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Therefore my heart shall sound for Moab
like flutes, and my heart shall sound
like flutes for the men of Kirheres?
(Jeremiah 48:36, MKJV)
In all their affliction he was afflicted...in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
(Isaiah 63:9, KJV)
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying,
Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
(Jeremiah 31:3, KJV)



The Cross was Hell

Chapter 5

Our Suffering Father

Now is the Time   The Truth Shall Set You Free   The Power of Foolish Love   Our Sins Pierce God's Heart   God Mourns for Moab    Human Suffering and the Cross  

Now is the Time

The last time that Mike could remember seeing his parents together, he was sitting in his high chair eating cereal, with his mom standing on one side and his dad on the other side, screaming back and forth. His parents divorced soon after.

As Mike grew up, his father never visited, even though he only lived five minutes away from Mike, in a very small town. He never called Mike. Mike never got birthday cards or gifts. Mike's mother would ask him, "What kind of a father do you have? He never visits. He could at least call or write when he lives so close." As Mike grew a little older, his mother also told him that his father never sent child support. Mike grew up knowing that his father did not love him. He wondered why.

When Mike became a teenager, he would from time to time, visit his father, motivated by a combination of a sense of duty and curiosity. Mike often wondered to himself, "What kind of a man would abandon his son like that?" Yet Mike felt that he should get to know him at least a little bit, after all he was his biological father. But Mike found it difficult to visit him. He always felt uncomfortable in his presence. Though his father always seemed pleasant and took an interest in him, Mike just could not accept him as sincere. Where had his father been when he was growing up? He just could not respect such a man. He wanted to love him. He felt a duty to love him. Mike even felt just a little guilty that he did not love him. But how could he? 

Then Mike met Misty. She was gorgeous. The first time Mike saw Misty he knew that he wanted to marry her. The first time that Misty saw Mike, she knew that too-that he wanted to marry her. They started dating. Over time, the relationship deepened, and Misty knew that Mike would soon ask her to marry him.

Misty told Mike that if he wanted to marry her that he would have to reconcile with his father. Mike already felt the pressure of duty and guilt to spend time with his father. But now! Now Misty added more pressure to an already stressed situation. Mike visited his father more often. But he could not get past the feeling of distance and disrespect.

One day Mike was visiting his father. They were sitting in the living room talking. Mike just could not take pretending any more. With all the intensity that had been simmering over the years, Mike boiled over, revealing to his father how he truly felt. Expressing his bitterness and pain with a quaver in his voice, Mike asked him why he had never visited, sent cards, called, or even sent child support. His father nodded and waited until Mike had finished. Then he said, "Mike there is something I want to show you." He led Mike to the den. He opened a file cabinet and pulled out a stack of canceled checks. He said, "I did send the child support every month. I was never late." As Mike looked through the checks, he was stunned. What his father said was true.

Mike's mind reeled; he wondered why his mother had bitterly told him that his father had never sent any of the required child support. Then his father said, "Mike, I have not wanted to interfere with your relationship with your mother. There are some things that I have not told you. But I think now is the time." Then Mike's father explained that there had been a fiercely contested custody dispute. His mother had won sole custody. The ruling had forbidden him to contact Mike in person, or even by phone. That's why, even though he lived close by, he had never visited or called Mike when he was growing up. He had sent birthday cards and gifts and Christmas cards and gifts to Mike every year. The cards and gifts had always been returned, marked refused. He had wanted to spend time with Mike, to guide him while he grew up, to teach him to throw and catch a ball. But the court ruling had forbidden him to do these things.

Instantly, Mike's feelings changed. His disrespect and bitterness melted away. Bitterness gave way to understanding and sympathy. Spontaneously, Mike felt, for the first time, warm love for his father. For the first time, Mike felt like giving his father a hug, so he did. He got up and gave his father a great big hug. And he meant it with all his heart.

Notice that Mike's father hadn't changed. He was the same person. What had changed was how Mike thought about his father. Mike had been given some bad information. As soon as the lies were swept away, the relationship was restored.

