Biblical Expressions of God’s Pain

In the Prophets especially, God speaks of his own pain. In Ezek. 6:9, for instance, God says, “I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me” (ESV). God, Scripture tells us, has been “broken”. In Jer. 48:36, the prophet relates, remarkably, that God’s “heart moans for Moab like a flute” and “moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth”. The heart of God sounds like a flute of lament, according to Jeremiah. And in Hos. 11:8, there seems to be (what my good friend describes as) a crack in the voice of God: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?” God pauses, torn over the fate of the son he brought out of Egypt (cf. Hos. 11:1).

The spiritual person will have to make a judgment about how to understand these expressions of God’s pain (cf. 1 Cor. 2:15). We need to be wary of our temptations, equally, to treat God as one of the things he has made and to be resistant to what he has told us. Both are sources of idolatry, the construction of false gods. It is perhaps as tempting to say that God is utterly unaffected by humanity’s abandonment, remaining resolutely loving, as to say that God feels pain as each one of us does. We need the Spirit to give light to the eyes of our hearts, that we may know the deep things of God (cf. Eph. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:10). We need to pray, to ask God who is the truth to show us what is true. All these things are needed for the kind of reasoning by which we come to theological knowledge. What might it mean for God to be broken or for his heart to moan like a flute? Let us ask him.

 

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