Monthly Archives: April 2019

Mourning

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. (Psalm 6:6 ESV)

Emotional duress is more exhausting than physical pain, bringing depression, despondency and even hopelessness. Weary means toil and labor, exhaustion from constant activity. Moaning  means sighing, an expression of grief or distress, to groan. The Psalmist is feeling internal grief because of imminent death. 

As king Hezekiah lay dying, he turned his face to the wall and prayed God would spare his life. “Like a swallow or a crane I chirp; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!” (Isaiah 38:14 ESV). He was afraid of death and begged God through tears to allow him to live. “‘Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:3 ESV). After God gave him more years Hezekiah, showed why he was afraid of death. He had great wealth and no concern for his family. He showed off his wealth to the Babylonians. Isaiah prophesied what would happen.

Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:17-20 ESV)

Jesus faced death, setting His face to go to Jerusalem where He knew what would happen and the death He would endure. As He approached Jerusalem, He wept over the city and its people.“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41-42). Wept means to mourn and lament, to bewail, to shed tears as evidence of emotional pain and grief. Jesus felt anguish over the sum total of the act of sacrifice He would offer to God, His Father, for a people who cared nothing for either God or Him. He felt grief for the people, whose eyes and ears were closed and who refused to come to Him, repenting of their sin. Jesus performed signs and miracles and many did not believe Him. In a manner of speaking, Jesus flooded his bed with tears and drench(ed) my (His)couch with my weeping as He lived with and ministered to an obstinate people.

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:43 ESV; see Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:14)

Jesus showed His love for His people by dying for them. His weeping over Jerusalem was the release of emotion built over time. Jesus always knew what He was to do in Jerusalem that week and it grieved Him.

As He walked through the land, teaching people, performing miracles, and calling people to repentance, He saw they did not understand what He was doing. The religious leaders hated Him and conspired to murder Him. Many, being fed, wanted to make Him king, so He would continue feeding them. Many came to be healed. Many followed to see and be entertained by what He did. To be sure, there were many who believed Him and followed Him from devotion. But none had a complete understanding until after the Holy Spirit was given. Jesus lived among a people who could not understand because they were blinded by sin.

His grief built over time, coming to a head as He approached Jerusalem and His impending death by torture. Jesus was troubled in His innermost being. Soon after entering Jerusalem He told His disciples how troubled He was. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28 ESV). As much grief as He felt, God was His comfort. “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’” (John 12:28 ESV). 

God turns grief into joy.

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Life or Death

For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (Psalm 6:5 ESV)

God does not tell us much about eternity, either in or away from His presence. We can know being in His presence brings life and all of the peace and rest which comes with obedience and doing that for which people were created, and in Christ, re-created. We can also know those who exist outside of His presence, eternally absent from the source of life, are in agony and constant turmoil. These are simple and inadequate illustrations of the difference between heaven and hell. We know God will separate those who are His from those who continue willfully rebelling and sinning against Him.

God gives us clues about death, being separated from that which supports and maintains life. Death is the opposite of life. Death is non-life, removal from that which sustains life. In the physical world that which has life needs food, water and air. Remove any one of these three elements and life ceases, the organism dies and begins to decay. Sheol in the Hebrew is the equivalent of haides in the Greek, the grave, the pit, a place of no return, the place of the dead, the underworld. Both sheol and haides are considered hell by many. The place of the dead is not a place where those who die cease to exist but are conscious of who they are and their circumstances. 

David declares that those who have died have no remembrance of God and will not give Him praise. They will not remember Him nor thank Him or confess His greatness. This does not mean there is no consciousness for those in the grave. David is thinking of burial, the covering of dirt, entombing of a dead body, where it will decay. Those who knew the dead person can no longer hear their words or see their actions because in death they neither speak nor act.

Jacob uses the word sheol to describe what has happened to his son, Joseph, upon hearing the report of his death from his brothers. 

Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.(Genesis 37:34-35 ESV)

Those who have died are still under God’s control and government. Thus, the grave is an intermediate place between heaven and hell. Those who are wicked will eventually go to hell, away from God, the Giver of life, while those who are righteous will come into God’s eternal presence where they are sustained with life. Death and the grave bring mourning to those who remain alive. For those facing death there is tremendous fear of the unknown. They do not know what they are facing. 

King Hezekiah echoed David’s words as he lay dying, then wrote his own Psalm after he was healed, reflecting upon what God had done for him. When his body is placed in the grave he believed he would no longer praise God.

For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you;  those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. the father makes known to the children your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:18-19 ESV)

Jesus faced death. He saw beyond death. He spoke often about His own death but always continued speaking about His resurrection and what would happen because of His resurrection. During the last Passover week, Phillip and Andrew brought to Him a request by some Greek believers who wanted to see Jesus. Knowing His death would draw all men, Jews and Greeks, to Himself, He responded with a small parable. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24 ESV). Many Christians believe this parable speaks directly to people. It does not. Jesus spoke about Himself. The grain of wheat is Jesus. Falling to the earth is His death. Bearing fruit is His resurrection. He must die to bring all to Himself. His fruit is the ingathering of all those who are His. They are in Him. He is their refuge.

But what of those who are not in Him? Death becomes eternal separation from God. There is a separation of those who hate God and continue in their rebellion against Him, and those who love God and obey His command to come to His Son. Hell becomes a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). Those who hate life are sentenced to not have life. Death ends life.

Those who love Him will receive life. But only those who love Him more than they love their own life will receive life from God. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26 ESV). For those who are separated out for God, physical death is not the end but the beginning of true life.