My favorite Ride-or-Die girl, Ruth, sent me a letter that ended with; “PS: Oh and please tell me what God meant when He says Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated.”
This is a good question that really gets at our underlying presuppositions. First of all, we must not hold God to account by our own standards. He is God. He can do whatever He wants, and it’s right BECAUSE He’s the one doing it. With that said, He is nonetheless morally consistent with Himself. But what we often do is substitute God for a watered down, more commercially viable version of God that’s built to suit the Churchianity of our day. This is a grave mistake.
When The King shows back up, He is going to act with such swift brutality that it’s going to make people’s mouths go dry. “Is this the same guy we sang songs about in Sunday School? Because this is not what I had in mind, AT ALL. In fact, I’m kind of scared.” That could be what goes through a lot of people’s minds on “The Great and Terrible Day of The Lord.”
They will just be finding out that God isn’t some desperate, clingy, ex-girlfriend begging humanity to please please please invite Him into their hearts and love Him. Far from it! He is a warrior King. He is ruthless in battle, and he has a lot of people He’s fixing to get rid of. A warrior like that can be expected to hate some people. Wouldn’t you say?
After all, love and hate do go together. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. And God is not an indifferent guy at all. There is nothing “meh” about Him. Your question hints at the idea that for God to say He “hated” someone is out of character for Him. But in reality, it’s not. God is very much wild at heart. He’s just not a domestic cat.
So why then did He love Jacob and hate Esau? I can’t really say. But I can tell you a few things that transpired around those guys. First of all, Esau was the one who by all rights owned the blessing. He was the first born. But he didn’t value the birthright or the blessing. He didn’t long for the blessing. Jacob did.
Also, if you just read the Bible stories and the historical accounts you see that Esau was much more responsible than Jacob. Esau was the better man. Esau wasn’t a screw up. He had it together way more than his floundering brother Jacob ever did. But God was not drawn to Esau’s deserving character. He was drawn to Jacob, who just really loved God, despite being a total screw up at all the rest of life.
Esau was running for his life after having just killed his uncle Nimrod by accident. He figured he was about to die at the hands of Nimrod’s men anyway, so why not sell his birthright to Jacob? It was useless to him, right? But he only believed this because he didn’t believe in the power of God’s blessing to save him from his foes. To him, God’s blessing was just an asset to be sold off on a rainy day.
Contrast this with Jacob who wrestled with the Angel of God all night, risking his own death to say “I won’t let go until You bless me!” Jacob needed God’s blessing like a lover needs the the affection of the beloved. While Esau was just a self-sufficient, smart, capable guy who could do pretty good on his own.
If you were a rich princess, and you could pick from all the men in the whole land, would you fall for the farm boy Wesley who really really just loved and wanted you with all his heart? Or would you fall for Prince Humperdinck who can run the kingdom with no help at all, because he’s smart like that?
I bet you’d fall for Wesley. Why? Because you are made in God’s image and the sensibilities of your heart are fashioned after His. In fact, if Prince Humperdinck snubbed you, you may even go so far as to say “Wesley I loved, Humperdinck I hated.”
If you haven’t seen the movie “The Princess Bride,” go buy it and watch it. That’s where Wesley comes from. It’s a great movie. And your question was a great question.