And God Cried

"Let my eyes run with tears, day and night let them not cease, for my hapless people have suffered a grievous injury, a very painful wound." Jeremiah 14:17 (JPS)

PRE-FLOOD (2850-2270 BC). "The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth... and it grieved Him to His heart" (Gen. 6:5,6 NRSV). Yes, God cried.

EUROPE (1096-1100). During the crusades, Christian soldiers enroute to the Holy Land slaughtered Jews on the way. Some were herded into their synagogues. Cries of anguish shrilled unto heaven as the wooden structures were torched. And God cried

EUROPE (1204-1799). Protestant blood flowed freely in Roman Catholic countries. The victims of the so-called "Holy Inquisition totaled in the millions. And God cried.

CHRISTIAN WORLD (1490-1850). Over 20 million Black Africans killed in Middle Passage on way to slave markets for purchase by white Christians. And God Cried.

EUROPE (1941-1945). Six million Jews were hunted, hounded, driven, butchered, gassed and burned in the Holocaust. And God cried.

HIROSHIMA (August 6, 1945). A single atomic bomb claimed 129,558 victims and terrified the world. And God cried

THE WORLD (1914-1996). Over 175 million were killed as a result of the insane policies of governments like Germany, Communist Russia, Cambodia, etc. And God cried.

THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES (1990s). Each day 40,000 babies die of starvation. And God cries.

Then there are the personal tragedies of loved ones endured daily by hundreds of thousands—senseless death or mutilation on the highways, babies born physically deformed or mentally deficient and victims of senseless crime. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other disasters steal the lives of millions in their onslaughts of destruction and deprivation. Psychological tragedies of dysfunctional families, drug addiction and the multitudes of lonely, neurotic, homeless people in turn have left tens of thousands of families emotionally scarred. And God cries.

Yes, these statistics fill the daily news, but only when they strike us or our loved ones are we overwhelmed with the pain of tragedy. Everyday these statistics have faces—millions of faces of real people shattered emotionally and mentally. The cries of sickness, sorrow, suffering and death encircle the globe. Not one of us can comprehend the enormity of the total sufferings of all humankind. Only God can and does see this humongous picture of human miseries. And God continues to cry.

Jeremiah 14:17 assures us God even cries over the tragic loss befalling those who have rebelled against Him. Yes, God does care when we suffer. He is concerned when tragedy strikes. God knows our frame that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14 ). He realizes the enormity of human suffering could and would cause some to doubt His love and others to doubt He even exists.

The infinite Creator and God of the universe wants to convey to mere earthlings—frail humanity—His compassion and love for us. How can one so omnipotent communicate His capacity to suffer with finite man? He uses an imagery we can understand—"tears." Far from being an indication of weakness, God's imagery of shedding "tears" assures us of a profound fatherly care and concern. Just how deep is God's fatherly love?

God's dealing with Israel past, present and future is a microcosm of His relationship with all humankind (Isa. 43 & 44; Rom. 11). A parent might discipline a child by remanding the child to his room for the evening. A loving parent feels the pain of the child's punishment and often recalls the many wonderful times they shared together. Likewise it hurts God when he chastens His people. Listen to the parental sorrow of God in Jeremiah 6:26. "Thus says the Lord... Oh my poor people, put on sackcloth,...for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us (NRSV). This is incredible. The "us" class is God and Israel. God puts Himself in the picture of sharing Israel's suffering. This assures us that God chastens in love. He chastens to heal (Isa.19:22 ). Listen to a loving father's thoughts of nostalgia while He is chastening Israel, a disobedient son.

Like [as pleasing as] grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel,
Like the first fruit on the fig tree, in its first season,
I saw your ancestors...
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son. Hosea 9:10;11:1 (NRSV)

Yet the more God called Israel the more they disobeyed.

The more I called them, the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.
I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them. Hosea 11:2-4 (NRSV)

Israel continued to pervert the laws of God and neglect the "fatherless and widows." Severe punishment was inflicted, but not without its toll on God. God's heart sank to the depths of sorrow, as he withdrew his loving protection. God exclaimed," I have given the dearly beloved of my heart into the hand of her enemies." (Jer. 12:7)

When the punishment came Israel cried, but the Creator and God of the whole Universe cried with them.

Thus saith the Lord of host...
Call for the mourning women.
And let them...take up a wailing for us,
That our eyes may run down with tears,
And our eyelids gush out with waters. Jer. 9:17,18 (KJV)

They were scattered to the ends of the earth. God's punishment was most severe upon Ephraim the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. But the Creator and God of the Universe was suffering with Ephraim (Jer. 14:17) in this severe chastening of dispersion as noted in His further expressions of nostalgia:

Truly, Ephraim is a dear son to Me,
A child that is dandled!
Whenever I have turned against him,
My thoughts would dwell on him still.
That is why My heart yearns for him;
I will receive him back in love.
Declares the LORD. Jer. 31:20,21 (JPS)

Even while Ephraim (Israel) was cast off from favor, God in His tender nostalgia spoke of him prophetically as a son who would be received back in love.

How do we know that God's expressions of fatherly love — a love that felt Israel's sufferings during her chastening — were true? How do we know God's nostalgic longings to restore Israel back to His favor were true? The rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 is the proof. It is a miracle of history. Never before had the polity of a nation been destroyed, its people scattered to the ends of the earth and then regathered nearly 2,000 years later to their ancient homeland to be reborn as a nation. God's fatherly chastening of love will continue to restore the Jewish people to full favor and belief. Yes, God chastens to heal. Israel's gradual restoration is the precursor of all mankind's restoration to God's full love and favor in His Kingdom. In fact, Romans 11:15 states Israel's restoration to Divine favor will mean life from the dead for the whole world.

Oh, what a marvelous God we have! "In our affliction He is afflicted (suffers)" and we are assured God's chastenings are rehabilitative so that His beloved wayward children might be restored to the bosom of His favor. Yes, God chastens to heal (Isa. 63:9; 19:22).

God's symbolic tears convey the imagery of a profound fatherly love and concern. God's capacity to experience the sufferings of another is also conveyed in the Hebrew verb yada which is sometimes translated "to know" or "knew." Yada denotes both an intellectual and emotional act. It is frequently used to note a deep emotional experience between two persons. Therefore, it also means the ability to have a deep sympathetic love — the ability to feel the emotions of another.

In Exodus 3:7, "The Lord said, I have seen the afflictions of my people, who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know (yada) their sufferings." Here God expresses His ability to feel Israel's sufferings when they were slaves in Egypt. Psalm 31:7 contains a precious promise all Christians should cherish: "I will rejoice and be glad in Thy lovingkindness, Because Thou hast seen my affliction; Thou hast known (yada) the troubles of my soul."

Yes, God's sympathy runs so deep that He actually knows, in the sense of feeling, our troubles, sorrows and tragedies. A suffering God puts the question of the permission of evil in a practical perspective. It is no longer an academic question or an abstract philosophy. If God suffers when man suffers, why does God permit suffering? Why does God permit the evil that causes the suffering of humankind? God knows the end from the beginning (Isa.46:9,10). The foreknowledge of God adds another dimension to the scope of God's suffering.

If God shares our suffering why would He conceive a plan that would result in His own suffering? The question is no longer—why do good people suffer or why do innocent children suffer? Rather, why has God permitted a horrific human history of blood, tragedy, pain and mental anguish that would just tear away at His Fatherly emotions of love?

Some believe in God and His tender care for His people but in their own situation feel God has been too severe—seemingly unjust.

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