Volume 20, Issue 27 (July 8, 2018)
By Curtis Carwile
In Genesis 6:5-6, we read this: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
One of the most interesting parts of this whole biblical account of Noah and the Flood is found here in verse 6, the idea that God grieved. It is intriguing because we don’t normally think of God this way, as sorrowful, as grieving. The thought tickles our minds because there are so many questions we could ask about it.
One such question is this: CAN God grieve? The answer is both obvious and complicated. On one hand, it is obvious because Scripture clearly states that all three Persons of the Godhead can and do grieve (Gen. 6:6; Psa. 95:10; Isa. 63:7-10; 53:3-10).
Now, this is where it gets complicated. You see, grief is a human emotion. So, how can divine God feel what humans do? Well, one thing we need to consider is that Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26ff). We actually got our ability to emote from Him! We can experience emotions because He is an emotional Being.
With all of that said, some will still wonder how a God with perfect foreknowledge (Psa. 139:16; 147:5) can grieve. They will say, “Doesn’t God’s foreknowledge necessarily negate God’s ability to grieve? How can He be sad or disappointed if He knew something bad was going to happen?” But, to be clear, foreknowledge has nothing to do with a person’s ability to grieve. Take me and my children for example. I know that they will face various hardships and suffer various heartaches in their lifetimes, some by their own devising and some not. I may even know some specific things they will face and have to either overcome or endure. I may see these things coming from miles away, years before they actually happen. And, I may do everything in my power that is right for me to do to prevent these things from happening and to lessen the hurt when those things happen. Yet, does my foreknowledge, my preparation, eliminate or lessen my grief or my ability to grieve? No. The same goes with the God who created us with His ability to emote. So, regardless of God’s perfect foreknowledge, He CAN and DOES grieve.
Something else we should consider is this: WHAT does God grieve and WHY?
Frankly put, God grieves because of our sin. This is what caused Him to grieve before He washed the world clean (Gen. 6:6). Israel’s rebellion in the wilderness and the Promised Land is what caused His Holy Spirit to grieve (Psa. 95:10; 78:40-42; Isaiah 63:7-10). “Jerusalem’s” rejection of the Lord and His Messiah and its subsequent destruction in 70 AD caused Jesus to grieve (Matt. 23:37-39). Clearly, our sin, our rebellion, our rejection of Him causes Him pain, sorrow, and grief.
But, why does it cause Him such grief? One reason is because our sin ruined His “very good” world (Gen. 1:31). I mean, if someone ruined something you had made and thought was “very good,” you’d be upset about it too. Another reason is because He knows that we can do better, but just choose to do worse (Ecc. 7:29). It grieves me to no end when I know my children can behave better than how they choose to behave; I think every parent can say that. A third reason is because, by sinning, we separate ourselves from the God who loves us more than we can ever fully appreciate (Isa. 59:1-2; John 3:16). You better believe that it hurts me when my children want nothing to do with me because of the wrong that they have done or are doing; I can only imagine how much more God feels that! A fourth reason why our sin causes Him so much grief is this: He, better than anyone else could, clearly knows what we are doing to ourselves and to others when we sin. He knows that we are killing ourselves (Rom. 6:23a) and ruining our influence with others and discouraging, grieving, and possibly even leading others astray with our sin! Becca and I have some family members who we love very much. And, it kills us to see them ruining their lives with the foolish choices they have made and continue to make. How could this NOT grieve God?! Another reason is because He knows that He’s going to have to punish us in the Judgment with Hell. Have you ever heard someone tell their child before they are about to punish them, “This is going to hurt me a lot more than it will hurt you”? I literally said that an hour ago to my third child. No parents like punishing their child and God is no different; He takes no delight in the punishing/death of His children (Ezek. 18:32). A sixth reason is because the price of our redemption, our salvation, was just so high! What high price? It’s the precious blood that perfect, sinless, innocent, and loving Jesus shed willingly on the cross for us, for sinners, for His enemies (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Acts 20:28; Rom. 5:6-11). Honestly, I wouldn’t sacrifice my child to save anyone else! I couldn’t bare the grief. But, that is the price God paid for all of us (1 John 2:1-2). Oh, the grief He had to feel when Jesus died on that cross! And, a final reason is because, despite so great a salvation at so great a price, so many will still choose to continue in their sin and neglect this great offer and be lost forever in eternal destruction (Matt. 7:13-14; Heb. 2:1-4; 2 Thess. 1:8-9)! Truly, our sins, our rebellion against Him, our rejection of Him and His Son, rightfully cause Him unimaginable grief!
Finally, consider with me this: since I don’t want to grieve God, WHAT can I do to NOT GRIEVE Him anymore and WHAT can I do that will PLEASE Him instead?! Clearly, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). So, to start pleasing Him, I need to believe in Him and believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), to please Him more and better, I need to constantly expose myself to His word (i.e., in personal studies, in Bible classes and sermons offered at my local faithful congregation, etc.); I need to give attention to the reading of Scripture, to doctrine, to exhortation, to all of that (1 Tim. 4:13). Additionally, I need to do what God says for me to do in His word. For example, in His word, He tells me that I need to repent from sinning and lay aside everything that might get in my way of pleasing Him (Luke 13:3; Heb. 12:1-2). Also, He tells me to be baptized in the Lord’s name for the forgiveness of my sins which grieve Him so much (Acts 2:38). And, in His word, He tells me to live by my faith in Him (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:1ff). In short, what I need to do to stop grieving God and to please Him is to stop sinning against Him and be busy serving Him.
Friends, I truly pray that we never grieve God anymore than we already have. And, I hope that we will always strive to please Him and help others do the same. May God bless us in our efforts.