And God Was “Willing” to Be Grieved
His willingness to be grieved shows how much He loves you.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on 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.
– Genesis 6:5–6
The earth became filled with evil. And God was grieved!
– The HOPE, Chapter 4
Observe & Consider
In the previous lesson, we considered how rapidly sin increased on the earth in the generations after Adam and Eve. Today we will consider God’s response to this as recorded in Genesis 6:6. But before we attempt to discover what God might say to us through this verse, let’s determine what it is not saying.
The phrase, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth,” could be understood in a number of ways. For instance, a person might say, “I’m sorry I got myself into this mess.” And by that he would mean, “I wish I hadn’t done what I did to be in this situation,” or “If I had it to do over, I would do it differently.” Applying this line of thought, could we read Genesis 6:6 and reasonably conclude that God regretted doing what He had done, as if He had made a bad decision?
We cannot conclude such a thing, and here’s why. The Bible never contradicts itself. A verse should always be considered in light of the whole Bible, and when we look at what the whole Bible says about God we learn that:
- His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). Creating man could not have been a mistake because God doesn’t make mistakes.
- He knows everything (Psalm 139:16). God knew that He would have sorrow and grief over the sin of mankind, even before Adam and Eve were created.
So what is this verse saying to us? To say that God was sorry and that He grieved in His heart shows us that God has emotions. In fact, the Bible frequently ascribes emotions to God. At various times He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18). But who can really understand the emotions of God who is infinite?
In the original text the phrase, “He was grieved in His heart,” literally reads, “He was grieved to His heart.”1 In other words, God looked on the evil in the world and was grieved “all the way to His heart.” One version of the Bible (the NIV) translates this verse, “His heart was filled with pain.” Think about those verses. If God is infinite, then how far is it to the depth of His heart? How big is His heart? How much grief would it take to fill God's heart?
Now couple this view of an emotional God with one who is perfect and all–knowing. God knew He was going to hurt this deeply as a result of creating man, and He did it anyway. And not only that, He did it exactly the way He intended to do it. But why would God do such a thing?
In Lesson 13 we studied the love of God and concluded that God does nothing that does not somehow involve His love. And in Lesson 15 we saw that God has a perfect plan: one that will ultimately result in a world without evil. We may not be able to completely answer the question about why God was willing to take on such pain, but we can know that the answer has something to do with His incredible love and His perfect plan.
Ask & Reflect
God is so great and so far beyond anything we can comprehend that it might be difficult to imagine how we could do anything that would grieve Him as deeply as He was grieved when He looked on the evil in the world. But recall the statement from Lesson 21, that even “the smallest sin against an infinite God has infinite consequences.” Could we not also conclude that even the smallest sin grieves God in ways we can’t comprehend?
- Does it change the way you view God to think of Him as having emotions? If so how?
- What does it mean to you that God was willing to create mankind even though He knew the pain He would take on as a result?
Decide & Do
Some people go through life ignoring God altogether. Some simply try to live up to what they think God requires of them. But some people want more. They want to know and bless the very heart of God. The better you know someone, the better you are able to know what causes joy in their heart. How well do you know the heart of God? Do you know Him well enough to know what brings joy to Him? If not, express to Him your desire to know Him better and to bring joy to Him.
For Further Study
- William A. Simmons, Grief, Grieving. (From Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 1996 by Walter A. Elwell). (http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/grief-grieving.html). Retrieved October 6, 2006.
1Lexicon and Strong’s Concordance Results for ‘el (Strong’s 0413), from The Blueletter Bible, 1996–2002. (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi–bin/strongs.pl?book=&chapter=&verse=&language=H&strongs=0413). Retrieved on October 6, 2006.