It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16
God is not tied to man-made customs, and He is under no obligation to fit in with our expectations.
Perhaps this is nowhere better seen than in the lives of Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn of Isaac, whose father, Abraham, had been chosen by God to be the bearer of His promises to make Himself a people and bring blessing to His world (Genesis 12:1-3). As the customary heir, Esau typically would have received Isaac’s blessing and inheritance, just as Isaac had inherited these from his father, Abraham.
Instead, God chose Esau’s brother, the younger twin, Jacob, to receive both.
Not only was Jacob younger, but he was also an unpleasant character whose name essentially means “he cheats.” It seems unbelievable that he would be chosen—yet the line of promise was to flow through Jacob, and his descendants became Israel, the people of God.
I sometimes struggle with this concept, wondering why God would select Jacob. It seems unfair! Yet the Bible tells us that although Jacob was an unlikely choice, God determined in advance to fulfill His promises through Jacob instead of Esau: “… 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” (Romans 9:11). In choosing Jacob, God was fulfilling His purposes from all of eternity. He was also teaching this principle: God does not choose on the basis of merit. None of us deserve to belong to Him.
This is where we sometimes get things turned upside down. We look at Jacob and wonder why he was chosen, when we should really look at God and wonder at His graciousness. He says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). And God mercifully calls us, too, though we are undeserving.
When we fully realize our predicament before we became children of God—our rebellion, which is deserving of condemnation, wrath, and death—we can begin to understand the greatness of God’s love and mercy for us. We stop asking why God does not show mercy to some; we start wondering why God does show mercy to any. It becomes a matter of deep gratitude that He has made us His heirs, children of God.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.
1 Elvina M. Hall, “Jesus Paid It All” (1865).