Emotion and the Christian Life
1 Samuel 1:8–10
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #010
April 21, 2015
“Father, it’s a great privilege to come together this evening. We thank You for the beautiful weather we’ve had today and yesterday. We’re thankful for the fact that this spring so far we are ahead in our rainfall, so we don’t have to face the specter of drought at least at this point. Father, we’re thankful that we live in a country that still has freedom. We’re thankful for the fact that we do have a number of leaders who are not ashamed of their Christianity, their biblical foundation and who are willing to emphasize that; and Father, we pray that You’d give strength and courage to many others that would stand up and stand in the gap. Especially we continue to pray for the Supreme Court as they look at the issues related to changing the definition of marriage. We pray that they would stand firm on the fact that marriage is a legal institution between one man and one woman. Father, we pray that You would also continue to work in our lives in this church, challenging us to reach out to those around us, being sensitive to opportunities to plant seeds, to proclaim the gospel, and to explain our faith and the hope that is within us to those who are around us. And Father, tonight as we study Your Word, help us to think clearly and critically about what Your Word says, that we may apply these things in our life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re in1 Samuel 1, but we won’t be here a lot. We’re still looking at the doctrine dealing with emotion and the Christian life. This is an issue that it is confusing to a lot of people. There are those, and there has been a stream of people like this since probably the late 1st century, that think of emotion as a criteria for the spiritual life (slide 2). How do I know if I am worshiping? I “feel” like I am worshiping. So that emotion becomes the standard for whether we know we’re walking by the spirit or not.
Today I was briefly looking at a discussion related to Dispensationalism on Facebook, one of the many different study groups that are out there on the topic. And one person there (they were debating how to handle a certain kind of a situation), said, “Well we just have to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.” I didn’t want to get into this at the time, so I didn’t say anything. I wanted to say, “Well how are you going to determine that?” Does the Spirit operate apart from His Word? Or does the Spirit only operate through His Word? As I have made clear many times, it’s the second option. The Spirit doesn’t operate apart from His Word. If He did, how would you determine it? One of my favorite seminary professors many years ago used to say, “If you can’t figure out and describe the difference between the Holy Spirit moving you and indigestion, then you can’t teach that doctrine.” It’s objective. It is rational, meaning it is related to content in the Word. It is not related to how we feel. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not related to navel gazing and trying to get some sort of liver quiver to know whether to do ‘x’ or whether to do ‘y’. Revelation has ceased, or it hasn’t ceased. We don’t come to the Scripture and say “Well I want to know what this means so I have to wait for the Spirit to move me.”
Now there have been many tremendous leaders in the church and pastors who’ve held views of that which is called mysticism and light mysticism, but that kind of subjectivity has always negatively impacted their understanding of the Word. What happens when you live in a culture, you experience a culture, where people go too far in one direction, what always happens after that? There’s a reaction, and it goes too far in the other direction. The other direction tries to remove all emotion from any position of legitimacy within the Christian life. In this kind of scenario, then any kind of emotion becomes equivalent to sin. So there are people, not just Christians, but a lot of folks who just because of their personality or because of their background or because of any number of other variables in their life, aren’t real comfortable with emotion. So it is very easy for them to move in the direction of almost saying that emotion in the Christian life is all wrong.
What I am saying is that when we look at the Scripture, there is a role and a correct place for emotion in the Christian life. We have to understand what it is. We don’t want to run from it on the one hand, but we don’t embrace it as the core value within the Christian life. Basically what I’ve described for you is the difference between the charismatic movement and the non-charismatic movement in a lot of ways.
So we have to look at what the Scripture says. I’m just focusing in on one little area in this series of 1 Samuel related to the grief and the weeping and the bitterness of soul that is experienced by Hannah. I always like to start making sure we understand the context here (slide 3), that the Lord uses these events, and is sovereignly overriding events. He’s closed Hannah’s womb for a purpose. He is preparing to deliver Israel from her enemies by grace. There is really sort of a wordplay there, a pun, because Hannah’s name in Hebrew means “gracious woman.” So the Lord is going to deliver Israel through grace. He’s going to honor Hannah’s faith by answering her prayers. That’s 1 Samuel 2:1 down through the end of her prayer in 1 Samuel 2:11. Then He’s going to open up Hannah’s womb, and this occurs in 1 Samuel 1:1–20.
