Jacob and Esau; few sets of siblings have had such an impact on world history. The three major Monotheistic religions of the worldall own these brothers as part of their own story. It was in a group study on these two characters from Genesis that I realised the most offensive part of their story is often not grasped. As these two brothers were described, I couldn’t help but think of the famousThor and Loki. If you haven’t seen the recent Thor movies, don’t worry too much, I am sure you can pick up my point as we go along.
In the Marvel produced Thor movies (not to be confused with the Nordic Eddas of Thor), Thor is a man’s man. He has a rugged handsomeness about him, well-built, always ready to rush into battle and never passing up a good party. Naturally the viewer has an affinity for him, and though he messes up a bit, he manages to prove his real character drawing the support of the viewing audience. He is rightfully the heir to his father’s throne, and he shows why throughout the story.
On the other hand, we have Loki. The thin, pale, greasy brother of Thor. He is conniving and manipulative. Despite his loveable brother’s overtures toward him, he is unresponsive and shrinks further and further away from his adoptive family, becoming the arch enemy of the film. There is nothing in his character than one would naturally like. He feigns weakness till he has power. Thor is the natural choice for a hero; Loki is the natural choice if you want to squash something.
Enter Jacob and Esau. Esau is a hairy guy, a guy that goes hunting; his father loves hanging out with him. He loves good red meat and is always the guy that braais (barbeques) the best. Jacob on the other hand is a momma’s boy. He is not a really a rugged type but prefers his gardening. He is also manipulative, eventually lying to his own father and consequently stealing his brother’s blessing. Nothing in the opening part of his story makes you like him.
This is how the Thor movie helps us. When God makes his choice, he chooses Jacob, not Esau. Or to link it to their mythical marvel counterparts God chooses Loki not Thor. God chooses the opposite of what people would generally choose. But we should know this about God; the Psalmist himself says, “God does not delight in the legs of a man.[i]” Meaning, that which people esteem in the culture as a sign of strength, God does not.
When the Bible talks about God’s choosing, it says, “not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, and not many were of noble birth[ii]”. God saves sinners, God saves Lokis. That is the only clue we have in Scripture about how God chooses. When we read about heroes of the faith, we don’t have a litany of manly strong guys with loads of integrity. We often find men who we would characterise as losers and villains; men who in the end are justified by their faith alone.
However my thoughts on the Thor movie don’t stop with that personality comparison. A different analogy from the story yet still related to election and adoption also came mind.
The Baptist Confession of Faith describes adoption in its 12th chapter like this:
“God has granted that, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, all those who are justified share in the grace of adoption. By this they are numbered with and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God. They have his name put upon them and receive the Spirit of adoption. They have access to the throne of grace with boldness, and are able to cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ They are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a father, yet they are never cast off, but are sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.”
Well as the story of Loki goes, Odin, once the ruler of the Asgardian gods, led his subjects in a war against their enemy, the frost giants from the land of Jotunheim (one of the nine worlds of Asgard). Laufey, king of the frost giants, was slain in battle and the giants were defeated. Surveying the spoils of war, the Asgardians discovered a small god-sized baby hidden at the giants’ main fortress. Odin adopted Loki into his own family, raising him like a son along with his biological son, Thor.
As far as that part of the story goes, it is analogous to the doctrines of election and adoption. We were not pretty, cute babies that draw our natural paternal instincts. Like Loki, we were part of the kingdom of darkness; we were “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.[iii]” “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus[iv]”. Just as Odin adopted the frost giant child and placed him along side Thor, So now God the Father takes us who are obedient to Satan, and makes us his children alongside Christ.
The analogy ends there. This is because in the film and comic books, one sees Odin favouring Thor in a way that provokes Loki. But what I hope you see is something that moves you to worship and humility. God chose to save those He had every right to destroy. God elects and saves not those we would naturally choose, but those that will graphically portray his mercy and kindness.
Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.[v]’
[i] Psalm 147:10
[ii] 1 Corinthians 1:26
[iii] Ephesians 2:2
[iv] Ephesians 2:4
[v] Romans 9:25-26;