Could we face the same situation with our heavenly Father? I believe that we do. We've been given some bad information about our Father. When the lies about our Father are swept away, we will find that it is easy, even natural to love Him. Our feelings will change. Our Father has been patiently waiting until we are ready to learn the truth about Him. I think now is the time. He has suffered enough.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

I grew up thinking that the only time that God had suffered was when Jesus became a man and died for our sins. But, rather than describing the limits of God's suffering, the cross provides a window into the heart of our Father. Every act of cruelty, every twinge of pain, every pang of guilt reaches and grieves our tenderhearted Father. When Israel suffered the troubles that were the inevitable result of turning away from God "...his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel" (Judges 10:16 KJV). The greater one's love, the greater one's potential for suffering.

God the Father suffered equally with Jesus on the cross, for Jesus proclaims to us that, "I and my Father are one" John 10:30 (KJV). When Jesus was crucified, the Father was right there with Him. Jesus felt separated from God the Father. This sense of separation caused Him to cry out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But we know that our loving heavenly Father never deserted his beloved Son. 2Corinthians 5:19  "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others" (NLT). Whenever, wherever anyone suffers, Jesus and our heavenly Father are there sharing in their suffering. Matthew 25:40 "And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it to Me" (MKJV). Isaiah 63:9 "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old" (KJV).

 All humans are God's children, because he created them, and furthermore because he has redeemed them. Each soul is precious in our Father's sight. Our heavenly Father is not an impersonal, powerful, force as portrayed in Star Wars. Our Father is a Person. He has a character and a personality. He has feelings. Romans 8:26 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (NIV).

Our loving, tenderhearted, heavenly Father, through the Holy Spirit, is interceding, yes, even pleading with us, with groans that words cannot express! He longs to rescue us from the degradation, destruction, and pain of sin. Ezekiel 33:11 "As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?" (NLT). God does "not willingly afflict or grieve anyone" (Lamentations 3:33 NRSV).

Ask any loving parent that has gone through the experience; he or she will express to you that few things can cause more pain than the suicide of a favorite child. The greater the love, the greater the pain, and the loss! God's love for each of us is infinite. His suffering is also infinite! God knows that he is the only source of life, happiness, peace, meaning, and love. It hurts God when one of his children refuses to turn from the suicidal poison of sin and rejects his antidote of unselfish love!

Not a sigh is breathed, not a pain felt, not a grief pierces the soul, but the throb vibrates to the Father's heart. The Almighty God, the King of the universe, the Creator God, is kind and sympathetic. He is all-knowing and all-feeling. Let us, through the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, look into the heart of God. The cross shows selfish, sinful humanity the depths of the totally unselfish love that fills the heart of our God.

Jesus, one with God, hanging on the cross, shows us that the sovereign God of the universe would withhold nothing in order to rescue even one sinner from destruction, even if that meant losing his own life. Amazing love! Incredible love! Pure, holy, self-sacrificing, love!

The Power of Foolish Love

To our natural, self-centered hearts, God's love sounds a bit extreme, even crazy. The apostle Paul captures this thought in 1Corinthians 1:18 "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (KJV). God's holy love certainly does appear foolish to selfish hearts, warped and degraded by sin.

Born sinful and selfish as we are, our natural tendency is to "look out for number one." We get angry when someone cuts us off on the freeway. We may honk our horn or even make an angry gesture to show how we feel. It makes us mad to think that someone got ahead of us and caused us a few seconds delay. Then we justify our anger by muttering, "They could've caused an accident."

Our time, our happiness, and our possessions, are important to us. When someone wrongs us, what is it that naturally flows from our hearts and mouths? Angry thoughts, words, and actions are our natural, selfish response. When someone does us wrong, the natural response is to "get even," or to "teach them a lesson."

As we pray and meditate about God's infinite sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, we will begin to experience "the power of God." The Holy Spirit will change us "from glory to glory." By beholding we become changed. When we accept Christ, we accept God as our Father. When we call God our Father, we accept all his children as our brothers and sisters.

