To GRIEVE/GRIEF: atzav, verb (Strong’s 6087); ka’as, masculine noun (Strong’s 3708); tugah, feminine noun (Strong’s 8424). There are numerous Hebrew words expressing the idea of grief. The three most prominent being: Atzav, the action to grieve; Ka’as, the physical reaction from grief, such vexation or provocation; and Tugah, grief as a result of torment.
Root: atzav (עצב), ka’as (כעס) and tugah (תוגה).
Sounds like: awtz’ahv, kaw’aws, and too’gah
Canada is in mourning. In the past month Canadians have felt great grief for the 966+ children found in unmarked Residential School graves within the country. Residential Schools existed from the 1831 to 1997; they took native children from their homes, without parental permission, and forced them into religious run schools that would try to teach the native out of them. Many of the children faced physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and countless children died without the simplest respect of a marked grave. For years families expressed their grief over missing children who never returned home, but nothing was done… until now.
With the discovery of these tiny bodies, many Canadians are beyond grief; they are also shocked and angry. People have lashed out against Christianity, citing the faith’s involvement in Residential Schools as sanctimonious, deeply flawed and criminally negligent. And they are not wrong. However, these were not the actions of Christianity in its intended form, this was Churchianity… oppression brought on by unchecked religious/political power.
Yeshua (Jesus) stood up against the religious elite in his day because they upheld law more than they upheld love. Oppression is not Godly, and all who have benefited from oppressing others, in the name of God, are grievously guilty.
In fact, according to the Bible when we oppress others, YHWH grieves… the Creator grieves over our all our evil intent:
Then YHWH saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. So YHWH was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was grieved [wai-yit-atzev] in His heart.
And this was not the only passage where humans were accused of causing YHWH grief:
How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved [ya-atzivuhu] Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel.
Any action contrary to YHWH’s character is a rebellion. Oppression of anyone or anything is a rebellion against God. But God’s allies, He would save:
I will make mention of the mercies of YHWH, and the praises of YHWH, according to all that YHWH has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His mercies. For He said, “Certainly they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.”
So He became their Saviour.
In all their distress He was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit [w-itz’vu et ruakh qad’shoh]; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.
God would fight against the adversaries (evil oppressors) because He always stood up for good. So YHWH fought the rebels… those who stood for oppression, deception and chaos. But for those who stood as allies of YHWH, He provided salvation from the chaos.
The above passage (Isaiah 63) was one of the rare mentions of the Holy Spirit in the Tanakh (Old Testament). It is interesting that this rare mention associated grief with the Holy Spirit. It indicated that YHWH’s Spirit felt deeply and ached at humanity’s rebellion.
Yeshua (Jesus) also ached at the hardness of human hearts:
He [Jesus] entered a synagogue again; and a man was there whose hand was withered. And they [the religious officials] were watching Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.
He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.
After looking around at them with anger, grieved [Greek: syllypoumenos] at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might put Him to death.
Yeshua grieved at the hardness of their hearts. It made Him angry. Once again the religious elite upheld law more than they upheld love. This shameful behaviour was a common thread found in the history of the Christian church and remains, sadly, prevalent today.
Grief to Anger
Unfortunately, many of the kings of the Judah and Israel were agents of chaos and oppression. Three of these kings were named specifically as those who grieved YHWH to the point of anger (often translated as provoked): Jeraboam, (1 Kings 15:30), Ahab (1 Kings 21:22), Manasseh (2 Kings 23:26).
Grief that turns to anger is understandable and okay. It is okay to be angry about injustice; it is okay to be angry about oppression; it is okay to be angry about the evil in this world. But if we let our grief go to anger, and let it stay there, we will never step away from our suffering. Although it’s okay to be angry for a time, it’s not up to us to seek vengeance. YHWH alone is judge.
[YHWH:] “‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution; in due time their foot will slip. For the day of their disaster is near, and the impending things are hurrying to them.’
For YHWH will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free.
And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge? Those who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you! Let them be your protection!
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can save anyone from My hand.'”
All humans who aligned with chaos and oppression were once YHWH’s people, created and loved by Him. He grieved their loss, but there was hope to be had. YHWH has always been a compassionate God. Anyone who has grieved their past mistakes, with a genuine heart, would be gathered back to YHWH. Rebellion is forgivable! YHWH sees our heart and, with great compassion, He will draw us back to Him.
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood.
For your husband is your Maker, whose name is YHWH of armies; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.
