Image result for BITTERNESSOur last time together we discussed how Esau was not able to receive the blessing he he desired, although wanting it badly; even seeking it with strong crying and tears (Hebrews 12:16-17; to read previous article click here). His inability to lay hold of God’s blessing was founded in his lacking repentance. This means Esau refused to change his mind concerning God’s will and failed to change his mind concerning his own thoughts and behavior. His choice was the key to his pain. Repentance is as necessary as faith in securing the blessings of Christ’s redemption and their manifold benefits in our daily lives.

In the interest of not walking in Esau’s error, it is important for Christ followers to understand where and how an unrepentant attitude can arise, in those who are born again. Or should I say where such an attitude can spring up from?

(Hebrews 12:14-17) Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

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It is noteworthy that after we are warned of the dangers of bitterness, we read of Esau’s error and demise. So where did Esau’s unrepentant attitude spring from? BITTERNESS. But what is bitterness? Why is it bad and where does it find its head waters? Bitterness as the Bible defines it is the acrid poison of undue anger, wrath or hatred. As it boils inside it literally kills the spiritual life of the person in whom it is springing  up. The picture above accurately reflects how bitterness effects the individual, in whom it is springing up. Yet bitterness is also not confined solely to the bitter individual (“lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled).

It is for this reason the word of God commands us to do away with bitterness in our lives; “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Reading a few verses ahead of the passage just quoted, reveals the traits listed arise when a person gives place to Satan. This means they allow Satan to convince them their frustration or anger is justified for some reason. Yet how does this happen in our lives? How do we who are to be filled with the love of God, find ourselves at times growing more and more bitter? The answer is found in our misunderstanding the character of the circumstances of a Christians life. Let us revisit Hebrews 12 once more.

(Hebrews 12:5-11) And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Before getting ahead of ourselves it is important we consider four things this passage communicates. 

[1] Being that this passage is part of the section where Esau is used as a poor example, his and our bitterness arises from misunderstanding God’s loving correction and discipline.

[2] This is a result of thinking that discipline only happens when we do wrong, as opposed to occurring often as result of our walking in righteousness.

[3] This leads misunderstanding the reason for our being chastened in the first place.

[4] Therefore we end up complain about the circumstances, growing bitter instead of being grateful and humble.


When reading all of Hebrews 12, it is not difficult to understand God’s warning through the example of Esau. Esau was a man that was lusty, carnal, self-serving and self-righteous. He believed that he was good enough. Therefore the boundaries and precepts of his parents or God were inconveniences to ignore. When they were pressing on his life, instead of being grateful for God’s love, he was irritated and angered by it. Instead of gratitude he complained about the difficulty, the pain and the inconvenience of it all. Make no mistake a lack of gratitude for God’s discipline in your life will lead to BITTERNESS. Consider for a moment that the writer of Hebrews 12, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to include a sort “grow up” statement  in verse 4. After encouraging the Hebrews to look at Jesus example we read “You have not yet resisted to blood shed, striving against sin”.

Why the inclusion of this “grow up” statement? In the first place this group of believers were suffering from immaturity, as evidenced from the LORD declaration in Hebrews 5:12-14. Secondly, these dear saints were at the beginning stages of persecution. They would soon would be under a full scale assault for being faithful, yet the scriptures declared that even God’s allowance of this was correction and discipline. It is for this reason that a lack of gratitude is often so easy, because when we under go chastisement it is not always for our messing up.



When considering the statement above you may be thinking something similar to the character from “Different Strokes” to your left. Any time someone told Arnold something that did not quite make sense, invariably Arnold’s face would purse and the statement “What you talk’in about” would come forth from his lips. Hearing that God’s discipline often occurs in our lives, when we have not sinned, can produce thought such as Arnold’s statement.

In spite of that tendency, we must examine the scriptures to understand how it is possible. Hebrews 12 suggest that what the followers of Christ were about to face, would be discipline, but discipline that arises from them doing well, in following Christ. In fact, as their faithfulness would increase by greater degrees, they would encounter more severe trials. In order to help us understand this premise, the word of God command us to “Look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame and is set down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Some may think that Jesus was not being chastised, yet Isaiah 53:4 reveals He was being chastised, for our sake.

We ought to remember that God’s love for us will lead us into circumstances, which are “fiery’ trials (I Peter 1:6-7), where our faith  and lives are refined to be more like Christ. And make no mistake He uses all things for this purpose.

(Romans 8:28) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

When thinking on the above passage it reminds me of the patriarch Joseph, who time and again was placed in situations worse than his previous ones; and this was in spite of his doing well and remaining grateful. Like Joseph and Jesus we must approach all circumstance knowing God is sovereign over our lives, and whether its for our sin, or walking rightly in Christ, ultimately it is for our good.


In lieu of this principle, even Jesus suffering had a purpose specifically for Him. Hebrews 5:8 declares that Jesus learned obedience through the things that he suffered. This may seem counter intuitive to us at first, being that as God Jesus knows all things. It also seems counter intuitive for Jesus was sinless and commanded obedience from those who follow Him; “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Yet as God Jesus needed to learn something that He could only learn through the limitations of His perfect humanity. What was this lesson? How to suffer temptation and have complete victory over it, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course He did this perfectly and it is why we can boldly can come to the throne of grace in times of need, because He was tempted in all ways like us, yet without sin. Therefore He knows how to aid us in our temptation (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16). Aren’t you glad?

Our suffering chastisement has a great overarching purpose: that we can partake of God’s holiness (Hebrews 12:10).  Note this does not say that we can be holy from mans perspective, but that we can partake in God’s holiness. With out this distinction holiness in us would be a religious ruse, an attempt at godliness while denying the power of godliness, which is God Himself. God’s holiness is His supernatural and unique perfect love, righteousness and life. He wants us to partake in and have relational union with Him, but in order to do that He needs to pour Himself into us, by His Holy Spirit.

This can only happen as we surrender to His will and word in all circumstances. This entails our choosing the narrow road, instead of what is convenient and available in the moment. Therefore when He calls us to “be holy as He is holy”, He means we literally be like Him is ways we cannot produce. Therefore, He uses pressure commensurate to His desire for our partnering with Him in His holiness. He uses the super heating of our soul, in trials, in order to reveals sinful weakness needing separated out. He uses the same “fiery trials” to reveal transformed Christ-like character needing refinement and polish. Therefore we can rejoice knowing that our chastisement will make us more like Him and bring Jesus the glory and honor due His name.


Where Esau fell into error and we often times do as well, is in choosing our response. Hebrews 12:11 rightly declares that the pain of chastisement never feels good, even though it yields awesome results in the end. But that is the issue, the results are in the distance in many cases. Therefore we have the choice to try to alleviate the pain and preserve our material life or yield to God’s purpose in humble submission, for His ultimate plan. Esau always chose to scratch his itch, cry out in pain, complain or back someone off in anger, or justify carnal and in the moment living, instead of obeying God’s command. Therefore, in frustration he grew bitter and defiled his descendants with bitterness.

We have a choice, to not follow his example and instead follow Jesus example. Be careful, to choose Esau’s way is to spray forth bitterness from the headwaters of ingratitude. To continue to choose it will lead to our falling short of the grace of God. That is an end, we should run from. BE GRATEFUL my dear brethren.

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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