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Archive for July, 2012

God doesn’t complain much, but who would listen if he did? Many atheists laugh at such an idea. If God had a problem, he could fix it couldn’t he? What if we are the cause of the problem however? Do we really want God to “fix” us?

When I say that God has a complaint, or that God grieves, I’m aware that disagreement will arise. After all, nearly every sentence in the Script is disputed in one way or another. Modern Theology sides with Atheism in many of these matters. In the prevalent system of Bible exposition, many verses that relate to God’s emotions are viewed only as symbolism.

When Genesis 6:6 uses the words “repented,” and “grieved,” many theologians will explain that this doesn’t mean that God changes, or is unhappy. Some say that God is a spirit and cannot be unhappy or “feel,” as we think of feeling. This denies many plain statements of the Bible.

I agree that God doesn’t change, because he says in Malachi 3:6 that he doesn’t. We do change however, and the relationship we have with God and others changes due to our freedom of will. As to whether God can experience grief, it might be best to list a few verses.

Zechariah 12:10 is a strangely worded verse; “They will look upon me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son…” The personal pronouns are mixed in that verse. I believe in that verse, God the Father is saying that he is pierced, and the one to be mourned is his only begotten Son.

It is my belief that, for one thing, the crucifixion of Christ is the visible and physical manifestation of that which is done spiritually to God. That implicates every one of us in his suffering and death, and I think the disagreements about Christ and the Bible cause us to overlook that fact.

I also believe that the way we treat other human beings is ultimately the way we’ve treated God (Matthew 25:35-40). Therefore, the cross of Christ is the physical manifestation of the sins and hurtful things that all human beings have ever been guilty of.

I believe he is so connected by empathy to his creatures, that he can be hurt by our every thought as well as our deeds (Genesis 6:5). I believe he hurts, not only for those who are hurting, but also for those who cause pain. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you; how often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

Jesus entered this world as a Jew. When he wept for Jerusalem, he was weeping for his family. All human beings are a source of pain to one degree or another. We’re a pain even after we have believed in Jesus and are saved. We are told in Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, who has sealed you for the day of redemption.”

God can be grieved, and the Spirit of God can be suppressed and smothered. First Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Judges 10:16 in the KJV says of the Lord, “…His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.”

The translations of verses of the Bible are sometimes influenced by theological beliefs, and can lose some of their depth of emotion. All Bible translations won’t read exactly the same for the verses I’ve mentioned, but these should be enough to tell us something. God isn’t a complainer, but he is deeply grieved by the misery of mankind. I believe he wants us to know that.

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We sometimes experience things that cause physical pain without actually touching us. As I witnessed the birth of my sons, I felt so helpless that it hurt. I wanted to comfort my wife. I wanted to help the doctor, and the baby being born. I wanted to be somewhere else, yet there’s no way I would have missed it. Even after you’ve witnessed childbirth, it’s still hard to believe what you’ve seen.

When one of my sisters was in labor, her husband suffered such sympathy pains that he repeatedly doubled over clutching his stomach. I don’t remember if he was allowed in the delivery room. The expectancy that you feel when a child is being born puts a strange twist on the pain. It’s as if you’ve chosen to go through the pain to hold the child in your arms. That is what God has chosen.

As children learn from us, both good and bad, we learn a lot about ourselves also. We can never quite foresee how great the pain may be. If we knew, we might choose another road, but we’d miss something that God thinks is worth our journey. God knew we’d make him sorry for creating life, and yet he chose life.

The suffering that precedes death is different from that of birth. It’s an end, yet not the final end, of something precious. I was with my dad when he died of cancer. That last moment with someone as they leave this world is very tender. It’s something you don’t forget. If someone has suffered greatly, it can feel like a kind of release, especially if you’re confident you’ll see them later in a better world.

Most of my family was present when Dad died, but only one of my sisters was with Mom. Some had stepped out of the room. I had gone home to do something. and to lay down a minute. Before I left, I told Mom I would see her in a little bit and she gave a barely perceptible nod. She knew I meant that I was assured we’d see each other again; if not here, then there. I wanted very much to be with her when she died, but it wasn’t to be.

Empathy and sympathy come in many forms. I’ve known people who faint at the sight of blood. I don’t faint, but I get a jolt of pain through my body. We’re not as detached from others as we might think. A man I once worked with developed mental problems after watching news of the destruction of the World Trade Center. The images of people, forced from windows high in the buildings by flames and smoke, affect me today just as they did then. The sight of a couple falling hand in hand to their death is haunting.

I’d like to forget some things I’ve seen and heard, but it doesn’t seem right to do so. We should remember the young Japanese man, captured by terrorists, begging for his life before being beheaded. Jesus spoke to his disciples of a time when men would kill them thinking they were doing God a favor. Much that applied mainly to the disciples can yet be true for others.

Evil exists. That’s one of the things said by the Connecticut doctor whose wife and daughters were raped and murdered a few years ago? The doctor had been beaten unconscious with a ball bat, his wife was strangled, and his daughters died when the attackers burned the house.

Only God is fully aware of the pain experienced in this world. He’s with the people who fall asleep in exhaustion, and wake up in anguish remembering what someone did to those dearest to them. How does God feel when he sees the evil of this world? Genesis 6:6 (KJV), “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

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In the days before Noah’s flood, mankind became hopelessly estranged from God. God said in Genesis 6:3, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he is flesh (mortal); yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years.” This verse is taken to mean that the life span of man would gradually decrease to 120 years, which happened within a few generations.

The maximum age for human beings has continued to be around that length, though averages have dropped far below that. Some also note that God may have been speaking of the coming destruction of the world by Noah’s flood. The verse likely has a dual meaning, as do many Bible passages.

The most important part of the verse is often overlooked; God struggles with us to sustain our lives, and to save us. He has come a great distance to win our trust, for it’s a long way down from Heaven to the cross. If we will believe in him, it will change the direction of our lives.

There are basically two ways to walk. We can either walk with God, or we can walk away. If we walk away, the path divides into an infinite maze of possibilities. They eventually all lead to the impossible though. Our own ways can seem to us to be more direct. We can walk straight ahead, as if we know where we’re going, while God’s way may seem to wander.

Genesis 5:24 says that Enoch “walked with God…” The Hebrew word “Halak,” translated as “walked” in that verse is sometimes translated as “wandered.” It is the word used when God was “walking,” in the garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve hid from him (Genesis 3:8). Enoch didn’t try to hide from God, he walked with him.

The Septuagint in Genesis 5:24 says, “Enoch was well-pleasing to God, and was not found (on the earth), because God translated him.” Hebrews 11:5 (KJV) says that Enoch was “translated,” and didn’t experience death because he had faith in God; verse 11:6 reminds us that we can’t please God without faith.

Actually, we can’t please anyone if we distrust them. When people distrust each other, that lack of faith separates them. They can’t truly walk together. I’m not advising anyone to abandon all caution, or to trust too much in a fallible human being. I’m trying to show that it makes sense to have faith in God.

Sometimes the Septuagint translates a verse in a strange way. I love the way it translates Genesis 4:26. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about that verse, and Seth’s son Enos (Mortal Man); the Septuagint says of Enos, “…he hoped to call on the name of the Lord God.”

That’s where we have to begin. Our Creator came into this world to walk with us. Creating a body like ours for himself, he has made his struggle to give us everlasting life visible. His struggle has taken him to the cross, where his hands and feet are nailed. That is the price he has paid to walk with man.

If the Lord can just give us hope to call on his name, he will walk with us in Spirit until the time that we are translated (1st. Thessalonians 4:13-18).

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