Our Sins Pierce God's Heart

beauty of God's love as displayed by Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Even if we walk daily with our God, we will never fully comprehend the infinite love and suffering of our dear Heavenly Father. Every time that we hang onto selfishness (sin) we pierce the heart of God. Let us look at a prophecy that describes our reaction when we see Jesus as he truly is at the second coming.

Zechariah 12: 10-12 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart...(KJV)

Is 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. (NKJ Margin)

The house of David represents the rulers of God's people, the church leaders. The inhabitants of Jerusalem represent God's people, church members, Christians. When we, for the very first time, see God as he truly is, infinitely kind and loving, sympathetic and tenderhearted, we will indeed "mourn for him" whom we have pierced. Jesus on the cross shows us that our sin and selfishness pierce the heart of God. When Jesus comes and we look into his eyes for the first time, we will begin to realize more fully that our heavenly Father's infinite love and caring expose Him to infinite suffering. Jesus alluded to this same scripture passage when he foretold the same reaction of mourning at his second coming.

Matthew 24:30, 31 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.'" (NKJ)

Revelation 1:7 Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen. (KJV)

The reason "all the tribes of the earth will mourn" when Jesus comes, is the same reason that God inspired Zechariah to share with us. The good and bad alike, the saved and the lost, all tribes will mourn when they see "the glory of God" which is his character of love.

We have all pierced the heart of Jesus and our loving heavenly Father by our self-centered, hardhearted, and rebellious ways. Our Father sympathizes with us in our weakness. God truly feels our pain. Isaiah reveals God's love, care, and concern for us in this prophecy about the ministry of Christ. Can you sense how God longs to relieve our suffering?

Isaiah 61:1-3 "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." (NKJ)

God Mourns for Moab

God spoke through his prophet Jeremiah to Israel and many of the surrounding nations. Jeremiah has often been called the weeping prophet. Remember that a prophet is a spokesman for God. Jeremiah's tears trickling down his cheeks are only a faint reflection of God's tears of sorrow. In the Old Testament times, Israel was God's chosen nation. Yet God did not love Israel instead of the other nations, he had chosen to love the other nations through Israel, though Israel often rejected this mission. God loved other nations too. Listen as God mourns over the arrogance, pride, and ignorance (about God's love) that kept Moab from a saving relationship with Him.

Jeremiah 48:29-36 "We have heard the pride of Moab (He is exceedingly proud), Of his loftiness and arrogance and pride, And of the haughtiness of his heart." "I know his wrath," says the LORD, "But it is not right; His lies have made nothing right. Therefore I will wail for Moab, and I will cry out for all Moab; I will mourn for the men of Kir Heres. O vine of Sibmah! I will weep for you with the weeping of Jazer... Therefore My heart shall wail like flutes for Moab, and like flutes My heart shall wail For the men of Kir Heres. Therefore the riches they have acquired have perished. (NKJ)

Can you imagine the heart of God wailing like flutes for the people of Moab? Our Father is not cold and remote, or arbitrary and harsh, but rather he is warmhearted and compassionate. We know that God is present everywhere, God is all-powerful, and that God is all-knowing. God is also all-feeling.

While we can never plumb the depths of this infinite attribute of our heavenly Father, we can certainly examine some of its basic implications. God's feelings, his capacity for joy, sorrow, compassion, anger, patience, serenity, and eagerness soar infinitely high, dive infinitely deep, and are infinitely broad. "Therefore My heart shall wail like flutes for Moab." God cried out for the people of Moab. Arrogance and pride were destroying Moab. In the unfathomable depths of his being God's heart throbbed in sympathetic pain for Moab, resonating like the funereal tones of a mournful flute. Again let us consider what Jeremiah reveals about the heart of our heavenly Father.

Jeremiah 8:21, 22; 9:1 My people are crushed, and so is my heart. I am horrified and mourn. If medicine and doctors may be found in Gilead, why aren't my people healed? I wish that my eyes were fountains of tears, so I could cry day and night for my people who were killed. (CEV)

"My people are crushed, and so is my heart." It is time to turn away from Satan's lies about God (Repent). Satan has presented God as a cruel, arbitrary, and heartless tyrant. In fact, it is Satan that is a cruel, arbitrary, and venomous tyrant. God and Satan are waging a war to capture the hearts and minds of the entire universe. God won the war in Heaven by revealing his infinite love when Jesus died on Calvary's tree. The cross unmasked Satan as nothing else could.

