By Dr. Jeffrey Johnson
Dr. Jeffrey Johnson is a humanitarian, author, and sought-after lecturer on Jewish roots and Bible Prophecy. He was a pastor for over 17 years and received his Master’s Degree from Moody Bible Institute and his Doctorate from Louisiana Baptist University. He is a member of the American Society of Church History as well as Evangelical Theological Society. He has authored several books including God Was There, Childhood of Jesus, and Life After Death: What Happens Next? His latest book, The Moses Papers, will be released this fall. For more information visit www.IsraelTodayMinistries.org.
The last few years, we have found ourselves in a position to minister to and comfort the suffering people of Israel, both Jews and Arabs. We have helped those who have lost their homes in northern Israel, being victims of rockets launched from Hezbollah's lair in Lebanon. We have wept with families who lost their children in suicide bombings. Daily, the school children in Israel race to bomb shelters when they hear the "red color" sirens sounding the alarm that Hamas in Gaza fired more rockets into their town. They wet their beds and rock back and forth in fear. They suffer from nightmares; parents weep and struggle because they have no money to buy food. Holocaust survivors live in poverty within the walls of Israel. And now, the new threat of the so-called Arab Spring with the change of power and the emboldened nefarious leaders, clanging swords and killing their own neighbors. Does God feel this suffering and fear?
The early church fathers, both Latin & Greek, insisted upon what is called the “impassibility” of God. Basically, this means while man, created by God, experiences suffering, God himself does not. Yet, portions of the Hebrew scripture narrative imply God does have feelings and does react to His creation.
Understandably so, those who advocate a strict “impassibility” realize that God is not completely apathetic. On the other hand, when the scripture narrative describes God in human terms, i.e., hands, eyes, etc., we understand that God is a spirit and is bigger than our physical universe, or our ideas and understanding of personifying God. Notwithstanding, is something to be learned from the scripture when it ascribes human emotions and human features to God – does reveal something about the Creator God?
Before the Incarnation of the Messiah we find it stated of God:
1. “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel (Judges 10:16).”
2. “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the LORD (Jeremiah 31:20).”
3. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred (Hosea 11:8).”
After the Incarnation it is stated of Jesus:
1. “Now it happened, the day after that He went into a city called Nain;...And when He came near the gate o the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow…When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep…(Luke 7:11-13).
2. “Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled…Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, See how He loved him (John 11:33-36).”
3. “But when He saw the multitudes He was moved (Matthew 9:36).”
Looking at these passages, we learn that before the birth of Jesus, God was directly affected by the trials and anguish of his creation. After the Incarnation, we find God identifying with human pain and responding with immeasurable love.
Our suffering causes God to grieve; God cries when we cry; God hurts when we hurt. This, of course, does not diminish who God is in terms of his essence, being all power, all knowledge, everywhere present. If human beings, created in God’s image, can make suffering their own through their love for others, how much more can God, who is love, make suffering His own. In other words, if a human being is affected by another’s sorrow and pain, God is more affected. Why? God created us out of an act of love, and is not indifferent to the angst we experience. He created us and is involved and identifies with us – even proving his involvement by taking it to the ultimate expression of love and concern-- the Cross.
Simply, God cries when someone dies; He has compassion on those who are ill; He sorrows for the children who do not have a meal; His heart yearns for the one gone astray; He has sympathy for those in need.
Our sorrow is mingled with joy because Christ, the Passover Lamb, brings hope and answers in our time of need. God expressed his love through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The resurrection proves that he is God. God is not indifferent to the sorrows of this world – and that brings an amazing comfort to our hearts.
Being created in God’s likeness we can emulate Him by being His hands and feet bringing comfort to fellow human beings. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalms 30:5).”