Hebrews 12:17

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. Hebrews 12:17

This refers to Esau and what is said of him in the previous verse –

“…lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.”

Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of red soup. After this, Isaac wanted to bless Esau before his death (the blessing and the birthright are not the same occasion, but the importance of them in the lives of the sons is connected by the surrounding circumstances). In his desire to bless him, Isaac asked Esau to prepare a meal of wild game. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob came in by deception (Isaac was blind) and received the blessing.

No sooner had Isaac blessed Jacob than Esau came in with the meal he had prepared, expecting to be blessed. However, that was no longer possible. As Isaac said to him concerning Jacob, “I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed” (Genesis 27:33). The blessing came upon Jacob, and Esau “was rejected.”

The Lord had rejected the line of Esau, just as Esau had rejected his birthright. Though this was known to the Lord even before it occurred, it still had to be played out in the stream of time. After Isaac’s statement, Esau’s reaction came in a mournful cry –

“When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me—me also, O my father!’” Genesis 27:34

This is what the author of Hebrews refers to when he says, “though he sought it diligently with tears,” but the context of the author’s words is that the tearful plea was rejected, “for he found no place for repentance.”

This is a phrase unique in Scripture. To understand what it means, one must understand the meaning of “repentance.” It simply means, “to change one’s mind.” Throughout the years, it has been common to tie “repentance” in with “salvation,” as if the two are somehow connected. Other than “repentance about who Jesus is,” this is incorrect. In this, the faulty interpretation of these words is that “he found no place for being saved.” That is wholly inaccurate.

The meaning of what the author is saying is that even with his change of mind, the act could not be undone. Vincent’s Word Studies says –

“The words place of repentance mean an opportunity to repair by repenting. He found no way to reverse by repentance what he had done. The penalty could not be reversed in the nature of the case.”

This is why Isaac said, “indeed he shall be blessed.” The blessing was transferred and Esau could not repair this by changing his mind. Charles Ellicott states it as, “He ‘found no place of repentance;’ that first act (Genesis 25:33) could not be recalled, but brought with it a loss which nothing could retrieve.”

The verse has nothing to do with salvation or loss of salvation. It is simply an explanation of what the effects of living in an ungodly manner can be. This is true with the saved and the unsaved. A common saying which fits the intent of the verse is, “You made your bed, now lie in it.” You may have a change of mind about what you did in the past, but “O so sorry. There is no place left for changing your mind. The matter is already settled.”

Life application: Although the account of Jacob and Esau may seem unfair towards Esau because of Jacob’s deceit, remember that it was deserved. As the author of Hebrews said, Esau was “profane.” God did not author the deceit which occurred, but He allowed it to meet a good end. Jesus Himself, therefore, descended from the line of Jacob and not that of Esau. If you feel wronged in some way, could it be that you have failed to live for God and you are now reaping what you have sown? Be careful never to blame God for misfortune, but rather look for and understand His hand of providence in all things.

Lord, give us wise and discerning hearts to understand our place in Your plan of redemption. Let us not fight bitterly over what we have or what we don’t have, but let us bring You glory through accepting our lot and position in life, while at the same time working to better ourselves in an honest manner which glorifies You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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