Good and evil, love and hate, selfishness and unselfishness were contrasted as never before or since! Jesus won the decisive battle at the cross. However, the battle rages on in our hearts and minds. By the grace of God we can have a part in bringing this six-thousand-year-long war to a triumphant conclusion. Behold your God. Allow the cleansing power of his unselfish love to create a new heart within you. "Heavenly Father, fill us with your love that we may let go of sin and self, and allow the healing springs that flow from Calvary to wash us clean of sin and self, in Jesus' name, and for his sake, amen."   

Human Suffering and the Cross

As Christians, we look to the cross as the place of infinite suffering. During WWII, the Holocaust claimed six million victims. The communist regime during the time of Stalin wiped out 60 million people. Idi Amin tortured unnumbered victims. During the dark ages, the Office of the Inquisition tortured and murdered between 60 million and 200 million "heretics." The American Civil war and the two World Wars brought suffering and death to millions. More recently Cambodia's innocent people endured the Killing Fields. Consider the genocide of Rhodesia. Currently, the people of Somalia suffer from famine and genocidal atrocities.

Do not forget all the personal tragedies and sufferings too numerous and "ordinary" to include in any history or encyclopedia. All this Christ experienced on Calvary! He experienced the suffering of each innocent victim. He also experienced the guilt, shame, and self-condemnation of each guilty perpetrator. The vastness of pain, suffering, and guilt boggles the heart, mind, and soul.

I feel that I must try to understand some of the enormity of Christ's suffering, but my heart stands trembling at the edge of the endless, dark abyss of suffering that Jesus experienced for all of us. As my heart gazes into the murky depths, mercifully I find that God has shrouded most of it in impenetrable darkness. I know that it is beyond the capacity of my heart to grasp it. Yet the infinite suffering of God did not begin or end at the cross of Calvary. Our Saviour's unfathomable suffering on Calvary's tree is a window into the heart of our heavenly Father.

Hebrews 1:2, 3 But now, at the end of these days, it has come to us through his Son, to whom he has given all things for a heritage, and through whom he made the order of the generations; Who, being the outshining of his glory, the true image of his substance, supporting all things by the word of his power, having given himself as an offering making clean from sins, took his seat at the right hand of God in heaven; (BBE)

Jesus is the "image of his substance," which means if we want to know about the Father we can look to the Son. Jesus is the outshining of his Father's glory. Jesus Christ is "... the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8 (KJV). The blood of the slain Lamb is a symbol of God's suffering on account of sin. Jesus and the Father are one. Since the very beginning of the rebellion, sin has caused our God unimaginable suffering. Even now each person's sorrow vibrates in the heart of God with a deeper resonance than we, as humans can know. However, God endures all this for the prospect of the triumphant rejoicing that each redeemed soul brings. Behold God's amazing, self-sacrificing love, and patient endurance.

The physical sufferings of Jesus ended with his death on the cross. On the other hand, God's mental and emotional vulnerability continues unabated. The apostle Paul addresses this in Hebrews 6:6 "...seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (KJV). When any precious soul turns away from our loving heavenly Father, it causes Him infinite heartache. Jesus would much rather endure the cruel spikes of the cross and the soldier's vicious scourge than the mental and emotional suffering that our world of sin still causes Him. Christ's physical sufferings on the cross are full of meaning. Nonetheless, his physical suffering cannot express the immense abyss of mental, spiritual, and emotional suffering that he endured on the cross, and that on account of his strong, sympathetic love, he continues to endure to this day.

If you have never given your heart and mind to Jesus, picture our tenderhearted Father as he cries out in anguish for you; "Turn, turn from your self-centered, self-destructive sin; And I Will Heal You; Why will you die?" See Him rejoice over your soul as you see Him as he is and fall in love with Him!

_____________________________________________________

1McElroy, Susan Chernak (2002). HEART IN THE WILD. New York: Random House Publishing Group.

 


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