I didn’t agree with the author in the third paragraph of Wednesday’s lesson when he wrote that Esau’s motives weren’t pure. I mean, when is any human motive totally pure? I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that they need perfectly pure motives before they come to God and repent; people might never go to God then!
Esau: Basically Feeling Bad He was Caught
You’ve probably heard someone say that someone else wasn’t sorry for what they had done; they were just sorry they had been caught.
Well, Esau’s motives for confession were like that. He didn’t want to be changed. He didn’t see anything wrong with himself. He just wanted money.
Hebrews 12:17 states about Esau, “Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.”
Esau had sold his whole inheritance to his brother for a bowl of soup one day! He didn’t think ahead about the consequences of his actions, and so he would have been a very bad manager of all that wealth. He truly would have had a happier life if he allowed God to change his character.
The Prayer Esau Would Never Pray
Imagine if he had actually repented instead of just crying about his mistake. He might have prayed, “God, I see that there is a character flaw in me, that I act before I think too often. And maybe it even gets in the way of my relationship with You and with the service I could do for other people — I don’t know! When I see how faithful and kind and humble You are, I see how much I need to improve. I need You! I need You to help me to be more like You! I can’t do it on my own! I want to change, to have a better heart and character transformed by You.”
That confession doesn’t sound like Esau. But the point is that repentance is about deep personal change, whereas Esau was just sad that he made a mistake that cost him his dad’s money. He wanted the money and a more comfortable life and that’s it. He didn’t want to be changed into the kind of person who could manage money well and could be more patient in making decisions.
Can You Feel Bad Being Close to Jesus?
My understanding is that when we get closer to Jesus and spend more time with Him, we find that suddenly our own character looks worse by comparison. You feel good about being forgiven and loved, but you also see your own flaws more clearly. And the beauty of His love, His perfect character, lead you to repentance, to wanting to be a better person, to be more like him.
Is Being Really Sorry What God Wants?
Judas’ confession was similar to Esau’s. He regretted that his mistake was going to kill his leader who he thought was going to mount a military revolution. His whole idea for his future of wealth and power was about to perish. He went to the priests who had paid him to betray Jesus and threw the money down at their feet.
He showed passion and anger there, but it didn’t motivate him to ask God to change him into a new kind of person who wouldn’t make that kind of mistake again, a person who would have a heart more like Christ’s, not concerned with worldly power. He didn’t turn his life over to God. If he had, he would have been forgiven and transformed.
He was just sorry that things weren’t working out for him.
Repentance: Turning Around and Heading the Other Direction
The Biblical concept of repentance means “to turn around.” You don’t just feel bad about your own discomfort; you feel bad because you did something wrong that shows that you’re farther away from God than you thought. And you ask Him to change you into a new person who doesn’t do that thing anymore.
Maybe that’s what the author of this lesson meant by “pure motive.” But remember that only God can give us repentance. It’s a gift from Him. It doesn’t come from some purity that you have inside you. No, His love and beauty motivate us to repent, make us want to have a life that is turned around to be more like His, and then He changes our hearts for us.
We just have to accept it.
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)