“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) God’s Grief (Tom Edwards)
Last week, we considered how special we are to God. That though we are so unworthy and have nothing in ourselves, apart from Christ, to be deserving of eternal life, yet God has treated us as having tremendous value by sending His Son Jesus to suffer and die that we might be saved. We noted that God regards His people as being “much more valuable…than the birds!,” as being “a treasured possession” (Deut. 26:18), as being “a people for God’s own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9), as being “precious” (“valuable,” James Strong) in God’s sight (Isa. 43:1), and as being “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8), which Webster defines as “someone or something very precious or dear to one…”
Something else that also indicates God’s affection toward us is in knowing that He can be grieved by our sin and ungodliness. We are first made aware of that in Genesis 6:5,6: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
The Bible sometimes uses “accommodating language” or what is also referred to as “speaking in the fashion of man,” such as when it says in Genesis 11:5, “The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.” Did God have to literally come down? Even from heaven, the LORD “sees all the sons of men” (Psa. 33:13). And surely, the Lord knew — before He even made man — of what man would do, which would result in the need for a Savior. For Jesus’ death on the cross is said to be according to “the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23); and when speaking of being “not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold…but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ,” Peter goes on to say, “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet. 1:18-20).
So, apparently, God wanted to have a people for Himself – even though it would also include some grief on His part along the way!
Psalm 78:40, a historical psalm, declares, “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert!”
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them” (Isa. 63:10).
According to WebMD, “Grief and grieving are the natural response to a major loss, such as the death of a loved one.” How, therefore, could God be grieving over others unless they had been of importance and value to Him, and were now a great loss?
Being a God of justice, the Lord cannot condone or overlook transgression. So those who remain in their sin, refusing to repent, will have to suffer the consequences; but that is not what the Lord desires to carry out – but He must! For as He says in Ezekiel 33:11: “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”
And what about when man dies “spiritually,” as Adam and Eve did on the day they took the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? (See Gen. 2:17.) Sin results in spiritual death, which has been defined as a separation from God. See Isaiah 59:1,2. James writes: “…each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14,15). “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23). So the point is, would not God be just as grieved over those who have spiritually died because of sin as He was toward those whose sin had resulted in a physical death?
To grieve over those you love is also seen of Jesus in Luke 19:41-44: “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.’” The Lord’s heart had gone out to these who were heading toward suffering. He wanted to save them, but they were unwilling.
This is also seen in Luke 13:34 where the Lord probably said bemoaningly, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!”
Jesus came to this world to also show what His Father in heaven is like (cf. Jn. 14:7-11). For His love and concern for others is identical to that of Jesus. Notice also the compassion Jesus manifested toward those emotionally suffering over the death of Lazarus. Jesus was there to raise Lazarus from the dead, but when He saw Mary “weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see’” (John 11:33-34). Then the next verse so tenderly tells us that “Jesus wept.” Some who saw that had said, “See how He loved him!” (v. 36). Yes, Lazarus was a good friend of the Lord’s whom He loved; but was not the Lord’s weeping because of these others — or at least also — and out of love and sympathy for them?
Isaiah prophesied about 700 years prior to Jesus’ birth into this world and shows the extent to which He was willing to go, due to His love for His Father and for humanity: “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken; Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” (Isa. 53:2-6). God loved us that much – and still does!
To express the grief God had toward His wayward people of Old Testament times, He is sometimes depicted as a husband toward them, and they as an unfaithful and adulterous wife, such as when God speaks of “the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them” (Jer. 31:32). And by their going after the false gods of idolatry, they were then referred to as not only unfaithful, but also as adulterers and harlots. “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, bear now the punishment of your lewdness and your harlotries” (Ezek. 23:35). “For they [Samaria and Jerusalem, v. 4] have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food” (v. 37; See also Jer. 32:35).
To better understand the grief that God went through by His people being disloyal toward Him and going after false gods, the Lord had Hosea marry a woman prone to harlotry, “for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD” (Hos. 1:2). Her name was “Gomer” (v. 3), and she did go after other lovers (Hos. 2:5); but God said He would “hedge up her way with thorns” and “build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; And she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, For it was better for me then than now!’” (Hos. 2:6-7). And in spite of all the wrong she had done and all the grief she had brought to Hosea, he still took her back — having paid the fee to do so (Hos. 3:2)! How much more meaningful Hosea’s message to the people of His day — of God’s love for them and His desire for them to repent and return to Him — must have been for all those who had known of Hosea’s love for Gomer. For they were like her, in a manner of speaking, being spiritual adulterers by their unfaithfulness to God and going after the false gods of idolatry. But God still loved them and wanted them to come to their senses, repent and return, that He may welcome them again and His grief be turned to joy!
So let us each live, according to the gospel, so that we will not bring grief to the Father, to the Son, nor to the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30)! For they do greatly care for each of us!
(All Scripture from the NASB.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)