In one of his prayers, Jesus told the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Psalm 119:160 adds, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (NKJV).
Everything from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is truth. So shouldn’t we make the effort to understand it and believe it?
Instead, most of us have only a nodding acquaintance with the Bible. According to some polls, even nearly half of ordained clergy never open their Bibles except to prepare a sermon or lesson. Therefore, all they can do is pass on half-baked understanding, or, in other words, ignorance.
It’s easy to take a verse out of context and misrepresent God. And the true context of every verse in Scripture is ever other verse. Let’s look at an example:
Jacob and Esau
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” Romans 9:10-13.
This passage cites Genesis 25:23 and Malachi 1:2-3. Numerous teachers will say something to the effect that Hebrew doesn’t offer the same way of making comparisons as English, and what it really means is that God loved Jacob more than Esau. But explaining away the word “hatred” doesn’t help us understand what seems at first like an arbitrary choice.
Is God arbitrary?
We need to keep in mind God’s attributes, which include omniscience, or knowing everything. In particular, he knows the end from the beginning, or as we find in Isaiah 46:9-10,
Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’
So what did God know about Esau while he was still in the womb? Certainly he knew what we can now read in Scripture:
- He was a skilled hunter and Isaac’s favorite son (Genesis 25:27-28).
- He didn’t value his birthright and traded it to Jacob for a bowl of stew, and then despised Jacob for cheating him (Genesis 25:29-34).
- The two eventually reconciled (Genesis 33:9-12).
- Esau was the father of the nation of Edom (Genesis 36).
Isaiah 60:10-14 paints a vivid picture of the nations of the world streaming to a restored and renewed Zion (Jerusalem). It explicitly says the sons of oppressors will be among them.
That is, the descendants of nations that persecuted Israel throughout history would be among the throng of people traveling to bless Zion. But verse 12 says that the nation that will not serve Zion would utterly perish and be destroyed.
At the time Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and deported all but the poorest of the people to Babylon, Edom gleefully helped. Numerous scriptures describe Edom’s spiteful behavior:
- Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, “Raze it, raze it,
To its very foundation!” –– Psalm 137:7
- Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
You who dwell in the land of Uz!
The cup shall also pass over to you
And you shall become drunk and make yourself naked.
The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished,
O daughter of Zion;
He will no longer send you into captivity.
He will punish your iniquity,
O daughter of Edom;
He will uncover your sins! –– Lamentations 4:21-22
- Egypt shall be a desolation,
And Edom a desolate wilderness,
Because of violence against the people of Judah,
For they have shed innocent blood in their land. –– Joel 3:19
And one too long to fit in bullet points:
“Will I not in that day,” says the Lord,
“Even destroy the wise men from Edom,
And understanding from the mountains of Esau?
Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed,
To the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau
May be cut off by slaughter.
“For violence against your brother Jacob,
Shame shall cover you,
And you shall be cut off forever.
In the day that you stood on the other side—
In the day that strangers carried captive his forces,
When foreigners entered his gates
And cast lots for Jerusalem—
Even you were as one of them.
“But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother
In the day of his captivity;
Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah
In the day of their destruction;
Nor should you have spoken proudly
In the day of distress.
You should not have entered the gate of My people
In the day of their calamity.
Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction
In the day of their calamity,
Nor laid hands on their substance
In the day of their calamity.
You should not have stood at the crossroads
To cut off those among them who escaped;
Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained
In the day of distress. – Obadiah 1:8-14
In addition, long passages in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel describe the ultimate punishment of Edom.
In Old Testament prophesy, Edom and Moab are types of the nations who, in the end, will not serve Zion. Which means they will reject God’s offer of peace and reconciliation. Only by destroying them can God fulfill the blessings he promised to believers.
God is not arbitrary
So before Esau and Jacob were even born, God knew that they and their descendants would both sin and require a divine savior. He also saw that, eventually, Jacob’s descendants would repent and turn to God for forgiveness. Esau’s would refuse.
In God’s foreknowledge, he determined to oppose Esau and embrace Jacob. To understand a somewhat familiar verse from Romans, it is necessary to understand less well-known passages from Old Testament prophecy. Too many people, including too many preachers, can’t be bothered.
The scriptures quoted are truth. Scripture as a whole is the whole truth. Too many people, like Pilate, ask what is truth and walk away without waiting for the answer. Only they can see anything but the truth in Scripture.
Will you seek to gain thorough knowledge of the Bible?
What is truth? Public domain, from Wikimedia Commons
Esau selling his birthright. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Destruction of Jerusalem. Public domain
Treachery. Some rights reserved by Howard Duncan
Christ the Redeemer. Some rights reserved by Sailor Coruscant