Exploring the Bible / Faith / New Testament

Are we saying God is unfair? Romans 9:10-15

10 This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. 11 But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; 12 he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” 13 In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”

14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! 15 For God said to Moses,

“I will show mercy to anyone I choose,
    and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”

Romans 9:10-15

When I read this, I can’t help but feel bad for Esau. Verse 14 says that we aren’t calling God unfair but, I’m not sure, this seems unfair to me.

To please God, Esau needed to accept from birth a position of inferiority. His free will extended so far as to allow him to be bad or be good but, if he chose good, would he be able to say “God, use me for great things!” Or did God just know that great things for Esau was not as great as great things for Jacob?

There’s got to be something to this that my human mind just doesn’t understand because this seems to be the very definition of unfair. Jacob receiving advantage for no other reason than “because God said so.” I guess my human mind equates this with when my parents said “Because I said so” and I had to carry on whatever it was albeit begrudgingly.

So my human mind doesn’t understand this but the Apostle Paul, writing this, obviously did. Did Paul have some superhuman ability to understand worldly things on an unworldly level? If so, what was the benefit in having Paul write so many books of the Bible if his thinking and his writing were going to be far over the heads of those reading it for thousands of years to come?

If Esau was predestined to be a terrible jerk, what was the purpose of his existence at all? Surely, God could have made it so Jacob was not a twin. And if it was all part of God’s grand plan that he needed Esau to fulfill some dark purpose, does he really love Esau? What if Esau was like “Hey! I want to be good!”

When we’re living our lives, what if we feel like we’re Esau? Esau didn’t have a chance to decide to be a Jacob. It would be one thing if this were only in the Old Testament and we could say, “Well, the old law has passed away and now we all have the freedom to pick up our cross and follow Christ.” But this isn’t the Old Testament. This is Romans. This is Paul talking. This is Paul telling us that it wasn’t unfair for God to love Jacob and reject Esau before they even began to exercise their free will. This is Paul telling us that, without even an explanation of whether God knew how each boys personalities would be, that God can pick and choose who are his people with no regard for that person.

A lot of people will say this is intended to make us feel good that nothing we say or do can make God love us anymore or any less. But what if he starts out already loving us less like Esau?



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