What we’re looking at is this first subdivision. The Lord had closed Hannah’s womb to prepare for the deliverance of Israel through a gracious miraculous birth. As we looked at this last time, I went through the background. I went through several issues: the doctrine of the barren women and how God uses situations like this in the life of Israel – bringing about a change that can only be attributed to Him. But as we look at this, we see Hannah (now this is important because there are some people – and the first time I ever taught Samuel I thought this woman is in reaction. She’s overly emotional. She’s having a meltdown. She is not responding to the adversity like she should. But after an additional 25 years of studying the Word, I realize there is nothing negative said about Hannah anywhere in the Scripture), and she is presented here as a women who is focused on the Lord as the solution, even though she is going through a lot of emotional turmoil.
See, we come to this where, in a lot of cases, you see somebody who is being emotional, and somehow that’s wrong. But there are times in life when we are legitimately emotional. It is what we do with that emotion that is important, and that’s significant (slide 4). She’s in this marriage situation where her husband has taken a second wife because of her infertility, so that he can raise up a son that would carry on the family line, and someone to whom the inheritance of the land possession of the family would be passed. The second wife, Peninnah, constantly digs at her, irritates her, makes fun of her, lord’s it over her, emphasizes the fact that she’s able to have child after child after child, and Hannah is continuously barren. She would accuse her of saying God doesn’t like you; God doesn’t bless you.
This would go on day in and day out; and whenever we’re in circumstances like that, in that kind of people testing, then it is difficult. Some of you have been in situations like that. Sometimes this occurs within a family, sometimes it occurs at work, sometimes in other organizations that we’re a part of, and we don’t have any option but to put up with it.
That’s what is going on here, and the word ka’as indicates to be grieved. It also indicates anger, and in some places it’s hard to tell what the text says. In fact, if you look at the New King James Version, it translates the word as “grief.” If you look at another translation, it translates the same word “anger,” and I think what it basically is indicating is that a person’s emotions are distressed in a complex way and that they are facing this kind of a problem.
One of the things I want to point out, and I want to go back to these verses that I looked at initially last week just talking about emotion, but one of the points I’m going to make is that emotion is a responder. A lot of us think that emotion is responding to circumstances and situations, but the circumstances and situations wash through our mind. It doesn’t just go directly to emotion. It goes through our perception. And what we see, and this happens in just a nanosecond, something happens. Maybe it’s a negative set of circumstances or a positive set of circumstances, whatever it is; but instantly and almost non-consciously, we interpret that set of circumstances a certain way, and then we react or respond to that set of circumstances based on our belief system, based on the grid that we’ve used to interpret that set of events, that set of circumstances.
So what we see here, let’s just look at Hannah, for example. There’s a set of very difficult circumstances where she is ridiculed. She is made fun of; she is belittled by someone in the home that’s the second wife, and she reacts to that. It would be easy for her to succumb to a belief that “Peninnah’s right, I’m useless as a woman. This is what my culture tells me. That for me to be fulfilled as a woman, I have to give birth to a male child.” So the emotion is related to the response to the belief.
Let me give you a more basic illustration. If you got up in the morning and looked at the paper, and let’s say yesterday you really broke down and lost all self-control and went out and bought about ten lottery tickets; and it is Powerball time, and you pulled out your scratch off cards or whatever it is and looked at your numbers. Then you looked at the numbers printed in the paper, and you looked again and double checked and triple checked them, and you won $190 million. How do you think you feel? Yeah, you feel great! You know, I don’t have a single problem that the Rapture and $5 million wouldn’t cure. I think most of us feel that way at different times.
So all of a sudden you just feel great! You are on top of the world! You are elated, ecstatic, and your emotions are just as high as they’ve possibly ever been. Then you run into your spouse and say, “Look we’ve won the Powerball!” When they look down they said, “You need to put your glasses on. That’s a zero, not an eight. You didn’t win diddly.” Now how do you feel? You’ve gone from up here, that high manic state, to where you are just at the bottom of the barrel – because your belief changed.
