“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” (Romans 9.14-15)
Paul is talking about Isaac and Esau. He describes the way God preordained Esau to serve Jacob although Esau was older. In the culture of the time the eldest son inherited the birthright. The birthright included many privileges and responsibilities including a place of higher status among the children. However, God said He was setting it up a different way for Isaac and Rebekah’s children. In fact, here Paul quotes Malachi who was referencing God’s words, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9.13 ESV; Malachi 1.2, 3)
While the idea of God hating anyone may be difficult for many to accept in today’s Christian culture, we must look at the Biblical facts listed here. In two books, one Old Testament and one in the New Testament, God says He loved Jacob and hated Esau. As difficult as that may be to swallow, Paul quotes Exodus 33.19 by saying, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Let us keep in mind that there is no injustice in God.
Some challenge this difficulty by saying Paul is using Esau and Jacob as figureheads for their offspring, not referencing them individually. There can be debate on that, but I prefer to take the text as it is written. The context does not lend itself to speak of groups of people, but to Jacob and Esau individually. Why would God have cause to hate Esau? If we look back at Genesis 25.34 (and the surrounding chapters to gain context), Esau “despised” his birthright. In despising the birthright Esau was not valuing his place before God. Jacob, on the other hand, valued it greatly. He did whatever it took to gain the birthright God promised him before he was born.
In His justices, God chose whom He would have mercy on. He had mercy on the one who valued Him in his life- Jacob. What, or whom, do we value? Will we strive for what God places emphasis on, or will we choose a way we prefer no matter what God’s call would be for us?