“And by thy sword shall thou live, and shall serve thy brother: and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that shalt break his yoke from off thy neck (Ge. 27:40).”
Here we can understand that Blessings of God carry responsibility. It is between God and Man. Blessings flow from the greater to the lesser. When you examine this still further what do we get? Predestination of God and free will of man.
Predestination is a characteristic of Power and Wisdom of God and it is not completely hidden from man. God had acquainted Abraham in broad strokes at the outset how that would be in his case. His seed shall sojourn in Egypt for long and He would bring them back with a mighty hand in his Time. Time is of essence.
Having blessed Jacob what might have been his, Isaac had for Esau some consolation that would occur only in case Israel failed to live up to the promises of God, This blessing,- a left-handed blessing, enlightens us to the above concepts.
Predestination is conditional. Patriarch Isaac had to know Him as his father did. For this reason after Abraham was buried by his sons, God appeared unto Isaac and told him ‘Go not down into Egypt..(Ge.26:2)’Interestingly enough God had let Abraham move to Egypt earlier in a similar circumstance ‘when there was a famine in the land’ (Ge.12:10). Consequently Isaac dwelt in Gerar in obedience to His commandment. Free will for a saint is to make sure the faith component is same. Obedience it is called. We have its perfect example in Jesus. He was God the Son. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name (Phi.2:8-9).” He had free will seeing all things were made by him and through him (Jn.1:3; Col.1:16). As Son of man he set an example. Predestination in his case is explained by the expression, ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Re.13:8)’. Using the same reply he gave John at the water baptism by Jordan ‘For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (Mt.3:15) He submitted himself from the foundation of the world to reveal righteousness of God in his form. Here we have obedience in its perfect form.
In denying free will some sects are hacking at the very doctrine of Atonement. Obedience of the Son made his sacrifice perfect.
“And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau,…and put them upon Jacob her younger son…(Ge.27:15-16) ”
Jacob coached by his mother approached Isaac his father, who blindly felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ Feeling somewhat uneasy Isaac asked for confirmation, ‘Art thou my very son, Esau? And he said, I am (Ge.27:22-24):’ It was deception plain and simple. Both mother and younger son played to win and when the time came to bless his son Isaac smelled the raiment and curiously enough he saw Esau before him. He said, “See the smell of my son is as the smell as the smell of a field which the Lord hath smelled (Ge.27-29).”
The same zeal that Jacob showed to supplant his elder brother in the womb we see in his blatant lie. He had totally assumed the persona of Esau, which is symbolized by his brother’s raiment. Significance of raiment is similar to the name. For example Jacob and Israel have different meanings. Perhaps the single redeeming feature in defense of their deception lay in the fact that Esau had repudiated his birth-right under oath.
The Spirit uses the garments with a purpose and we have quite a number of verses to understand its significance. There is no man justified by works nor who can be called righteous by his own merit (Ps.14:3; Ro.3:10-12). Instead God imputes His righteousness to man. Jacob had thus put on an identity. Likewise one puts on breastplate of righteousness (Ep.6:14) for example. By extension the metaphor of body is a tent that is set up and taken down with death. Here we have a verse of St Paul to this effect: “because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked (2 Cor.5:3,2,4-NIV).”
“We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee; and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us and thee …thou art now blessed of the Lord (26:28-29):”
Most of the chapter is taken up with narrative of God’s providence. God made Abraham believe as father of many nations by bringing him out to show the starry night sky. It was vivid as it was a practical lesson that Abraham could never have forgotten. Isaac growing in spiritual life had to go through a contentious period when his herdsmen were in conflict with the king’s herdsmen. Isaac came out a winner each time. Can not God make water spring out as in the Hagar episode in the wilderness of Beersheba? God stepped in as Witness and Nature made it happen. God deals with him in a manner different from his father. It also challenges us to question: what is the role of Nature to a child of God?
Nature is the manifestation of divine Power and Wisdom and as such the Spirit wherever employs Nature in the narrative, builds up a parallelism where we need to look beyond natural laws.
God witnessed what Isaac was before Abimelech the king of Gerar, as in the case of the Abraham in an earlier instance (Ge.20:3). The king recognizes God’s hand from success of the wells the herdsmen of Isaac dug up one after the other. Such physical proof revealed the glory of God was with whatever Isaac did. He consequently sued for peace saying, “We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee; and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us and thee …thou art now blessed of the Lord (26:28-29):”
Natural laws and divine laws run parallel so God’s sovereignty ensures Nature shall manifest His glory whenever it is called upon. This is palimpsestic memory of Nature.
Such memory establishes the blessing of God over the man regardless of his merit, and it works for the greater glory of God. Nature acknowledges the glory of God as His due. Let us consider an example to illustrate palimpsestic memory. The Children of Israel under the leading of Moses complained of not having water to drink. We have a commentary from St Paul and “and drank the same spiritual drink; for they (the children of Israel) drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ (1 Cor.10:4-NIV). We are examining the second instance when God commanded Moses to speak to the rock. But he smote it instead, therefore not honoring Him before Israel. The rock did as was in the earlier instance. The rock gushed forth since palimpsestic memory of the rock acknowledged what significance it held. It was the Spiritual rock that accompanied them. Christ was that rock.
Here is another instance? What was the miracle of the withered fig tree? It failed to recognize the Son of man was exempt from the curse of God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God he told Adam thus: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake (Ge,3:12)”. When Jesus approached the tree and found nothing thereon, but leaves only he cursed it and it was thus withered away directly.(Mt.21:19-20).