What you believe shapes how you feel. How you feel is a response to what you believe to be true. If you are told that your child has died, you’re going to have one set of emotions. But as soon as you hear that that’s not true, your emotions shift. They are responders to what you believe to be true in your mind. This is very important because a lot of times in the Christian life, we operate on false belief systems that come out of our sin nature and out of paganism; and the consequence are that we don’t experience the kind of happiness that we think we should be experiencing because we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have false concepts that float around in our head, false ideas about the nature of reality and how I should be viewed. Everything from how I view myself, what makes me valuable as a person or significant as an individual – all of these kinds of beliefs shape how we feel about ourselves at any given time. Some of you know what I mean.
When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror, and you see your mother or your dad looking back at you, some people think that’s a great thing; other people not so much. It just depends on your belief system. This is what’s going on with Hannah.
Here we have another circumstance (slide 5). I pointed this out. This is talking about the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler is very focused on his spiritual life, and he thinks that he’s doing a great job keeping the Law, and he is doing a great job at keeping the Law. He comes to the Lord expecting a good pat on the back, and the Lord says, “Well if you’re really going to make it as a disciple, you need to sell all that you have.” Now he thinks that’s really what he has to do.
I believe the Lord is pointing out some flaws in his thinking, and he goes away sorrowful because he didn’t hear what he thought he should here. His belief system caused him to react negatively in terms of his emotions. Our Lord Jesus Christ (slide 6) goes to Gethsemane. He takes Peter, James, and John with Him, and goes off apart from the other disciples to pray. He knows exactly what’s going to happen the next day on Golgotha, and as a result of that knowledge, He has certain emotions that are stirring His soul. He is sorrowful and deeply distressed.
My point here is that our emotion is not independent of our thinking, of our thought life, or what we believe to be true at any point in time. Later on I am going to say that emotions are the window to the soul. I am having certain emotions. Now what is going on? Now sometimes it may be hormonal, sometimes it might be related to one or two other things, but most of the time it’s related to what is going on between your ears. That’s where your spiritual warfare takes place. It takes place between your ears. It’s not doing battle with the devil, which is what the emotional Charismatics think. It is doing battle with ideas and beliefs that are imbedded within our soul.
When we come to Christ, we still have a lot of that garbage in our soul, and part of what we have to do is identify it and take it out through the use of the Word of God as we go through that, as we grow and mature as believers.
Another thing that I pointed out as we look at Hannah is that she has bitterness of soul in 1 Samuel 1:10. Now a lot of people look at that phrase, and they see bitterness, and they say, “See, this is her problem. She is bitter.” That is a mistake I made some 25 years ago, but as I pointed out last time, as we look at this idiom as it is used (slide 7), even the term bitterness in some places simply refers to something that is harsh and difficult and distressing. It doesn’t mean that the person has become bitter. It just means that they are experiencing difficulty, and they are grieving. These three verses in Job point that out, Job 3:20; Job 7:11; and Job 10:1.
I also pointed out the situation with the Shunammite woman (slide 8). The Shunammite woman has a son who has died. And she comes to Elisha in order to have him come and heal her son, but she is deeply distressed. She believes that he can, but she’s not sure that he would. There is this turmoil that is going on within her soul.
That brings us up to date on where we were last time so I wanted to look at weeping (slide 9) in terms of the emotions of life. I’m not looking at every emotion, everything there is to say on this. I just want to focus on this. We’ll learn a lot about how to deal with other emotions just from taking the spotlight to this one particular area.
The first point, this is as far as I got last time (slide 10), is that first, emotion is the responder to situations, circumstances, events, or even our own thoughts or emotions.
We have certain thoughts. We say, “Oh I can’t believe I had that thought! Oh, I’m just terrible.” And the next thing you know we’re riding that slide down into discouragement and depression simply because we disappointed ourselves to some degree. So we can respond even to subjective things that are going on inside of us. And secondly, when emotions are intense, we often express that through the shedding of tears. We may not even think about it very much. It may be an almost automatic reflex action to what has taken place. It’s spontaneous.
I then covered some random observations that I’ve thought about over the years and the first point I made was that the term emotion as a general term is the one we use, but there is not a general term in Scripture for emotion. The Bible doesn’t talk about emotion as a category. It deals with specifics on different emotions. I think that is very important when we are doing exegesis and understanding certain kinds of circumstances.
