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Unmerited Promises

March 21, 2020
By Martin Luther

Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother.

GENESIS 32:3

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Unmerited Promises

The promise of grace is this, when God says: "You have done nothing; you have merited nothing. But I shall do this for you and present it to you by mercy alone." Such promises are unmerited, and the promises of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were like them. They have been recounted above: "May your mother's sons bow down to you" and "I have established you with oil and wine." Here no condition is attached: "If you do this, you will be blessed," but "You have this promise and blessing gratis." Moses, to be sure, is full of legal promises, but the patriarchs have simple, unmerited promises. Thus Jacob is confident and joyful in accordance with these; he congratulates himself on the very rich consolation and very strong protection of the angels. . .. God is laughing, the angels leap in joy and exultation, the spirit rejoices in the Lord, and therefore Jacob does not fear. He is persuaded that his brother's wrath has cooled off after such a long time, especially since none of his power and wealth had departed in the meantime and he had remained at home in his homeland, whereas Jacob himself had endured wretched slavery in banishment and exile and was still wandering without a definite abode. For Esau held the whole property and land of his father. Therefore Jacob feels secure and is certain that his brother has been placated. So he lovingly and kindly greets him by means of messengers, not in alarm or suspecting any evil.

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