God is gracious. God is kind. God is loving. God is a consuming fire?
Scripture is full of passages of comfort, but today we examine one that is actually a stern warning and reminder. It is true that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but it is also true that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
One of the starkest reminders of the danger of rejecting God’s grace is found in the case of Esau. You’ll remember that in a moment of weakness and extreme hunger, Esau sold his birthright as the eldest son to his younger brother Jacob. To make matters worse, he sold it for a cup of stew (Genesis 25:27–34).
While I know Esau acted rashly and unwisely, there’s a part of me that’s always felt sorry for him. Did he really understand what he was giving away? Surely, he must have. Yet he was willing to forsake all of his inheritance, his rights, his future lands, and his stake in the family name in exchange for instant gratification. There’s some significant personal irresponsibility here. Certainly, when he had a full belly and came to his senses, Esau must have realized the massive mistake he made. Yet it was too late to turn things around (Hebrews 12:17).
The writer of Hebrews issues a strong caution, one that was meant to rouse the attention of his first-century readers, and still causes us to do a double take today. His words about Esau are stern: “For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, even though he sought it with tears, because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance” (Hebrews 12:17).
While the Father’s heart is loving, lavish, and long-suffering toward us, Hebrews 12 reminds us that we should not play fast and loose with those luxuries. Paul puts it another way, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1–2).
God’s grace comes freely, but it’s not cheap. If you’ve handed your life over to God through Jesus, you’ve found freedom, but it was bought for a price. The writer of Hebrews expresses an important corrective to two different types of readers. The first is the person who has heard the invitation to salvation but, for whatever reason, hasn’t made the leap of faith yet. The second is the reader who knows Jesus but is consistently eyeing the ways of the world, wondering if there might be something better, more fulfilling “over there.”
Perhaps you find yourself in one of those places today—unsure of the invitation to repentance and restoration, or perhaps not as enamored with the Christian life as you once were. Wherever you stand, the writer of Hebrews brings a loving challenge today: God is loving, compassionate, and generous, but it’s not wise to play with fire. Once you’ve tasted the goodness of God, be sure not to reject His loving redemption.
Written by Andrew Stoddard