Emotions seem to be built-in responses. They seem to be related to us physically. There is a close relationship. I’ve gone back and forth over the years – is emotion in the soul? Or is emotion in the body? Or is there a connection between what we believe and the body? That connection between the immaterial soul and the physical body is a very mysterious connection.
I do appreciate a lot of what Jay Adams has said. I pointed out a quote from him last time. I referenced him last time that he believed that emotions are physically based. We feel things. When certain things happen we feel it in our gut. We automatically generate adrenalin. All kinds of things happen physically that are automatic responses to certain kinds of stimulation – for example in a fight-or-flight reaction.
Emotions in responses are not necessarily sinful – now there may be some emotion that is, as Scripture clearly points out, a sin, but not all emotions are that way. You have a number of emotions that show up that have a positive side to them. So inherently, emotion is not sinful.
Adam and Eve had emotion in the Garden, but they were not emotional in the sense of doing away with their rational thought process and just operating on pure emotion and subjectivity. That happens as a result of sin nature control I believe, but that doesn’t mean emotion in and of itself is necessarily wrong. The issue is that we are to look at emotion and evaluate what is going on in our life. Why do we feel this way? What are we thinking at the time? What’s the thought process and see if we can’t identify what the beliefs are that may be generating these kinds of emotions.
Emotions (slide 11) in and of themselves are not sin. I am belaboring that because there are some Christians who think that. Some of you may have heard somebody teach something that sounded like that. Emotions are not sin, but dwelling on them and living on the basis of certain emotions, such as anger, bitterness, jealousy, hatred, does become sin; and acting wrongly on these emotions is sinful.
Jesus experienced profound grief and turmoil and distress as He faced the Cross. But what that drove Him to do was to pray and depend upon the Lord, not to act in some way to say these emotions shouldn’t be here so I’ve got to get rid of them. I am going to be a little bit facetious here, but I am pointing at our culture. Our culture is over-prescribed on dealing with a lot of emotional problems that people have – depression just being one of them. There are others. What I am saying doesn’t address every situation or every person, but there’s a lot of literature out there addressing the issue of the fact that there’s a lot of over-prescription related to certain emotional problems.
As Christians, when we have certain emotions, what we want to do is – “if this isn’t a pleasant emotion, I need to get rid of it.” Two weeks later – “this is not a pleasant emotion; I need to get rid of it.” Two years later – “this can’t be in God’s will for me to have this unpleasant emotion!”
Jesus had unpleasant emotions. He didn’t say, “Lord, take this emotion away from Me.” He had to address the issue. You have to understand that’s the test. It’s an emotional test. Our own emotions are testing us as to whether or not we are going to make the Word of God more real to us than what we feel or whether we’re going to let that distressing emotion cause us to say “I’m going to do anything whatever it is in order to get rid of this distressing emotion.”
Then we look to solutions that are not Biblical, and rather than using that as an opportunity to move forward in the faith-rest drill and learn to focus on the Lord and the joy that God has given us, we’re focusing on getting rid of a negative emotion that’s there that can drive us to greater spiritual maturity. We have some Scriptures that address that before we’re done.
Emotions (slide 12) are never a means of divine guidance or direction in Scripture or in your spiritual life. Another way of looking at this is subjectivity or mysticism. It’s determining God’s will on the basis of how we feel about something and thinking that God would never want me to feel that way. Well where in the world does it say in the Bible that God doesn’t want you to feel that way? It’s just an assumption that is brought to the text. God wouldn’t want me to do that, so therefore I’m going to do this, but when we look at the Scripture that’s not necessarily true.
Emotions (slide 13) do not involve thought or reason, but may be a reaction which accompanies certain thoughts or beliefs. In the example I gave earlier with the lottery, or with a parent who thinks they’ve lost a child, their emotion follows what they believe at that moment to be true. Sometimes this hits us almost instantaneously. The emotional reaction hits us almost instantaneously.
A few years ago I went up to Dallas to visit with my uncle. At the time he had Alzheimer’s. He was a retired WWII and Vietnam era Air Force colonel, and he was also a retired pilot for United Airlines. He had always had a camera bug ever since he got his first little Kodak movie camera in probably 1946 or 1947. He took all these pictures, and my cousins had taken all of these old home movies and family movies and everything that he had done. There were a lot of airplanes – a lot of airplanes. They had put them all on DVD. So when he was in his room at the nursing home, they would have these running continuously on the television reminding him of family and past things that he had done and everything else.
