Arthur Pink, September, 1950
Tears are one of the many consequences of sin, for there is no weeping in Heaven, nor could we conceive of there being any upon earth, had man preserved his pristine purity, for holiness and happiness are inseparable. Nevertheless, it is evident that when God made man, He did so with the preview of his fall. "Evident" we say, for the provision of a tear-duct to the eye, shows that it was designed, among other things, for weeping. And what a marvelous production is the human eye, not only in the delicacy and complexity of its mechanism, but also in its manifold uses and services. That small but expressive organ can glow with pleasure, flash with anger, stare in wonderment, shrink with horror, and be so suffused with the tears of sorrow as to pour out a rivulet of grief.
Nor is it wrong to weep at certain times. Nay, God has bidden us do so: "Weep with those who weep" (Rom 12:15), though that is not to be restricted to the literal and outward act. Nor is weeping necessarily a mark of weakness or effeminacy, for the God-man wept. Weeping is a merciful provision of the Creator's, for it has been rightly termed "nature's safety valve." As might well be expected, much is said in the Bible about weeping, for the Word of God is intensely practical. To a few of its references we now turn.
"And Hezekiah wept sorely" (2 Kings 20:3). The context informs us that he was "sick unto death," and that the LORD had sent Isaiah to him, saying, "Set your house in order; for you shall die!" (verse 1). Whereupon the king of Judah "prayed unto the LORD" (verse 2), reminded Him that he had walked before Him in truth and with a sincere heart, and sealed his plea with tears. The prophet was then authorized to return and tell Hezekiah, "Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears behold, I will heal you" (verse 5). Thus, his were the tears of supplication, and they were effectual.
There is nothing in Scripture which warrants the idea that it was the fear of death which so distressed the king; rather is there reason to believe that it was the circumstances of his family and the state of his nation, which so deeply affected him. At that time, he had no son, and he grieved at the prospect of his branch of David's family becoming extinct. Probably his kingdom was then being threatened by the Assyrians, and there was need of a God-fearing and capable commander for such an emergency.
Much might be written on this remarkable and mysterious incident, but the one thing we would here stress, is the prevalency of tears. Has not many a sorely tried saint reason to acknowledge that "the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping" (Psalm 6:8) that when words failed him, his tears spoke effectually unto God?
"Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews." (Est 8:3). This was the third time she petitioned the king, as a reference to Esther 5:3 and 7:2 shows, but on neither of the former occasions, did Esther give way unto tears. But the situation which now confronted her was critical and urgent. Yet it was not in connection with herself personally; it was the fate which threatened her nation, which moved Esther so deeply. This is blessed to behold. Though so highly elevated as to be now the king's consort, she did not forget the misery of her people, but used her influence on their behalf. An edict had gone forth for the destruction of the Jews (Est 3:9-11), and Esther said unto the king, "For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people?" (Est 8:6). Thus, hers were the tears of earnest entreaty, and as the tear-watered supplication of Hezekiah was effectual before the LORD, so the unselfish and pathetic weeping of Esther prevailed before the king, for we read that he said to her, "You yourselves write a decree concerning the Jews, as you please, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring." (verse 8); and the wicked edict was cancelled.
"Therefore you shall say this word to them: Let my eyes flow with tears night and day, and let them not cease. For the virgin daughter of my people has been broken with a mighty stroke, with a very severe blow!" (Jer 14:17). Here is a call to weeping not for an individual, nor yet for his nation, but for the languishing cause of God. It was tears of lamentation which were enjoined in view of the sad state the Church was then in. Israel had sinned grievously and the rod of divine chastisement lay heavy upon her. No longer did she enjoy God's smile of approbation; instead, His judgments were her portion, and her enemies prevailed over her. She was not to harden her heart or be stoically indifferent, but make conscience of her iniquities and bewail the dishonor done her God.
In like manner, His people today should take to heart the present state of things in Christendom, and the reproach it brings on the name of Christ. What a desolate state the LORD's vineyard is now in! How many a golden candlestick has been removed! What a feeble glimmer is cast by the remaining ones! The glory has departed, the power and blessing of the Spirit is withheld. If the cause of Christ is dear unto us, we shall weep over and mourn for its grievous condition.
"And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil." (Luke 7:37-38). A remarkable scene is here presented to us. Our blessed Lord was the guest of a critical and self-righteous Pharisee the very last place where we would expect to find such a woman as this one had been! Ah, but "a friend of publicans and sinners" (Mat 11:19; Luke 7:34) was the magnet.
Indifferent to the cold and contemptuous glances which she must have known would be cast at her, she could not be restrained from seeking out the One who had won her heart and blotted out her iniquities. Taking her place at Christ's feet, betokened her complete subjection to Him. Her tears were those of contrition, though joy inspired them too godly sorrow for having sinned against and grieved such a One, joy in the assurance that He loved her. Kissing His feet expressed her affection. Wiping them with her (long!) hair the woman's "glory" (1 Corinthians 11:15) signified that she would henceforth devote herself to His honor. The anointing of His feet was an act of worship and adoration.
"Jesus wept" (John 11:35). The shortest and, in some respects, the most wonderful and blessed verse in the Bible. What an awe-inspiring spectacle does it present to us the Lord of glory, shedding tears! What a mysterious phenomenon the Maker of Heaven and earth, weeping! The more so since the Prince of life knew that in a few minutes, He would raise Lazarus! Why then did He weep? Because God's Son had been made like to His brethren "in all things" (Heb 2:17), partaking of their susceptibilities and emotions. As the perfect Man beheld the grief of the friends and sisters of Lazarus, He could not but be deeply moved and weep with them. His tears on this occasion were those of compassion.
It was the great High Priest of His people, giving proof that He was touched with the feeling of their infirmities. We believe that as the Lord Jesus stood by that grave, He looked down the centuries and beheld each Christian home visited by death, and His weeping at Bethany assures bereaved saints, that He sympathizes deeply with them and stands ready to pour the balm of Gilead into their sore hearts.
"Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear" (Heb 5:7). Those were the tears of anguish, telling us of the severity of the Savior's sufferings. The "days of His flesh" signifies the whole period of His humiliation. The "vehement cries and tears" indicates the extent to which Christ felt the terrible burden laid upon Him. He was no stoic, but felt intensely, both in body and soul, the fearful curse of the Law and the outpoured wrath of God! They were part of the "roaring" predicted of Him in Psalm 22:1. No human mind can conceive the terribleness of the conflict through which the Savior passed and the "travail of soul" which He endured. He sought deliverance "from death" and not from dying, for He had received commandment to lay down His life (John 10:18), and therefore, He prayed, "O LORD, I beseech you, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:4). He was "heard"; His prayers and supplications were answered. God's response thereto was seen in raising Him from the dead.
"Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Act 20:19, 31). Those were the tears of ministerial love and urgency. No merely professional or perfunctory service was that rendered by the apostle. He had such a love for souls as made him say, "I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Gal 4:19). No wonder the Lord gave him so many "seals" to his ministry! Let each servant of Christ who reads these lines, search his heart in the light of Acts 20:19, 31, and ask himself whether the absence of such "tears" is the explanation of the barrenness of his ministry. It is written, "Those who sow in tears, shall reap in joy" (Psalm 126:5); and perhaps the day to come will show that the latter, is in exact proportion to the former.