The goodness of man can only be deemed as true by faith. Faith however without works is dead. (Jas.2:20) As Apostle James explains Abraham was justified when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar.
True mystery of predestination is tied up with God and not with man. God is not unrighteous to ask the impossible. The example of Ezekiel illumines us of his Mind under the Old Testament. Similarly after the Son of man had perfected divine Will with his sacrifice, predestination for the Church works on the basis of faith in Christ Jesus.
When God appointed Prophet Ezekiel as his watchman he equipped him. As Abraham was in his eyes a prophet God empowered him in a practical way. He gave him a roll to eat indicating all that he had to say to the House of Israel was there. It was significant that God made him overseer of what he were to speak. Predestination for the entire nation was by a symbolic act , delivered to him. He was the watchman and a shepherd in a manner of speaking. “When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him a warning he shall die in his sin….but his blood will I require at thine hand (Ez.320-21)”.
“And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb…and the elder shall serve the younger (Ge.25:23).”
Nothing is hidden before God. What does the Psalmist say? “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret…and in thy book all my members were written…when as yet there was none of them (Ps.139:15-16).” Sum total of a person and his deeds make up his substance. It is an open book for the omnipotent God. His Wisdom and Power defy human comprehension so any discussion of these apart from the passages the Spirit has left in order to illumine our way about , is more likely to lead us astray. Glory of God with which He separated light from darkness is referred in the Psalm quoted here. Darkness cannot hide anything from Him so when He informed Rebekah of two nations that she carried in her womb were, as darkness was different from light. It was not Esau or Jacob but whoever did good was the criteria. Predestination is a matter determined by faith and deeds that justified it. So whatever good in the eyes of God must belong to the creative faith same as which was inherent in his creative act.
(“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:”) This Pauline quote Ro.9:11 helps us understand the passage “ He (Esau) found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears (He.12:17). What does the Spirit mean by ‘works’? Having rejected birth right Esau sought to wrest a blessing with tears where repentance was out of place. He had sold his birth right and his subsequent actions did not merit consideration.
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob. And I hated Esau,…(Mal.1:2-3)
Here we have a commentary by divine revelation on Jacob and his elder brother. St Paul borrows the topic predestination presented in the book of Malachi. A close reading of Ro.9:10-13 shall be helpful.
The account of the Patriarchs does not gloss over their personal faults and failures. God does not look at appearances. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,..(Is.55:8).” From the instance of Jacob and Esau we need to understand what we mean by good. It is not with reference to ethical standards one cultivates over another or civility that makes human transactions in every day circumstances run smoother. The parable of the Rich Ruler makes this clear.(Lk.18:18-27) In the version found in the gospel of Mark we have this: “Then Jesus beholding him loved him (Mk.10:21), ” and pointed out what was yet lacking in him. Because he was very rich he fell back. Jesus pointed the way to perfection but he failed.
So predestination indicates God’s promise (as in the case of Abraham) that man must meet on his part by personal commitment. It is faith.When we consider Jacob and Esau we see Jacob was cunning and deceitful as Esau more forgiving and open. Be that as it may such faith that made Jacob struggle over his elder brother while in the womb gives Predestination another facet: without faith it is impossible to please God.When we are reading the election of Jacob it shall be clear that it was not his deceit but faith that passed the muster. As in the case of Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac on the mount, he proved when he prevailed over God at Peniel. Faith is a personal commitment Jacob possessed. All other traits a man shall ever hold, both noble and ignoble are, in course of time, straitened out about faith, which is the quintessence of God.
In the Creation Day when the glory of God gave a form to the earth the Spirit instructs us that what was visible did attest to it.(Ro.1:20). In the case of Jacob in the pre-natal state imbibed as though it were, naturally pursued birth right even after delivered from their mother’s womb. Whereas Esau dismissed his birthright as a trifle. “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them (Mt.13:12-NIV)”.
Does not Predestination hold in a straight line from Abraham?
When God separated light from darkness in the creative calendar God had said it was good. God forbade David the man after his own heart ‘to build me an house for me to dwell in’(2 Sa.7:5). Despite of great many qualities David lacked what God wanted in a man who would build his House. Jacob was a homebody, who lived indoors while Esau was an outdoor type. Faith was what he looked for in the patriarch. Patriarch Abraham became the friend of God. While David failed in the matter of building a house for God who had seen ‘in his seed after thee, which shall proceed out of they bowels… He shall build an house for my name…’ (2Sa.7:12-13). Adonijah was a candidate but Solomon, the son from Bathsheba had to make God’s promise to his father very personal. He would build it and not Adonijah.. Free will of the wise son had to make it happen by sheer exercise of faith. God appeared unto King Solomon a second time and validated the work of his hands. “I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there forever…(1 Ki.9:3).” God had also warned him what would happen if Israel turned away from following him and go and serve other gods.(1 Ki.5:6-9). From so many examples what are we to infer? Predestination is set conditional so man’s free will must be closely fit with Core Will by faith. His Wisdom and Power preserve his Will from all blame. Predestination being underwritten by God’ Time no man shall be proved right by his own merits. Historically the temple of Solomon is no longer extant and because of the nation of Israel fell off in their disbelief. ‘But through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy (Ro.11:11-12).
In this context we need to keep another Pauline dictum in focus. “After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!(Ro.11:24-NIV)
For a student of the Bible these examples are for instruction in righteousness and the Core Will of God shall never fall to ground in vain and not an iota or tittle of his Word is out of place. God’s Time is what we need to remember.