The day I went up to the room there, my cousin and I were sitting there talking to him. The doctors came and took him out for some reason, and they were playing this DVD; and I was just enthralled. I hadn’t seen any of these, so I’m sitting there watching them, and this first disc started off and he’s flying a squad of I think it was B-52s. He was a SAC (Strategic Air Command) pilot for many years. In fact he was the real pilot. If you ever see the old film with Jimmy Stewart and June Alison, he’s the pilot that did all the flying for Jimmy Stewart in that film, and they filmed it up in Alaska. So he’s taking all these airplanes up there; and all it is films of airplanes; and everywhere you look there’s another air show.
Then the scene shifted to my grandparents’ house over on the eastside in Houston. He’s standing outside, and he’s got the camera pointed toward the front door. And the door opens, and my grandmother came running out; and then my aunt came running out; and then my mother came running out. All of a sudden I realized tears were just streaming down my face. I had never seen my mother walk before, and it just hit me like a punch in the gut or something. It was just instantly.
We have emotional reactions like that. They have nothing whatsoever to do with reason. It’s just how events impact us instantly; and we react. We can’t evaluate these things, and it’s not a part of reason. It’s just the way we are. God has wired us in terms of our emotions.
Emotions, though (slide 14), may be a barometer of our spirituality. They are a window into the soul. They may tell us some things about what we believe to be true at that time, and what we continue to believe to be true that may help us to understand why we are having problems in our spiritual life. So it can give us an insight into our spirituality or carnality.
Emotions may reveal to us what is truly important or significant to us. I think many of us in different areas would say these three things are important to us, but we really struggle with these other three things that ought not be important to us, and ideally they shouldn’t be, but they really are. We have this problem with the sin nature priorities and our spiritual priorities that come from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. That’s part of our spiritual growth.
So we look at the fact that a number of our emotions are a result of our own self-absorption. When we are walking according to the sin nature, we are self-absorbed; and it is all about me. You just think it is all about you, but it is really all about me. Anything that goes contrary to what I want is going to impact negative emotions. If I don’t get my way, I am going to get angry. If you don’t get your way, you’re going to get angry. You have different ways in which you are going to express that anger, but if people don’t act and respond to situations with you the way you think they should, then you are going to start getting irritated with them, and you have to pay attention to that and what those particular issues might be.
So we get angry; we become bitter or resentful or depressed whenever we don’t get our way. When we don’t get our way one of the basic reactions is that we become angry. If we don’t get our way over a lengthy period of time, then we become very frustrated. If that period of time goes on for a year or two or three we may become depressed, but it comes down to the fact that we are not getting our way about something, and so we need to identify what kind of self-absorbed goal or objective we’re trying to tightly hold onto instead of dealing with it with Scripture.
On the other hand we often get happy and elated when we get our way – when things go the way we think they should be going. We think we are really blessed of God because my life is what I want it to be. The problem is that we’re not being blessed by God at all. Perhaps He’s just giving us enough rope to hang ourselves. So we have to look at things in more than a superficial way.
I want to look at a couple of examples. Let’s turn to Genesis 27:38 (slide 15). This is a story of Esau. I think Esau gets a bad rap. I will explain that. I went through this when we studied through Genesis. In Genesis 27 Esau and his twin brother Jacob are fairly young; but they lived well past 100 years. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but how many of y’all would like to be characterized by some immature foolishness that occurred when you were 20 years old? I didn’t see any hands, okay.
This is what happens with Esau. When we see Esau later on, when Jacob returns from Haran after his self-imposed exile because Esau wanted to kill him, Esau just overwhelms him with his joy to see him. God has richly blessed Esau in the meantime, but Esau wasn’t the one who is going to get “the blessing” from God in terms of the Abrahamic Covenant.
We know the story described in Genesis 27. Isaac is old. He can’t see real well, and Esau is his favorite. Esau is an outdoorsman. Esau is a hunter. He fits the image of a hunter. He’s rugged. He is strong. He lives in the outdoors. He has hairy arms and a beard, and Jacob is more of a mama’s boy. He stays at home. He likes to hang around Rebekah a lot, and he is her favorite. So Esau is going out on a hunting trip, and Isaac realizes his time of death is coming near; so he wants Esau to prepare some of his favorite food. Esau goes out and goes hunting; and in the meantime, Rebekah is a conniver here.
