Tears are transparent, but still don’t easily reveal the reason of their falling. This all-purpose bodily fluid can show the out-flowing of love, the anguish of grief or it can be used to manipulate others. The tear may be a sign of frustration, sadness or pain, but a comparable tear might be shed in the joy accompanying celebration or achievement.
Even the one crying may not be certain of the reason for tears. The subtleties of crying offer a sometimes clear, sometimes murky window on the heart.
Tears and Repentance
The Bible tells us that Esau sought repentance after he was confronted with the reality of his cynicism and contempt. We are told that he even cried about the matter of his carelessness. He was sorry about what he had done. [Heb 12:16]
In describing the man Scripture uses the words pornos and bebalos, revealing that Esau was immoral and godless. The Authorized version translates this as his being a fornicator and profane. The appropriateness of these descriptions lies in the fact that Esau was a man who failed to take his relationship with God seriously and therefore, being spiritually casual, he exercised his independence to have relations with other gods. Theologically, we say that he exercised his free will.
Genesis 26:34 tells us that Esau did take two foreign women as wives and that they brought grief to his parents, Isaac and Rebekah. When his mother grew older she told her husband that these daughters of Heth, the pagan wenches with whom her son slept, had ruined her life. Because of them she said, "I am tired of living." [Gen 27:46]
Was this the typical mother-in-law irritation that sometimes develops within marriages? It indeed, was not. Rebekah was the parent with far greater covenant awareness in this patriarchal pair. The Bible says she was troubled by the unequal yoking, not Isaac. In her youth, she was the one who prayed about the struggle within her womb and she was the one to whom God spoke when He answered. [Gen 25:23]
God’s answer revealed His election of Jacob and prophesied the resulting conflict that would unfold throughout the lives of the twins. Jacob would be a deceiver of sorts, someone who needed to be watched. Brother, Esau, would be more forthright, but a man shallow and cynical in morals and religion. Rebekah, the wife and mother, would be forced to take extreme measures to prevent the official blessing from being misapplied, wasted, and this by the patriarchal father, Isaac! [Gen 27:13ff]
At this point of family life at least, father Isaac seems to have become bone-headedly determined to have his own way, to compel the blessing to go his way, to his personal favorite, in the face of God’s earlier revelation. The whole incident is disgraceful. It reflects on the record of an old, weak man who no longer is giving the required attention to matters. Rebekah is nowhere condemned by God for her efforts to ensure the fulfillment of covenant prophecy.
God’s determination was clear, even if its motive was well hidden. His eternal counsels are not subject to discussion, but picking Jacob has been subtly, if not openly, criticized by many writers, a long, tiresome line of pietistic teachers and others who would censor the Almighty for His draft choices. Rebekah also has suffered from many critical comments as to her supposed conniving. It is, perhaps, a not-so-subtle divine statement on the matter of salvation itself. The story of saving grace, however, is another matter.
Privilege Gone Bad
Esau is held up to us by God, especially in the Hebrews passage, as a definitive illustration of blessing and privilege gone bad. A man born under covenant favor and opportunity who throws away his birthright is under the worst of all possible condemnations. The warning is obvious and ugly for all of us to see.
No Second Chance?
If it has been revealed that the man eventually did look hard for (a way to repent) repentance, then how could God have turned him away? Is this the correct scenario? The NASB translation better states the real thrust of the original. It is for us to be warned! 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. [Heb 12:16-17 NASB]
Scripture emphasizes that Esau later realized his mistake when the consequences began to devastate him. It was so appalling that he wept. His tears were also for his anger. Finding no place for repentance is what is experienced by so many. God’s ear is always open to the cry of the humble, but man is most often trying to deal with consequences, not with his offences before a holy and just God. His concerns are not for righteousness and reconciliation with his Maker and Lord, but only with getting free of the evil fruits of his disobedience. Esau, thus, is the example of faith in reverse, absorption with self and sorrow, not confessing sin and casting our whole lot with Christ. Tears of utter grief and the gnashing of teeth, we are told, are how men will express their emotions at judgment day.
God Wipes Away All Tears
The promise to those who confess their sin and guilt and depend on Christ for their righteousness is that He will wipe away all their tears. [Rev 21:4] Now we are assured that His ears are open, He hears our cries. [Ps 34:15; 40:1] His witness is emphatic in our midst as the gospel is regularly urged upon us with much crying and tears. [Acts 20:31]
The tears of the saved differ in every possible way from those of Esau. The transparency of our tears becomes the transparency of the heart in the presence of the Lord.
Lessons of Faith from Hebrews 12
Faith means that the gift of trust has been planted in our hearts by God. Faith is a free gift. [Eph 8-9] It is God who is our Father, who generates our true life. [vs.6-7]
This life may evidence itself in one of many different ways, but will primarily manifest itself in a humble attitude, one that is willing to listen to the rightful authority of God’s Word, one that no longer asserts the foolishness of human pride.
It means that our Father God disciplines us as sons, for our eternal good, to share in His holiness. [vs.10]
It means that this discipline may well involve suffering that aligns us with our Savior, Jesus Christ. [vs.2-3] It means that God calls and calls us. He communes with us day by day. We are exhorted to be lifted up, to look up, to run hard, ignore lameness and weariness, to strive and to refuse bitterness which characterizes the unregenerate. [vs.7-17]
What if these things are not ours? Can we do nothing? Are we left to our miserable inability, weariness and tears, without hope in the world? No, read again the admonishment to cry to God, to cast your cares upon Him. Your concern already evidences the seed of faith.
Rev. Dale K. Dykema