Romans 9, Part 5
Dec 01, 2010
Being called (or "elected") by God has to do with callings and not salvation. When God "elects" someone, that person is given specific authority to accomplish the calling, as well as gifts of the Spirit to help him. The called one is supposed to use his authority and gifts to bless others in the name of Christ.
However, when men assumed that being chosen (in Romans 9) meant that God would save a few, but discard--and then torture--the rest of them, God was made to look like a veritable monster. This has discredited the teaching of God's sovereignty, because it was not possible to reconcile the goodness of God with such misuse of sovereign power.
The fact that God chose to work through Abraham and his seed to bless all nations of the earth was not an injustice to the nations. In fact, it was to bless them. In the end, the seed of Abraham are the sons of God, for whom all creation awaits eagerly, knowing that they too will be blessed through them. To say that God is only interested in the sons and will then discard creation would indeed be an injustice. But Paul has already established the divine plan in Romans 5 to save all mankind, and again in Romans 8 to bless creation through the sons.
If we keep this in mind, we will not have to wrestle with the sovereignty of God in Romans 9. There is, however, the matter of God seeming to hate Esau, which deserves further explanation. Romans 9:13 says,
(13) Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
This is quoted from Malachi 1:2 and 3. Will God save the man that He also hates?
To really comprehend this, one must know the full story of Jacob and Esau, which I have written in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright. Jacob was yet carnal while he was known as Jacob. Under those circumstances, he took advantage of Esau's hunger in order to obtain the Birthright (Gen. 25:30-34). A factor that is often missed is that this "sale" was done apart from the will of their father, Isaac. It really was not Esau's to sell, but for Isaac to give.
This brings up the difference between sovereignty and authority. Man has been given authority, but God still retains His sovereignty. Likewise, in that sense, Esau may have had authority to sell his Birthright, but one cannot dismiss Isaac's sovereignty over Esau's authority. When sovereignty and authority conflict, authority often wins a temporary victory; but the word of the sovereign has veto power and therefore is the ultimate winner.
Thus, in Genesis 27 Isaac intended to bless Esau, rather than Jacob. No doubt Isaac had heard of the earlier "sale," but he chose to annul it. Though the Law had not yet been given by Moses, many of the laws of God were known earlier. One of those laws is found in Deut. 21:15-17. It is the Law of the Hated Son. A father is forbidden to deny the first-born son the Birthright, even if he "hates" him.
In other words, the hated first-born son has rights under God, and he cannot be disinherited unless he has proven himself to be unworthy. Reuben, for instance, was the first-born of Jacob, but he defiled his father's bed and was stripped of the Birthright (1 Chron. 5:1). But when Isaac was ready to pass down the blessing, Esau had not had time to prove himself unworthy. His character was carnal, of course, but he had not been given sufficient time in the eyes of God and the Law.
So Isaac intended to bless Esau. Jacob's mother heard about it and convinced Jacob to deceive his father by pretending to be Esau. No doubt both of them justified their lies on the grounds of the prophecy given before the children had been born. So Jacob sinned against both Isaac and Esau in the attempt to fulfill the prophecy by the flesh. Jacob still did not understand the sovereignty of God, nor had his name been changed to Israel.
Isaac could not take back the blessing once it was given to Jacob; but he knew that this sin would have to be corrected at some point in the future. So he prophesied to Esau in Gen. 27:40, "When thou rulest, that thou hast broken his yoke from off thy neck" (Young's Literal Translation).
In other words, Esau would obtain the Scepter, which was (at that time) still a part of the Birthright. At some point in history, Jacob would have to give up the Birthright and give it back to Esau, so that Esau would have ample time to prove himself unworthy. Only then could the Birthright be taken from Esau in a lawful manner.
God legislated the Law of the Hated Son in part to protect Esau's rights as the hated son. That is why Malachi 1:3 and Romans 9:13 tell us that God hated Esau. This was not an injustice to Esau. It was to do justice to Esau and to protect his rights.
Esau's descendants were known as Edom (Gen. 36:1) and later by the Greek form, Idumea (Ez. 36:5). History tells us that they were conquered and absorbed into the Jewish nation in 126 B.C. The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that the Judean army "subdued all the Idumeans, and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would be circumcised and make use of the laws of the Jews . . . at which time therefore, this befell them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews" (Antiquities, XIII, ix, 1).
The Jewish Encyclopedia confirms this in its section on Edom (1903 edition): "From this time the Idumeans ceased to be a separate people."
The Jewish nation is, therefore, fulfilling two sets of prophecies. First, they are fulfilling the fruitless fig tree of Judah that Jesus cursed (Matt. 21:19), which was destined to bring forth more "leaves" in the latter days (Matt. 24:32). In other words, the Jewish nation was destroyed in 70 A.D., but it would come back to life in order to prove once again that it could bear only leaves and no fruit. This was fulfilled in 1948 with the establishment of the modern Israeli state.
Secondly, that same nation is also fulfilling the prophecy to Esau-Edom, for their descendants are also represented in the Jewish state. Esau was given the Birthright in 1948 and took for themselves the Birthright name, Israel. They have held it until now, giving Esau's descendants ample time to prove their unworthiness on account of their bloodshed (Ez. 35:6) and violent manner of occupying the land of Palestine. To these Zionists, the Lord says in Ez. 36:5,
(5) Therefore, thus says the Lord God, "Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession with whole-hearted joy and with scorn of soul, to drive it out for a prey."
Rotherham renders the last part of the verse, "to make of its produce a prey." Gesenius' Lexicon defines the word prey, saying, "It is used of persons and cattle carried away in war." The word literally means spoil or robbery. This is the carnal and violent manner by which Edom takes the land and uses the Birthright. It is by war and conquest, rather than by spiritual warfare. Edom uses the Birthright as a stubborn and rebellious son, rather than as one reflecting the heart of the Father. There is a reason why the Law of the Rebellious Son follows the Law of the Hated Son. They go together as a warning to the first-born son.
The Jewish state, then, is fulfilling both sets of prophecies, and neither of them is good. There is a way, however, for them (or anyone) to get out from under the cursed fig tree as well as to escape the prophecies of Esau. It is by renouncing Esau and following Jesus Christ and identifying with the Christ-Identity within them, instead of the fleshly "I" that characterizes their Adamic "I."
This is the fifth part of a series titled "Romans 9." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones