Godly and Worldly Sorrow
Genesis 27:33-40
And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that has taken venison, and brought it me…

I suppose that when we read the account of Esau's grief, of his affecting appeal to his father and of its ill success, we begin to think it an instance of the fruitlessness of repentance. Those who have thrown away God's gifts of grace, who have despised them in former days, and sold them for some mess of pottage, who are now wishing to have them back and to return to God, are apt to be disheartened and dismayed by such a passage in God's Word. The fear springs up lest they also should find no answer to their prayers, lest theirs should be fruitless tears, lest the cry should be made by them in yam, "Bless me also, O my Father." But however natural such thoughts from the first impression of the scene, a closer study of the passage may serve to drive away the clouds. We may learn to see that there was something wrong and faulty in Esau's sorrow, great as it was, something in the nature of his distress of mind not altogether satisfactory or right. If we examine his conduct at the time, we fail to see any religious element in it at all. It was a worldly sorrow, a burst of natural but worldly grief; there was no confession of his former sin, no acknowledgment that the blessing had been justly lost, no word of self-condemnation, no avowal like the penitent thief upon the cross, that he, indeed, was justly suffering for past misdeeds, and was reaping as he had sown; no allusion to his faithlessness, to his contempt of the promise of God in selling his birthright for the mess of pottage, no turning to God, no mention of God at all, or of God's just anger for his past offence. And hence we may conclude that he took a mere worldly view of his loss, that he felt mere worldly sorrow — sorrow for the loss of some temporal advantages to himself and his descendants, and perhaps mingled with this keen sense of worldly disappointment — sorrow at having missed a father's benediction, especially as he believed it, in his case, to carry with it some unusual power. If this is a right view of Esau's state of mind, we see at once that he is not to be regarded as a true penitent, that he is not presented to us as such, and that therefore no feelings of true penitence are to be chilled or checked in their growth by the treatment which he received. The great truth still stands out as clearly as ever, quite unclouded by any instance in Scripture to the contrary, that God does receive back the penitent; that godly sorrow, if it lead on to the after acts and fuller development of repentance, never rends our hearts in vain; not in vain does any wandering child of God draw near, and kneeling down at the foot of the cross exclaim, "Bless me also, O my Father." Whenever the sorrow of the heart is true godly sorrow, and the conscience-stricken bow themselves in genuine compunction at the mercy-seat of God, mercy comes forth from the throne of God, and the penitent is blessed. But all sorrow — and it is this which the history of Esau impressively proclaims — is not godly sorrow, and has not its blessed fruit. Men may grieve over losses, disasters, reverses brought on them through sin, without grieving altogether for the sin, without being grieved and angry with themselves for sinning. And what harder burden to bear than this worldly sorrow, when the heart is dry and dead to the influence of grace, when the soul has no light in its dark place, when God is not confessed in time of trial, when chastisements for sin fail to create the sense of sin, or to break the will of the disobedient child, when there is no mark of the Cross of Christ, but when it is the fruitless cross of the world, which cannot heal? If we are in any suffering, under any trial through transgressions, whether lately or long since done, we can find blessings springing up amid the thorns, should we own the hand of God and sorrow after a godly sort; but if we steel our hearts, and go through trial without taking it as from our Saviour's hands, without owning "rod lamenting the sins and errors and neglects, the worldliness and the foolishness from which the trial grew, then indeed it is a heavy weight to bear, and there is a still heavier burden to be laid upon us hereafter.

(Bp. Armstrong.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed.

WEB: Isaac trembled violently, and said, "Who, then, is he who has taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before you came, and have blessed him? Yes, he will be blessed."

Esau's Late Repentance
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