January 21.—Morning. [Or February 10.]
“He giveth not account of any of his matters.”
WE omit some of the minor details of the history as contained in Genesis, and pass on to the birth of Isaac’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Let us see how the New Testament explains the Old. We shall read
In this chapter the apostle illustrates the doctrine of election by the history of the households of Abraham and Isaac, in which the will of the Lord made differences irrespective of merit. Here he brings us into a great deep; but if we only wish to know what God reveals and no more, we may safely follow where Scripture leads. Election is not a fit subject for idle curiosity, neither is it to be passed over in neglect, for whatever is taught us in the Word is profitable for some gracious purpose.
1, 2, 3 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
Paul did not write as he did because he hated the nation to which he belonged. Far from it. He would have sacrificed everything for their good; and he felt almost ready to be cast away himself, if by such a fate he could have rescued the Jewish people. Passionate love speaks a language which must not be weighed in the balances of cold reasoning. View the words as the outburst of a loving heart, and they are clear enough. O that all Christians had a like love for perishing sinners.
4, 5 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Paul pauses to adore the Lord whom he loved. Let us bow our heads and worship also.
6, 7 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Here was a difference made according to the divine will. God has a right to dispense his favours as he pleases, and it is not for us either to censure his actions or ask an account of them.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebekah also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
God passed by Esau, and gave Jacob the covenant blessing. This is a fact to be believed, and not to be made a matter for human judgment. Who are we that we should summon Jehovah to our bar? God is righteous in all his ways. We find that Esau despised his birthright, and sold it for a mess of pottage, and so by his actions abundantly justified, as well as fulfilled, the purpose of God.
How it ought to humble us when we remember that we have no claims upon God. If he should leave us to go on in sin and perish, we have no right to complain, for we deserve it. How earnestly and humbly should we implore him to look upon us in mercy, and save us with his great salvation. “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out,” is the voice of Jesus, and whether we see it or not, it is quite consistent with the predestination taught in this chapter. The Lord has a chosen people, and yet his gospel is to be preached to every creature. Believe, but do not cavil. When we believe on the Lord Jesus, we are in the way to make our calling and election sure. Only by faith can we be assured that the Lord has called and chosen us.
’Tis not that I did choose thee,
For, Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse thee,
But thou hast chosen me:
Thou from the sin that stain’d me
Wash’d me and set me free,
And to this end ordain’d me,
That I should live to thee.
January 21.—Evening. [Or February 11.]
“Hold thou me up.”
HAVING read of the purpose of God concerning Esau and Jacob, we will now follow their history.
27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
Children of the same parents may differ greatly in disposition, in conduct, and in character. The sovereign grace of God creates grave distinctions when it begins to operate, and every year makes the differences more apparent. Esau was wild and Jacob gentle. The one was roving, unsteady, and proud, and the other domesticated, thoughtful, and sedate.
28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
This was bad on the part of both parents. Favouritism ought to be avoided, for nothing but discontent and ill feeling can come of it. Yet if Rebekah loved Jacob because of his quiet, pious disposition, she had good reason for it, which is more than can be said of Isaac’s love of the rough huntsman Esau, only because “he did eat of his venison.”
29 ¶ And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom (or Red).
31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright (This was unbrotherly and ungenerous of Jacob; the only good point about it is that he set a high value upon the birthright, and so showed his spiritual understanding. It is plain from this that Jacob’s salvation was due to the mercy of God, for his natural character was by no means commendable. The good points in him were of the Lord, the bargaining propensity was inherited from his mother’s family.)
32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
33, 34 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
He valued it so little that a sorry mess of lentiles could buy it of him. Surely it was the dearest dish of meat man ever bought, though we remember a little fruit which cost us more. Many a worldling barters his soul for the pleasures of an hour, crying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” In order to be rich, to indulge in pleasure, or to have their own way, men have thrown aside all hope of heaven. This is to exchange pearls for pebbles, realities for shams, lasting bliss for fleeting mirth. May those who are just growing up into life take warning from this sad act of Esau, and choose earnestly the good part which shall not be taken from them. The apostle turns Esau’s story to good account in.
LOOKING diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; (We are to watch lest any of us who profess to be children of God should, fall short of grace, like an arrow which does not quite reach the target. To fail to possess grace in the heart is a fatal thing.) lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Sin is a bitter root, and brings forth sorrow and shame.)
16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (It is a profane thing to compare the priceless blessing of God to a merely sensual enjoyment. It is an acted blasphemy.)
17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
The deed was done, the blessing had been given to Jacob, and Isaac could not withdraw it from him. If men sell their hope of heaven for the joys of earth they will in the world to come repent of their bargain, but there will be no repentance with God. He that is filthy must be filthy still.
Should I to gain the world’s applause,
Or to escape its harmless frown,
Refuse to countenance thy cause,
And make thy people’s lot my own;
I sell my birthright in that day,
And throw my precious soul away.
No! let the world cast out my name,
And vile account me if they will;
If to confess the Lord be shame,
I purpose to be viler still.
For thee, my God, I all resign,
Content if I can call thee mine.