Before you read another word of this post, please watch this video – “Tears of God”. I can’t keep from weeping when I watch it.
I could quote to you the number of casualties from each side or the total number of Americans killed (about 620,000) in this so called Civil War (there is nothing civil about war) but that cannot convey the sorrow or provoke the tears – not anywhere near the way the words of a song can. How can we calculate the pain, the sorrow, the losses to families – to fathers and mothers, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren along with the losses of the friends and neighbors those losses represent?
One can visit the actual battlefields like Shiloh, Chickamauga or Gettysburg where thousands of men from both sides fought and lost their lives. One doesn’t hear the thunder of cannon, the crack of rifles, the commands of officers, the cries of the injured or the moans of a dying soldier. Now there are the sounds of wind in the trees, the songs of birds or the laughter of children playing as their parents benignly observe. Those battlefields are now serene, well groomed parks filled with old tarnished cannons, marble and granite monuments that convey nothing of the fear and pain and blood of the young soldiers who fought and bled and died there.
If you can listen to this song and view the photos, sketches and paintings without shedding tears for the horrors of that terrible Civil War that tore our nation apart just over 150 years ago you need to have a “heart examination.”
If you do shed tears then perhaps you can understand just a little of the sorrow God must feel over not only the atrocity of that war when brother took up arms against brother (sometimes literally brothers in the flesh, too often brothers in Christ and always brothers as Americans) in a horrendous fratricide. And not only God’s tears for that one war that was fought on American soil, but also for all the wars, hatred, atrocities and bloodshed that accompany them all.
It is not only war that causes sorrow and wounds the great heart of God. Throughout the Bible we can count any number of things that are said to grieve God. To grieve is “to mourn or sorrow for” something. When we see the things that cause God to mourn or to be sorrowful over we can better understand his heart. God is not a far away being who does not see nor care about what we, his creatures, do in this world.
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6).
Since we are all sinners and because we live in an environment that is more often than we care to think characterized by violence, hatred, deception, fraud and oppression we all too easily become desensitized to all that goes on around us. Night after night we hear the news reports of all sorts of wrongs done by human beings to other human beings. Night after night we see this same kind of thing portrayed as entertainment. Violence and crime become routine to us and we cease to be morally outraged by all but the most extreme cases or when it happens to us. But God knows how terrible every wrongful act is and it grieves him.
He also knows where it all originates – and why. Sin originates in the heart of man. No matter how large or small, he abhors it. He grieves over it, not only for what it does to the innocent sufferers, but for what we do to ourselves when we allow it to happen or when we become indifferent toward those who are suffering and oppressed. He knows what we do to ourselves when we allow our indifference to others to turn into hatred and become violent perpetrators of wrong.
When we look at the words of Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet,” we can see (and hopefully, experience) something of same sorrow when we identify among us today the same things that made him weep in the prophet’s day. The things Jeremiah shed tears over are the things God weeps over. Jeremiah’s tears were God’s tears.
“My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me. ” (Jer. 8.18)
Why? God’s people had become unfaithful to him. He viewed them as his bride, he their husband, but they had committed adultery against him – had not kept their covenant with him.
For they are all adulterers,
a company of treacherous men (Jer.9:2c).
Because of the unfaithfulness of some, the people as a whole were suffering. God was about to put them away – to divorce them – by sending them into captivity and it broke God’s heart that the innocent were having to suffer.
“For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me” (Jer. 8.21).
“Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9.1)
Even more graphically the depth of the grief can be seen in the following quote …
“Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skillful women to come;
let them make haste and raise a wailing over us,
that our eyes may run down with tears
and our eyelids flow with water.” (Jer. 9.17-18).
Professional help was needed to do justice to the mourning! In ancient times people would hire professional mourners at the death of someone. There is even an English word for them – moirologists. For a price they would raise the wailing to the appropriate pitch or even deliver a eulogy. God advises such for the people to get into the proper mood of mourning over the tragedy that had come upon his people.
“Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
In this shortest verse in the Bible we see something of the heart of God also. Here were the tears of sympathy for the sorrow and loss his friends Mary and Martha were feeling at the death of their brother. It also shows us much about the character of Jesus – and thus of the Father also. Does God care about our sorrow? Does it grieve him that we grieve over our losses? Surely it does.
Christians are taught to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). When we are not touched with the sorrow of others we show how little like our Savior we are. It is not a mark of strength to not weep. It is not a weakness to weep, especially when someone we love is in the depth of sorrow. When we weep with others our tears are really the tears of Jesus for we know that he weeps for the pain of others. When we weep for others we are being like him.
It is also to be like Jesus to weep over sin. The prophets had preached the word of God to this rebellious city, trying to get them to repent and the only thing they had gotten for their trouble was death. Jesus had preached to them and it would only be a short time until he would be dead also. Yet he lamented over this unrepentant city.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).
I have a preacher friend who becomes very emotional when speaking to people about being lost. One day he was being apologetic for what he saw as a weakness as he was attempting to extend the invitation of the Lord, knowing there were people in the audience who needed to respond to Jesus’ tender pleading. I reminded him that this was no weakness. He was merely being like Jesus.
Can you imagine Jesus screaming at people about how they were going to go to hell and appearing as though they would be glad of it when they did? Hardly! It was said of him …
“…a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20).
These two things are weak, tenuous, uncertain, having no strength. Jesus’ ministry was to heal, to bind up, to strengthen. His appeal to weak, penitent sinners was always one of tender, loving invitation and not of stern, bitter rebuke. That was reserved for the impenitent and the self-righteous – the most religious people of his day.
And yet, it was for these latter that Jesus mourned and wept. Why? Was it not because he knew what was going to happen to them and he couldn’t do anything about it? They had refused to believe in him and had decided their own fate. That did not keep him from grieving for them because …
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
And Jesus wept over sin because he knew the price he was going to pay in a very short time. He would be brutally treated, falsely accuse, unjustly condemned by the very ones for whom he was going to die. Even as he was dying on the cross he uttered the imploring cry in behalf of these very ones, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). If one could watch the History Channel’s series on the Bible and not weep at the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus, knowing it was for each of us that he was nailed there, there is nothing that will affect him.
What a great God we have! He is one who understands us and who sympathizes with our weaknesses. This is one of the reasons why we should not be reluctant to come to him when we are in need of comfort, understanding or support.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).