For YHWH has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit [wa-a’tsuvat ruakh], even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting favour I will have compassion on you,” says YHWH your Redeemer.
Grief, of course, is a very human condition which we share with YHWH. Dinah’s brothers grieved over her rape (Genesis 34:7); Hannah grieved, and was bitterly provoked/grieved (bullied) by a rival, for not being able to bear a child (1 Samuel 1:6, 1:16); fathers grieved the foolishness of their sons (Proverbs 17:25); and Solomon grieved that life seemed meaningless (Ecclesiastes 5:16-17).
Sometimes our grief comes out of the fact that we have ignored our Creator, or that we recognize we have turned away from Him. Why would He ever forgive us?
My soul weeps because of grief [mi-tugah]; strengthen me according to Your word.
Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your Law. I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your judgments before me.
I cling to Your testimonies; YHWH, do not put me to shame!
I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart.
However, the hardest grief to bear may be the grief of losing a child. King David knew that grief all too well:
2 Samuel 19:1-4
Then it was reported to Joab, “Behold, the king [David] is weeping and he mourns for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, because the people heard it said that day, “The king
is in mourning [is grieving: neh-etzav] over his son.”
And the people entered the city surreptitiously that day, just as people who are humiliated surreptitiously flee in battle. And the king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, “My son Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son!”
Losing a child is heart-breaking. It was a loss that YHWH bore Himself when He sent His perfect son to die a horrible and humiliating death.
They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.”
And He took with Him Peter, James, and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved [Greek: perilypos], to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”
And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began praying that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
Yeshua experienced such overwhelming grief that it felt like His soul was dying. Knowing, full well, His fate, He expressed His fears to YHWH but never waivered in His devotion to God’s will.
Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51
Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabaktanei?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”…
…And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.
Yeshua quoted Psalm 22:1 (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”) while He hung on the cross. The full reading of Psalm 22 is a a blow by blow description of what the Messiah’s death would be like. Yeshua was living out Psalm 22 and all the learned Bible people who were in the audience, watching the spectacle, were reminded by Yeshua that He was fulfilling God’s promise. The Psalm ends with these words:
They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it!
YHWH preformed His promise. He would pay the price of our redemption. His Son would die so we could live. All of Creation was physically grieved the event of the cross. When a part of the Creator died, a part of creation suffered for it in grief.
In the Gospel of John we can associate deeply with the grief that Mary felt after Yeshua died:
But Mary was standing outside the tomb, weeping; so as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they put Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and yet she did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Thinking that He was the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you put Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene came and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
When her grief turned to joy, Mary couldn’t stop clinging to Him. But when He gave her a job to do, she ran to complete it. Mary was the first evangelist of the Gospel… she was the bringer of the Good News!
Mary’s eyes went from tearful to joyful. In the Tanakh, arguably no one dealt with grief more than Job. All of his children died, he lost his land and possessions, and he was stricken with a physically gruesome disease. Job’s circumstances led to him depression and grief:
[Job:] “Oh if only my grief [ka’si] were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my disaster! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas.”
In the Bible, grief and depression were often associated with the breakdown of the body, and in particular, the eye:
Be gracious to me, YHWH , for I am in distress; my eye is wasted away from grief [v-ka’as], my soul and my body too. For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my guilt, and my body has wasted away.
Of all the parts of the body, the eyes are arguably the most expressive of human emotion. Tears flow from our eyes and they can become dead with grief:
I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I flood my couch with my tears.
My eye has wasted away with grief [mi-ka’as]; it has grown old because of all my enemies.
Leave me, all you who practice injustice, for YHWH has heard the sound of my weeping. YHWH has heard my pleading, YHWH receives my prayer.
All my enemies will be put to shame and greatly horrified; they shall turn back, they will suddenly be put to shame.
For some the grief is so deep that tears won’t even flow. Job described how his grief killed any expression his eyes could muster. He eyes were lifeless and he was suicidal:
Job 17:6-7, 11-16
“But He has made me a proverb among the people, and I am one at whom people spit. My eye has also become inexpressive because of grief [mi-ka’as], and all my body parts are like a shadow…
…“My days are past, my plans are torn apart, the wishes of my heart. They make night into day, saying, ‘The light is near,’ in the presence of darkness.
If I hope for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness; if I call to the grave, ‘You are my father’; to the maggot, ‘my mother and my sister’; where then is my hope?
And who looks at my hope? Will it go down with me to Sheol? Shall we together go down into the dust?”
