Living With Regret (Charlie Peace)

Living With Regret
Robert Wurtz II

For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:17)

Our passage calls to remembrance the story of Jacob and Esau, twin brothers from the book of Genesis (beginnings). Though Esau was the oldest, he unconscionably sold the precious birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup. At the time he didn’t think much about what he had done. In fact, he figured on getting the birthright anyway as if he had never despised it by selling it. Not so. Jacob and his mother tricked Isaac into pronouncing the blessing on Jacob — while Esau was out in the field hunting. When he returned home he was horrified to discover that his father had irrevocably pronounced the precious birthright on his brother Jacob. Hebrews 12:17 reminds us of this event, telling us that for one morsel of food (one act of eating) Esau sold his birthright. As we still say today, “it was all over but the crying.” For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. 

There are some things that forgiveness cannot undo — that tears cannot reverse. Esau probably never thought about the long-term consequences of his actions. However, his attitude towards his birthright was merely a symptom of a systemic problem. He was a profane man according to Hebrews 12:16, the previous verse. This speaks to his character. He had a tendency to treat holy things as common. This is the meaning of profane — to trod under foot as commonplace. Not everything in life is commonplace. Some things should be regarded as holy and sacred. Esau traded a unique relationship with God for a single meal. Is there any wonder we read these solemn words, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Romans 9:13b NKJV) Theologians will argue until eternity whether or not the full force of hate is implied in this verse. Nevertheless, one thing is certain; there was a time when Esau hated Jacob for what had happened and determined to kill him. He failed to understand that it was his own attitude towards his relationship with God that was the problem, not Jacob. 

Regret

A few years ago a video clip made the usual rounds on social media entitled, “Regret.” It was comprised of a couple scenes from the war movie Saving Private Ryan. In it the medic is seen sitting in a cold abandoned house with his comrades, sharing a heart-rending story about his youth. It happens that as a teen, his mother would come to his room to check on him and say “good night” or “just talk for a minute.” Rather than responding to her at the door he pretended to be asleep. She would quietly close the door and go on to bed. Now he was overseas fighting in a war wondering how he could have done that. The video changes scenes to a firefight in which this same young man has just been shot by a high-powered rifle in the abdomen. He, being the medic, tried to instruct the men on stopping the bleeding. All they could do is give him morphine. The video ends with this young man going out into eternity crying for his mother. 

It has been said that only a fool learns from his own mistakes when he/she could have learned from someone else’s. Although it is secular, the video titled “Regret” is a sobering reminder not to do foolish things that cannot be undone. Like Esau who trod under foot his relationship with God — at the time it didn’t seem like a “big deal.” Yet all she wanted was a little conversation with her beloved son. He was passing up a precious opportunity. In the end he found no place of repentance though he too sought it diligently with tears. There was simply no way to go back and say, “mom, I’m sorry.” The time for making mends is while there is hope — not after all hope is gone. If we play the fool, we will live with the consequences. 

Charlie Peace

Charlie Peace (1832-1879) was a notorious criminal in England many decades ago. He was a vile man who murdered a police officer and even his neighbor to take his wife. He burglarized homes and eventually fled as a fugitive with 100 pounds on his head. Finally, the police caught up with him. Sentencing him to be hanged he took his last meal and headed to the gallows. He was escorted on the death-walk by the prison chaplain, who was reading aloud from The Consolations of Religion about the fires of hell. Peace burst out “Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worth while living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!” This was Peace’s last chance to make peace with God and yet he voided the opportunity. 



The broken glass motif, in some ways, has come to symbolize how desperate one can be trying to accomplish an important task. Walk on broken glass to save souls? Undoubtedly he would probably walk a million miles on broken glass if he could go back and reconsider the opportunity he had to be saved from his sin. It was all talk in the moment, but now he is living with eternal regret. There is no way he can go back and change his decision. While professing a willingness to trod England bare foot on broken glass he was trodding under foot his own soul’s salvation. This is what it is to be a profane person. 

What about now? What about us? Is there something we need to do right now while we have opportunity? Before we ever trade our “birthright” for a single meal; before we ever ignore our mother as she passes by our room; before we fill a sinner’s grave we can learn from these and a million other like stories and spare ourselves a lifetime or an eternity of regret.   