It is interesting because those of you who remember Jacob, Ya'aqov./Ya’acov, means a heel grabber. It’s the idea that he’s a manipulator, a conniver. He got that dimension of his sin nature honestly from his mother Rebekah. If you recall the stories about how after he flees from the land down around Shechem and Beersheba and escapes from them and goes back up to Haran to work for his uncle, his uncle is the same way.
These are not the kind of people I want to go home and have lunch with on Sunday after church. They are connivers; they are manipulators; they’re trying to get God’s will on their terms, and Rebekah already has been told by God that the older will serve the younger. The older is Esau. God has already promised that Jacob gets the blessing, but she’s got to manipulate it.
So she comes up with a little scheme, and says to Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father send Esau out to get some game to bring back and cook, but I’m going to cook it. I know just how he likes it, and you’re going to take it in; and you’re going to present that to him.” Jacob does that and deceives His father. He puts on a hairy garment so he can convince his father Isaac that he’s really Esau, to give him the blessing. So he gives him the blessing.
In Genesis 25 it happens that Esau comes back, and he hasn’t had a real successful hunting trip. He hasn’t eaten much, and he’s hungry; so he sells his birthright to Jacob for this lentil soup that Jacob had made. The blessing is like a legal inheritance, and once the father had blessed Jacob, he couldn’t go back on it even if deception had occurred. He couldn’t go back on it. Esau then loses his inheritance, and he is embittered.
In Genesis 27:38 we read, “And Esau said to his father, ‘Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me – me also, O my father!’ And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.”
Is anything in this story about eternal salvation? Not one thing has to do with eternal salvation. It has to do with the blessing and the Seed promise that God had made to Abraham – that the blessing would go through his son Isaac and then his son Jacob. That’s the line of blessing.
When we get to Hebrews 12, Esau is given as an example. In this passage, I just have the core verse here, Hebrews 12:16–17, but when we look back to Hebrews 12:12, we are going to see the significance here.
In Hebrews 12, it is talking about a warning of losing our inheritance. There are various warning passages in Hebrews, and these warning passages are to warn believers: not that they can lose their salvation, but they can lose and forfeit rewards and position and privilege in heaven due to carnality, and due to a failure to grow to spiritual maturity. In Hebrews 12:12–13 we read, starting in that context, “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”
Basically what he is saying there is straighten out your spiritual life. Quit walking around in circles and going after things on your own terms. Confess your sin, and turn back to the Lord; and walk consistently with Him. That is basically what He is saying. In Hebrews 12:14 he says, “Pursue peace with all people, and sanctification (that’s experiential sanctification) without which no one will see the Lord.” Seeing the Lord there is not salvation. As we’ve seen in our study of the letters to the seven churches, there are those who are overcomers who will be blessed with a greater level of intimacy and closeness to the Lord.
Look, there are going to be billions of people in heaven. Not everybody is going to be on the front row. Some people are going to be on the front row. Some people are going to be out in the bleachers. Some people are going to be in the nosebleed section, and when you get to a stadium that holds 5–10 billion people, the nosebleed section is way up there; and Jesus is just going to appear to be a little speck.
When the writer of Hebrews says this, that without sanctification no one will see the Lord, he is talking about those who will be closer to the Lord in heaven having a closer approach and intimacy in heaven due to their spiritual growth and spiritual maturity in this life. He says, “Without which no one will see the Lord.” It has to do with inheritance.
Inheritance is a major issue all the way through Hebrews. What’s the context of Genesis 27? It’s inheritance. It’s not eternal life. It’s not eternal destiny. It’s that ownership of that inheritance. Esau forfeited that. He didn’t forfeit his spiritual life. He didn’t forfeit his eternal destiny. God still blessed him richly in his life. God didn’t forget about Esau, but he wasn’t going to get the primary inheritance that went to the firstborn. And even though the firstborn wasn’t the first in order, because even though they were twins, Esau came out first, the firstborn has to do with the priority, the preeminent one.
