Hebrews 12:15-17 Securing our inheritance through holy living
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
In order to overcome the passions of the flesh and to live abundantly, one must first submit himself completely under God’s rule. The root of bitterness, which is the seat of self-rule and rebellion must first be removed. The root of bitterness is diametrically opposed to the anointing of the Spirit; it cuts off the grace of God and robs the believer of his inheritance. Today’s passage teaches believers to secure our inheritance by living holy lives.
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…
God’s discipline exposes the hidden root of rebellion and sinful passions so that believers can deal with it. Root of bitterness refers to a deep-seated attitude that desires God’s blessings while rejecting His rule. He revels in the salvation of God in praise and worship, but would never surrender his life to Him. He may have an appearance of godliness but his heart is filled with selfish and fleshly agenda. Even when weeds have been cut off, because the roots remain intact, the weeds continue to grow. This poisonous and deceptive root that lay hidden in the heart would suddenly spring up like cancer destroying the lives of many: “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Defiled means to become impure and rejected by God. As God sees the heart, the forgiveness of God will not be extended to them on the day of judgment. The author warned, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.” Moses warned the people against a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit of rebellion:
“Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart. The Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 29:18-20).
The people desired God’s salvation: I shall be safe, yet refused to repent and submit to God as Lord: though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart. As a result, God did not forgive them of their sins: and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven.
Therefore, churchgoers must be aware that understanding Christ’s sacrifice alone does not save them if they refuse to give up the root of bitterness. The root of bitterness causes many to wander into the devil’s playground ever so often, supposing a little tryst won’t matter. For such, there is no forgiveness, unless they repent by removing the root of bitterness by submitting to God.
16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
The author used Esau as an example, because he was speaking to members of the church. Esau was considered a believer: being the son of Isaac, a natural heir of Abraham’s blessing, circumcised and raised according to the Law. The fact that Esau lost his inheritance because of what he did should awaken church members to the truth of the gospel.
“Sexually immoral or unholy” as applied to Esau depicts contempt for God’s grace and his holy calling as firstborn. Esau as firstborn was ordained to carry the seed of Abraham’s blessing which is divine favor and authority. However, Esau did not value his calling, instead traded away his birthright for a bowl of soup. Believers who do not value their status as sons but make light of their calling, fall within the same category as Esau. Esau did not obtain his inheritance because he made a legitimate agreement with Jacob that must be honored. Hence, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent. Esau represents a segment of churchgoers who do not stay true to their calling to be holy as sons of God. They continue to love the world and live self-centered lives; they suppose their salvation is irrevocable only to lose what is rightfully theirs.
The source of fear is the root of bitterness, while the source of freedom is the fear of God. People who come from families with a history of cancer have a much higher chance of developing the disease than anybody else. Hence, such people live in constant fear unless the root that lies hidden in the gene is removed. Fortunately, gene therapy for cancer in recent years has made much progress. The root of bitterness is likened to a cancerous gene; it carries an odor of death that springs up destroying everything. Some churchgoers’ constant fear throughout their lives may be attributed to the root of bitterness. Because they were not willing to submit to the rule of God, they shut themselves out from God’s grace. Hence, the warning: See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up. Once a person acknowledges God as Lord, the floodgates of God’s blessing will be opened for him.
The opposite of the root of bitterness is the fear of God. The root of bitterness causes bondage to the spirit of death while the fear of God is imbued with the Spirit of life. The root of bitterness leads to destruction while the fear of God brings salvation. The psalmist says,
He will bless those who fear the Lord, the small together with the great. May the Lord give you increase, you and your children. Psalm 115:13-14
Repentance unearths the root of bitterness and restores the anointing of Spirit. The root of bitterness is in direct opposition to the anointing of the Spirit. The root of bitterness operates in the realm of man’s spirit, it harbors a secret ambition for self-rule; it is the seat of sin and rebellion. On the other hand, the anointing of the Spirit is the embodiment of God’s manifold gifts and blessings. God’s anointing empowers the believer with the fruit and gifts of the Spirit exalting him above his peers. Therefore, the believer must do all to unearth the root of bitterness and restore the anointing of the Spirit within him. Starting with a personal choice to submit to God not for personal gain, but because God is Lord; the Spirit enters and casts out the spirit of rebellion (root of bitterness). By cultivating a discipline of reading the word and by hearing and obeying God’s instructions daily, the root of bitterness dies and the Spirit’s anointing increases over time.
A person cannot control his destiny unless he removes the root of bitterness. The root of bitterness is likened to the strings that bond the puppet to the puppet master. The puppet is not in control of his destiny; its every move is dictated by the puppet master. So is the man who possesses the root of bitterness. He believes he is in control of his life, but far from it, the devil had his destiny firmly in his grip. The root of bitterness springs up at the height of his career by causing him to make an erroneous decision destroying him in the process. The devil deceives men into thinking that through self-rule and independence from God they can control their destiny and prosper. In reality, men’s destiny is either with God in heaven or with the devil in hell; there is no middle ground. Esau was deceived into thinking that whatever he did, his inheritance remained firmly in his hand. The root of bitterness betrayed him causing him to trade his birthright for a bowl of soup – a moment of rebellion caused him eternal loss and regret.
- Are you struggling with a certain sin in your life and cannot overcome it despite your best effort? Perhaps, you are attempting to live a moral life without first submitting yourself to God’s rule. Hence, you are using your own moral strength to overcome the passions of the flesh. Until and unless the root of bitterness is removed, God’s grace will not be present to overcome the power of sin.
- Are you constantly in fear that something bad may happen to you? Perhaps you have yet to surrender your life to God and submit under His rule. Christ showed us the way when He surrendered Himself to do God’s will by being baptized in water. Take a moment to dedicate yourself to God by praying the following:
Dear Lord, forgive me because I did not surrender my life fully to you. I now make a commitment to submit under your rule in all areas of my life. Remove the root of bitterness from me and restore your favor and grace within me. I reject all habitual sins and I cut myself off all unhealthy relationships. I commit myself to read your word, to hear your instructions and obey them on a daily basis. I desire to understand more of your plans in my life. I will put on the virtues of Christ and to become holy as God is holy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.