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Reflections on Romans 9:10-13 (Fri)

In case you’re wondering what these daily “Reflections” are all about, check out my explanation here: Join Me For Breakfast
Also, check out Pastor Bob’s blog at www.bobwestfall.com.

click here for the Net Bible link to today’s passage

Well today we get to look at one of the most controversial, difficult passages in the whole Bible. Part of me just wants to take today off and pretend verse 13 doesn’t exist.

I should probaby begin my post with the disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff, elders, or members of New Covenant Bible Church, my family, my neighborhood, my children, etc….

As I begin, please note, that I’m not purporting to have any of this all figured out. I don’t speak as one who is declaring the answers you need to adopt, but i am going to raise honest questions in a hopefully, teachable spirit. Your input and feedback will be of great value to me.

The passage I’m talking about, of course, is at the end of verse 13, which says pointedly: “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” So we naturally ask: how can a God who “is love” and who “so loves the world” be said to hate? It would be convenient to say that it simply means “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin”, but I don’t see Paul giving us that option, since in verse in verse 11 he goes out of his way to say that His choice was made before they were born and had as of yet done nothing good or bad. Thanks a lot, Paul.

To keep consistant with the doctrine of “God is love,” almost everyone would interpret “hate” in this passage to mean “loved less” or “hated merely by comparison to his love for others.” I concede that there are other passages where this is the correct interpretation of “hate”–Luke 14:26 (hating our mother, father, and self) & Gen 29:31 (Leah was the hated wife) for example. But in this case even that view doesn’t really satisfy me. This common explanation still carries an implication that this God “of love” at least withholds love from some or that he loves some more than others.

I spent some time this morning looking in Malachi chapter 1, from which the “Esau I hated” passage is originally quoted. The context there seems to be that God hates Esau and his offspring, the Edomites. The verses following our Romans citation of “Esau I hated” are as follows: [God speaking] “I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert. If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called the wicked country, and the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.” (ESV, empasis mine). I read it to clearly state God hates Esau and his people. Am I missing something?

I admit, it seems unthinkable for a self-described God “of love” to be capable of hate. Yet, when I ponder this, the real wonder isn’t that God should hate people, the real wonder is that he doesn’t hate every one of us! Romans 5 taught us how we are all his enemies by our rebellion and self-reliance. The reality that God should reach down to rescue any one of us is the wonder of wonders! We’ve chosen to spit in His face and nail Him to the cross and nothing could be more fair than for all of us to suffer the eternal wrath of God and be subjects of his hate. That would be justice and no one would fault God for giving us what we deserve.

So it seems to me that somehow this God of love is capable of and is justified in hating people. To me it’s one of those mysteries of God that our human minds can’t fully comprehend. It seems that both are true: God loves and He hates. Who are we to say he can’t do both?

But some will say, but what about John 3:16. To me, both positions on the controversy are not as dissimilar as we might expect. Unless I’m missing something (and I’d love to be corrected), it seems our options are:

God so loved the people of the world, but in varying degrees: some more, some less
or
God so loved the world, generally speaking: some individuals being loved and others hated

The two options don’t seem that different to me.

Now I’m sure I’ve offended some, disappointed others, and made others want to burn me at the stake as a heretic (or at least take away my blog privileges!) So I’m going to stop now and let you teach me through your comments, which i look forward to considering.

Help bring clarity to this poor youth pastor’s limited thinking, please!

Thanks to those of you who have been posting your thoughts–it stretches my thinking.

If you have any insights, stories, or thoughts about today’s passage, please comment below! Thanks!

6 Comments

  1. Pastor Mark,
    these are hard verses! I have no idea how it is true that God hated one brother and loved the other and still is the God who loves us.I think that I will have to ask Him when I get to heaven because it is too hard to figure out here on earth .Sorry I can’t clear it up for you or anyone else who might want to know!

  2. I am so glad you had a disclaimer, Mark. 🙂

  3. Mark—I’m not disappointed, not offended, and no flogging of you, the blogger, allowed! Your comments are greatly appreciated on such a
    complex passage…it’s better for me to listen then to talk. It makes me reflect on Romans 1 & 2 and the wrath of God…it is real. And how many times in Revelation does it say “they did not repent” as God is
    pouring out His wrath? Romans 2:11 says, “For there is no partiality with God.” He is Just. It is often less vexing for me if I focus on who God is, His attributes….His Justice…His Sovereignty…His Righteousness and dig deeper here than to focus on Esau per se. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. May we never cheapen God’s grace. Sorry for my scattered thoughts, Mark.
    Diane T.

  4. Peter said that Paul wrote of the hard things….I think your right on Pastor Mark. There is a tension we have to deal with her. Psalm 5:5 Says that God hates all evil doers. Read Proverbs 2. That’s a pretty harsh chapter. It’s there. So what do we do about it? IMHO, I think there is a common love for the unbeliever and a fatherly love for the believer.
    I think today’s churches need to be very careful not emphasize one character trait of God’s of over another. We tend to focus on the love, mercy and grace(which are important!), but don’t give equal billing to the justice, wrath, rightous judge part of who he is. Maybe we’re to afraid of chasing away church goers? He is the Holy God of Isreal.
    Let me ask you and your readers a question. If we think of God as just Love, Mercy, Grace are we making a god up in our own minds and isn’t that a form of idoltry?
    I would really like to know what you think. I love God’s word!!!

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