• Eli Schnell

The Bitterest Tears



Hebrews 12:14 charges Christians with the pursuit of peace with all men, and to help others grow in holiness so that they may meet the Lord on favorable terms. As Christians do this, they are to “see to” three bullet points (v.15-16):

  • That no one comes short of the grace of God

  • That no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble

  • That there be no immoral or godless person like Esau

While each of these three is equally worthy of attention, focus on the third. The use of Esau as an illustration is especially powerful when paired with the account of his missteps. Here is the full reading concerning Esau from Hebrews 12:16-17:


"...that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears."


Esau’s selling of his birthright is found in Genesis 25:30, and contains little beyond what is already found in Hebrews. The second part of the illustration deals with a second occasion, found in Genesis 27:30-38. On this occasion, the blessing intended for Esau was given to Jacob, Esau’s younger brother. When Esau returns to his father for the blessing it has already been given, leaving Esau to receive what amounts to a curse in verses 39-40.


Hebrews records Esau sought an opportunity for repentance with tears and found none. This section of Genesis records that Esau wept twice. Once immediately after hearing his blessing had been given to another (Gen. 27:34), and again after requesting an additional blessing from his father (Gen. 27:38). Esau wept in desperation for a change in his position, but the blessing had already been given, and another did not exist. The writer of Hebrews uses the blessing given by Isaac and Esau’s bitter tears which followed to illustrate the day of final judgment.


On that day, many will weep bitter tears as they come to the Lord seeking a blessing only to hear the question, “Who are you?” (Gen. 27:32). They will cry out all the more, asking for more blessings (Gen. 27:34, 36, 38) and will be met by the question Isaac asked: “What can I do?” (Gen. 27:37). This is an image of God with a desperate soul weeping before Him. God asks, “What can I do?” as if to say, “I gave you my Son, I have nothing else!”


Once the judgment arrives, there will be no more opportunity to repent, no more opportunity to change anything, though many will seek for it with tears (Matt. 7:21-23). Christians pursue peace and sanctification for all because they know this moment is coming and because they do not wish for any to cry the bitter tears, entering the eternal fires of Hell.


“Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near” (Is. 55:6).

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