So we get to Hebrews 12:15, and it says, “looking carefully”; in other words, examine your life carefully “lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.” That doesn’t mean that you lose salvation. That means that you are no longer walking according to the grace of God “lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” What happened with Esau? He became bitter. He mouthed off a lot of threats. He was going to kill his brother. What was the result of that? Rebekah came in and said Jacob, you’d better get out of Dodge because Esau is coming for you, and he’s serious. He’s going to kill you. So she sent Jacob away to spend the next 20 years as almost a slave to his uncle Laban. That is the root of bitterness.
Now look at Hebrews 12:16 “lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau.” It’s not that Esau was a fornicator, but that he treated his inheritance lightly. In other passages related to inheritance that we have in 1 Corinthians 6:9ff and Galatians 5:19ff where you have the list of the works of the flesh, if you commit these sins it says that they will not inherit the kingdom of God. It doesn’t mean that they won’t go into heaven. It says that they will forfeit their inheritance. This is what happened with Esau. “Don’t be a fornicator” is just summing up a bunch of those types of sins, the sexual sins. “Don’t be a fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” That’s not selling his right to go to heaven. It is selling out his birthright as the elder son to inherit the primary blessing.
Now God had already said that it was not going to go to him, but he sold it anyway. He treated his inheritance with disrespect. He treated it lightly. That’s what any of us do whenever we sin. When we choose a path of disobedience or sin, what we are saying at that moment in time is that my inheritance that God would distribute to me in heaven at the judgment seat of Christ isn’t worth it to me. I would rather pursue carnality right now than to pursue sanctification.
There’s the warning – don’t be like Esau; and then the explanation in Hebrews 12:17, “For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance.” He changes his mind. I really don’t want to sell it. It’s too late. You committed the sin, and there are consequences, and you lost that inheritance. It didn’t mean he lost his salvation. It just meant he lost his inheritance. He gave up that opportunity.
Paul says we are to “redeem the time.” We’re to use our time wisely. We are to walk by the Spirit, because the opportunities we had to walk by the Spirit today that we blew have eternal consequences. If we had used those opportunities to walk by the Spirit, then that contributes to our spiritual growth, and it contributes to rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. But when we live for ourselves instead of for the Lord, when we walk according to the flesh instead of according to the Spirit, then that has an impact. That whittles away at what we will have at the judgment seat of Christ.
Here we have Esau in this situation weeping. He’s weeping because of failure. That’s legitimate. There’s nothing illegitimate here. When we recognize that we’ve messed up, sometimes it’s emotional; and we may experience some great regret, and we may weep over that. In Genesis 33:4 (slide 16) Esau weeps for the right reasons. When Jacob came back, he ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept together. Nothing wrong with that.
We weep for different reasons. One time we might weep because we got caught, not because we are concerned about being wrong, but we weep because we’re caught. Sometimes we weep because there is a genuine desire to change. We really screwed up, and we know it. That’s what happened with Esau. He knew it, and he wanted to change his mind. That’s what it says. He wanted to inherit the blessing. He was rejected. Then he found no place for repentance. He couldn’t change his mind. He couldn’t change course. In Genesis 33:4, he is weeping for valid reasons. He is excited, joyful because Jacob has come back.
Now let’s look at another situation. In Numbers 11:1–4 (slide 17) I think there is a way in which this is translated that it may not be so much a meaning of literal weeping here as something else, but I’ll point that out as we go on. This is the situation: the Israelites have gone to Mt. Sinai. They’ve gotten the Law. They leave from Mt. Sinai, and they’re getting out into the wilderness; and they’re eating the same old thing every day. Manna, manna, manna, manna, manna. Lord isn’t there any variety on the menu here? Just the same old thing every morning? Manna, manna, manna, manna, and so they complained. They are complaining because of a false belief system in their heads. They’re not trusting in the Lord.
We’re told in this passage (NKJV), “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”
They really got God mad, and He is judging them. It is an operation of His judgment, and there are many who died the sin unto death. “Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched. So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lord had burned among them. Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving.” They couldn’t stick to their diet, a diet of manna. They yielded to the intense craving; they wanted to go back to Egypt for the leaks and the garlic in Egypt.
We can communicate that way if you haven’t had Mexican food in six months or ten months. It would be like saying, “Okay, you can’t ever have Mexican food again. You just have to eat Shipley Donuts.” After a while you want to have some good enchiladas.