Anchored Behind The Veil

Anchored Behind The Veil

Robert Wurtz II

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11–12 NKJV)


It is hard for us to imagine the circumstances surrounding the writing of the book of Hebrews. The children of Israel had been under the Old Covenant since Mt. Sinai; but now that which had waxed old was ready to vanish from sight completely. The Zealots had stirred the Romans to wrath — putting their homeland and Temple at risk of complete annihilation. If we listen closely we can almost hear the thunderous sound of marching footsteps as the Roman Legions encircle Jerusalem. 

For the Jews of the First Century, the Temple was central to their religious experience. Although synagogues served as the place of weekly meetings, Jerusalem and the Temple were key to all the festivals and offerings. For the Jews, Jerusalem was a name that meant foundation, the abode, and the inheritance of peace. The Rabbis believe it was named Jehovah Jireh by Abraham, but since Shem named it Shalem, the words were combined into Jireh-Shalem or Jerusalem for short. It was here that Melchisedek met Abraham and blessed him; while a few miles south Abraham took his beloved and promised son Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice at Moriah. It was there, on Arnon’s old threshing floor, that Solomon built the Temple — the exact spot where the destroying Angel had showed mercy after David had numbered Israel.

The writer to the Hebrews brings most of these events to mind as he explains their significance. They serve as a reminder that the first covenant and the Temple were only part of the ongoing history of the sons of Abraham. This was a tough pill to swallow. Most of the people grew up seeing the sun rise and set on this awesome city; now the earth begins to tremble and all the familiar things — the place of peace, the abode, the very foundations were about to be shaken.

If God shook Jerusalem, He will shake anything and everything. As human beings we tend to place our faith and hope in anything that seems secure. Indeed, above all things we want to feel safe. What happens when we find our security in something other than God?

I’m reminded of God’s words to Abraham, “I am your shield and your exceeding great reward.” Notice he did not provide Abraham a shield, He would be his shield. Often we look for God to provide us something we need and His intention is to provide us with Himself. Not only was God going to be Abraham’s shield, He would also be his savior from sin. He went to Moriah with Isaac believing that God would provide for Himself a sacrifice — saw the ram and offered it. These things were only a figure. God provided Himself as the Lamb at Calvary.

It is hard to let go of the past. There is no sense pretending it should have been easy. Sometimes the past has to be thoroughly done away with before we can go forward in what God has for us. Paul suffered a foretaste of these things when he boarded the ship for Rome. He tried to warn the leaders not to take the ship in the way it went. Likewise, the Zealots were warned not to continue to provoke the Romans. Neither listened. The ship master did everything in his power to spare his ship from the storm he charted into. It was too late. The 276 people on board were so distressed that the did not eat for two weeks. When the Romans finally marched on Jerusalem in 70AD, the people were starving to death as they laid siege to it.

As the ship was about to be torn to pieces the order went out and four anchors went down over the side of that ship. All they could do is pray for morning to come. As for the Zealots and the people of Jerusalem, the city and its Temple were utterly destroyed. Not one massive stone was left on top of another it was so completely thrown down.




Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil. (Hebrews 6:17–19 KJV)

For the believing Jews who watched the events of AD 70 take place, they had to drop anchor as well. With everything around them going to pieces, they had to have their faith and hope in something greater than the muddied sea floor or the rocks that perchance the arms of the anchor may take hold of. Their hope was in Jesus Christ alone.

We can learn from this. Sooner or later all that seems so stable is going to be shaken and all that will be left are the things that remain. When all of our life seems to be in flux, we must set our hope eternity. The chain between the anchor and our soul must pass through the torn veil. As the old hymn proclaims:

Upon life’s boundless ocean where mighty billows roll,

  1. I’ve fixed my hope in Jesus, blest anchor of my soul;
    When trials fierce assail me as storms are gath’ring o’er,
    I rest upon His mercy and trust Him more.
    • Refrain:
      I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
      I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave;
      I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath pow’r to save,
      I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages.

    • Amen. 

  



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