We ought to be advocates for those suffering with depression… and sometimes that means searching for those struggling, because it’s not always evident at the surface:
Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief [tugah].
Perhaps many of us are struggling with bearing the overload of information thrown at us about the status of this world and all who live in it. Solomon understood the weight of bearing world’s story:
In much wisdom there is much grief [ka’as]; and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
But grief is not always a bad thing. We can grow from grief. This world is under a curse, and it is good to be aware and grieve for it. In fact mourning the state of the world is wiser than living in pleasure, laughter, frivolity while the world around us crumbles. Solomon wrote:
Grief [ka’as] is better than laughter, for a sad face may make the heart better.
The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure…
There needs to be a wise balance between grief and joy. Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh; and a time to mourn and a time to dance. But the Bible also warns us that grief should not take up house in our hearts. It is okay to grieve but it is not okay to let grief take up permanent residence within us.
Ecclesiastes 7:9-10 (See also Ecclesiastes 11:10)
Do not be eager in your spirit to grieve [li-k’ohs], for grief [ka’as] resides in the heart of fools. Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.
When the people returned to Jerusalem after years in exile they mourned over what they had lost instead of rejoicing over what they had gained. But the governor Nehemiah, along with Ezra and the Levites, expressed to them that this was not a time to grieve, this was a time to rejoice:
Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to YHWH your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the Law.
Then he said to them, “Go, eat the festival foods, drink the sweet drinks, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved [w-al teh-atzevu], for the joy of YHWH is your refuge.”
So the Levites silenced all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved [w-al teh-atzevu].” Then all the people went away to eat, drink, to send portions, and to celebrate a great feast, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
Grief Turns to Joy
Grief feels horrible at the time, and it is horrible. But it is a tested human truth that good can come out of grief.
Joseph experienced extreme grief. He was betrayed by his brothers and left for death. He grieved the betrayal of his brothers and his rejection from his family; he grieved the loss of his freedom when he became a slave; he grieved his homeland as he exiled to Egypt. But as oppressed as he was, he found the good which come out of it.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold to Egypt. Now do not be grieved [al teh-atz’vu] or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to save lives.”
Joseph’s brothers must have felt great shame and grieved their part in Joseph’s story, but Joseph forbade them from grieving. Joseph recognized that his life had a greater purpose. He became a life-saver which he would not have done if his life hadn’t forcibly been put on the path towards Egypt.
Grief can turn to joy. Yeshua told His disciples this:
[Jesus:] “A little while, and you no longer are going to see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”
So some of His disciples said to one another, “What is this that He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you are not going to see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”
Jesus knew that they wanted to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you are not going to see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? Truly, truly I say to you that you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve [Greek: lypēthēsesthe], but your grief [lype] will be turned into joy!
Whenever a woman is in labour she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief [Greek: lypen] now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one is going to take your joy away from you.”
Joy sometimes comes at a price. To feel great joy means we were far from it at one point. Yeshua’s death paid the entrance fee back into the Garden so we can face our Creator and walk alongside Him in the Garden, just as Eve and Adam had once done. It’s a beautiful joyous ending, born out of grief.
But grief is guttural; it’s physical; it shakes you. There is a different Hebrew word for mourning/lamenting (abal), which is a time set aside to grieve. We’ll take a look at that word later this year. For now, let us remember that grief has its purpose. We ought to grieve for a time, and then we ought to hold onto the hope we’ve been given by Yeshua’s great sacrifice. Paul put it this way:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve [Greek: lypesthe] as indeed the rest of mankind do, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, so also God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.
Out of grief can come good. YHWH bears us up in our sorrow; He is there for us when we mourn; He understands our grief because He has felt it too. The Holy Spirit has felt grief; Yeshua grieved; and YHWH has grieved for all of us. But all of our grief will turn to joy when we stand in His Presence at the end of our days.
Death is a new beginning. Until then, let us live out our lives for good, being advocates to the grievers and adversaries of oppression. Let us hold true and stay on the path that leads back to the Garden where our God reigns. We can grieve the death of Yeshua, but we can all celebrate that His sacrifice gave us Life worth living, now and forever.
As we know, there are little souls all over Canada who died alone and were buried unnoticed… and YHWH has grieved for each and every one of them. But there is hope for all who face death. Out of this life comes something much more beautiful. Our grief should turn to joy because there is a Garden waiting for all of us who seek the Creator. He’s waiting to bring all of His children home.
Next week: Revisiting Dominion