulfilling prophesy, you know. But anyway—mom and dad aside—does God really play favorites that way? Does He pick a side and call it “us” and another side to call “them”? Come on—surely not.
So I couldn’t sleep. Instead I started writing on my phone as I lay in bed my poor husband peacefully breathing in heavy sleep beside me. I just couldn’t let it go—I am not a chosen person anymore than the next guy. I am nothing special.
Then I remembered something my pastor said a couple of weeks ago about God giving us more of what we have a desire for. You know, if you desire more faith He gives it to you. If you have a hard and rebellious heart, He makes you even harder and more rebellious in your nature. Could it be that these two concepts had an intersection?
In utero Jacob was grasping for glory. He hung on for dear life to his brother’s heel and never let go of his pursuit for the blessing of the firstborn. Later, he fought all night with the Angel of the Lord and refused to let go until God blessed him. Jacob was voracious in his pursuit and God saw his heart. But he was a sneak, a liar, and a conniver.
Esau sold his birthright for a cup o’ soup. Incredible! His primary concern was feeding his stomach so he “despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34) and God let him do what he would. It wasn’t until Jacob took their father’s final blessing away from him, that Esau finally valued what had been his. And Esau hated Jacob.
Isaac and Esau against Rebekah and Jacob. Them and us. Us and them. Divided before they were even born. An obvious choice of sides to those of us who read the story. God chose Jacob and loved him. Esau God hated and so do we. We are definitely Team Jacob. Definitely.
But did God hate Esau for good? Maybe for “good” but for keeps? We know Daddy Isaac loved him. “The smell of my son [Esau] is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!” (Gen. 27:26). That wasn’t a new smell given to Jacob to fool his dad—it was Esau’s daily aroma of blessing.
And when Esau met his brother Jacob upon Jacob’s return to the land, doesn’t it appear as though Esau was blessed? Esau showed up with 400 men following him, and when Jacob, shaking in his sandals, tried to give him peace offerings Esau “ran to meet [Jacob] and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Gen. 33:4). Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” To which Jacob replied, “I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.”
Doesn’t Esau appear to be blessed? After all, Jacob had truly seen the face of God (Gen. 32:30) so he knew what he was referring to in the face of his brother. Esau was a new man and Jacob begged him to “accept [his] blessing.”
God is good. He reconciled what many would see as irreconcilable. God appears to love both Jacob and Esau if we can judge by the end of the story.
And that is what I pray for. That the end of this story will heal all wounds, will breach all gulfs, will mend all fractures. No longer will there be an us and a them. We will all be united under His banner of love. Amen.