Hebrews 12:17 says of Esau, “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.” This verse is speaking in the context of :16, where it refers to how Esau “sold his own birthright for a single meal.” Once that had been done, it could not be reversed. :17 says that though “he sought for it with tears”, there was “no place for repentance.”
This verse is a sobering reminder that there are times when it is too late to reverse the damage done by our decisions.
Many people, having heard all their lives about the grace and mercy of God, take His grace for granted. They decide on courses and actions which they know are contrary to God’s will, but figure that “God will forgive me anyway” and plunge foolishly into their rebellious way. They assume there will be no lasting damage once they are forgiven.
These people exhibit the spirit of Esau — and unfortunately may well discover his end as well. For Hebrews tells us that when “later” came, and Esau wanted to repent of his actions, it was too late. “He found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” Once he had given his inheritance away, he could not regain it back, no matter how “sorry” he was, or how many tears he cried.
This sad story should be a warning to each of us, not to take for granted the grace of God, as well as to realize that there are irreversible decisions in life. Not all the damage you cause from some of your choices and actions can be reversed. It is possible to lose something that you can never regain, no matter how much you regret its loss. There are countless numbers of people who have lost their moral purity, their marriages, their families, the trust of others, their ministries — and more, because of their headstrong and foolish actions. They later discover that no matter how “sorry” they are, like Esau, “there is no place for repentance” — it is too late. It should be a sobering reminder to each of us to weigh our actions carefully, and not to presume upon the grace and forgiveness of God.
As devastating as the loss of such things on earth can be, the weightiest application here is that one day it will be too late for repentance of our sins and saving faith in Christ. As Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” When death comes, it will be too late for repentance. The Rich Man in Luke 16 discovered that too late. His destiny was now fixed, and like in Esau’s case “there was no place for repentance.” May each of us learn from him, and from Esau, and not wait until it is too late to consider the cost of our decisions and actions.