But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
A funny thing happens when you read the Old and New Testament concurrently. You begin to see connections that help you understand the bigger picture of the Gospel better than if you simply read the Bible straight through cover to cover. For example, I’m in Exodus and Romans right now (which you know if you’re reading along with me), reading about God’s great salvation of His people both from Egypt and from Sin and Death. What I’ve found time and again is that each testament enriches the message of the other.
In Romans 9, Paul argues that God’s sovereign choice in salvation is perfect and worthy of praise. It seems that people who struggle with this concept are not alone. For the history of the church, people have wrestled with the idea that God chooses some for salvation and others for destruction. We should struggle with this concept. Just look at the passage above, it says that God “hated” Esau.
God doesn’t hate anyone right? Christians who avoid this passage, and others like it, because it’s difficult to stomach do everyone a disservice. The message of the Gospel is an offense to the world. Our ideas of fairness and justice do not conform to God’s. So when we read the word “Hated” we cringe. And we should cringe.
But, Paul’s point is this: the true children of Abraham, the true chosen people of God, have never been so simply because of ethnicity. Reading Exodus and Romans together makes that clear. God does not spare the rebellious and idolatrous Israelites just because of where they were born. He holds everyone to his standard of justice regardless. But for those whom he has chosen, the children of the promise, God has sacrificed greatly to pay for their debts and purchase their redemption.
If not for His mercy in Jesus, God would be bound by His justice to “hate” everyone. We all deserve nothing less than the hatred of God. But through His promise to Abraham, God made a way of blessing, and ANYONE who receive this promise in the Gospel will become objects not of God’s wrath, but of His everlasting kindness and love.