As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Why was it that God loved Jacob and hated Esau?
I. THIS IS A FACT. Ask an Arminian about election, and at once he begins to sharpen the knife of controversy. But say to him, "Ah, brother I 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." Well, then, why is it that one man has been converted, and not another? "Oh, the Spirit of God has been at work in this man," that God does treat one man better than another is not very wonderful. It is a fact we recognise every day. There is a man that, work as hard as he likes, he cannot earn more than fifteen shillings a week; and here is another that gets a thousand a year? One is born in a palace, while another draws his first breath in a hovel. Here is a man whose head cannot hold two thoughts together; here is another who can dive into the deepest of questions; what is the reason of it? God has done it. 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. Do you murmur at God for it? No. What is the use of kicking against facts? 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 not give to the Hottentot. He gives to me parents who 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. 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 He does not in another.
1. Look at Jacob's life. You are compelled to say that from the first hour that he left his father's house God loved him. Why, he has not gone far before he has the Bethel experience. Laban tries to cheat him and God suffers it not, but multiplies the cattle that Laban gives him. When he fled God charges Laban not to speak to Jacob either good or bad. When his sons had committed murder in Shechem, and Jacob is afraid that he will be destroyed, God puts a fear upon 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 for him and his brethren. And see the happy end of Jacob. It was that of "a man that God loved."
2. On the other hand, God did not love Esau. He permitted him to become the father of princes, but He had not blessed his generation. Where is the house of Esau now? Edom has perished.
II. WHY IS THIS?
1. Why did God love Jacob? There was nothing in Jacob that could make God love him, but much that might have made God hate him. it was because God was infinitely gracious, and because He was sovereign in His dispensation of this grace. Let us look at Jacob's character. As a natural man he was always a bargain-maker. Read what he says after the glorious experience and promise at Bethel (Genesis 28:20, 22). 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. The whole way through we are ashamed of Jacob; we cannot help it. Now, if the character of Jacob be all this there could have been nothing in him that made God love him, and the only reason why God loved him must have been because "He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy."
2. Why did God hate Esau? The two questions are entirely distinct, so one answer will not do for both. Why does God hate any man? 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, and for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. 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. Did Esau deserve that God should cast him away? Yes, what we know of Esau's character clearly proves it. Esau lost his birthright; but he sold it himself and for a mess of pottage. Oh, Esau, it is in vain for thee to say, "I lost my birthright by decree." God is not the author of sin. And the doctrine is that every man who loses heaven gives it up himself. God denies it not to him. He will not come that he may have life. But, says one, "Esau repented." Yes, but what sort of a repentance was it? As soon as he found that his brother had got the birthright he sought it again with tears, but he did not get it back. He sold it for a mess of pottage, and he thought he would buy it back by giving his father a mess of pottage. So sinners say, "I have lost heaven by my evil works; I will easily get it again by reforming." No, you may sell heaven for 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 think that Esau was a sincere penitent; but when he failed to get the blessing, what did he say? "I will slay my brother Jacob." That is not the repentance that comes from the Holy Spirit. But there are some men like that. They say they are very sorry and then they go and do the same that they did before. On this whole matter read ver. 22. Observe that God had nothing to do with fitting men for destruction. They do that. God only fits men for salvation. At the last day the righteous shall inherit the kingdom prepared for them; but the wicked shall go "into everlasting fire, prepared" — not for you but — "for the devil and his angels."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.