Even though [Esau] sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done. Hebrews 12:17 (NIV)
Why was Esau unable to repent? Hebrews gives us two answers:
1. Esau was godless
See to it that no one is… godless like Esau (12:16).
Esau believed in God and wanted the blessing of God. He burst out with a bitter cry when the blessing he wanted was given to Jacob. To Esau, God was a means to an end, but he had no place for God in his life. Esau was a godless man, and a godless man cannot repent. Real change begins, not with seeking repentance, but with seeking God.
2. Esau missed the grace of God
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up… (12:15).
Esau allowed a bitter root to grow in him. He held a grudge and consoled himself with the thought of revenge. He shed plenty of tears, but they were godless tears, so they didn’t lead to change! Why not? Because he missed the grace of God.
John Calvin says, “God’s mercy is never sought in vain, for to him who knocks it shall be opened, but… the ungodly, however they may deplore their lot, complain, and howl, do not yet knock at God’s door for mercy, for this cannot be done but by faith.”
Repentance begins when we have faith to believe that God’s mercy will forgive us, and God’s power can change us. That’s what Esau missed. He felt sorry for himself, he was angry with his brother, and he resented God. But he missed the grace of God, so he could not find repentance.
When was the last time you knocked at God’s door for mercy?