They “yielded to intense cravings; so the children of Israel also wept again.” I think this borders on whining. They are complaining and crying about it, and they are whining. They are having a pity party and it’s all wrong, and it’s because they don’t get their way. They are not going to get to eat what they want to eat, so they are weeping over this. If we look at Numbers 11:20 (slide 18), God is going to discipline them for this because they are all out of fellowship, focusing on the wrong thing.
In Numbers 11:20 we read, “but for a whole month, until it comes.” God says, okay, if you’re going to whine about it, you’re going to eat. I’m going to send you quail. You’re going to have quail until it is coming out your nose. You are going to eat quail until it is coming out your ears. You want something else? I’m going to give it to you a thousand fold, and you’re going to regret it. So “for a whole month” this is going to happen “until it comes out of nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept.” You’ve whined. You’ve complained before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”
The next example in Numbers 14:1–4 (NKJV) (slide 19), “So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation.” This is after they have failed at Kadesh-Barnea. They have an emotional reaction. They sent the spies in. Ten spies came back and said “we can’t do it. There are too many giants. There are walled cities and too many people.” The other two said, “It doesn’t matter. God says He’s going to give it to us. We’re going to trust in Him”. And God said because the people followed the ten spies instead of the two who trusted in God, they weren’t going to be allowed to go in.
So now they have another meltdown, and this is negative. Why? Because they are believing the wrong thing. They have totally rejected the truth of what God has said, and they breakdown and weep. They go on and on all night long.
This same kind of thing happened again in Judges 2 (slide 20). In fact, Judges 2 was such a significant national weeping and a national meltdown that they called the name of the place where they did it Bochim, which is from the word meaning “to weep”. In Judges 2:1–2 (NKJV) “Then the Angel of the Lord”, this is the Preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ, “came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: ‘I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, “I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.” But you have not obeyed my voice. Why have you done this?’ ”
Judges 2:3–4 (slide 21), and at this point, the Angel of the Lord tells them, “therefore I’m not going to drive them out before you.” Okay, end of game. You lost. I’m not going to run everyone out. I’m going to leave them there so they are going to be a thorn in your side or a pain in your backside all the days of your life. “They will be a snare to you. When the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.”
Weeping is a response to divine discipline. It should lead us to repent, which means to change your mind, and then to change course – to turn. That’s the word we’ll run into when we get into our study in 1 Thessalonians that I am working on right now. You repent and turn. You don’t just change your mind. You change direction.
In Judges 14:16 (slide 22) we see another use of weeping where we have Samson’s wife who is weeping in order to manipulate. She wants to manipulate Samson. This isn’t just territory that’s unique to women. Men can also use emotion to manipulate others, and that’s what she’s doing here. Some people call them crocodile tears. They are not genuine at all. She’s just doing it to put Samson on the spot. She knows that like a lot of men, Samson just gets really uncomfortable when a woman starts crying. They’ll just do anything in order to get her to stop crying.
In 1 Samuel 30:1–2 (slide 23), we have an important example. This is an example of legitimate grief. Legitimate grief. David and his followers have been staying with all of their families and loved ones in a village called Ziklag, when David and his men left in order to go deal with some problems with the Amalekites. Actually, David was hiding with the Philistines. The Amalekites came in. These are sort of the brigands of the ancient world, land pirates. These ne’er-do-wells came in and “invaded the south, attacked Ziklag, burned it with fire.” They took a number of women captive and carried them off; then they went their way.
So when David and his men came back in 1 Samuel 30:3–4 (slide 24), we read that they came to the city, and it was burned with fire; their wives, and sons and their daughters had been taken captive. So the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept. Now this is legitimate. This is grief. Our loved ones have been captured and taken captive, and the natural response of that is sorrow and sadness and grief. This is legitimate. “And they wept until there was no strength in them to weep.” They wept until there weren’t any more tears left. There wasn’t anything more. They exhausted themselves. No hint of criticism of this. This is normal. Then what did that do? They went and got them back. They didn’t let the weeping cause them to just stop and have a pity party.
Weeping is a sign of legitimate grief. Look at 1 Samuel 30:6 though, “Now David was greatly distressed.” There’s another intense emotion as a result of this. “For the people spoke of stoning him.” See, David is their leader. We left our family here. The Amalekites came, captured all of our families and took them off. Let’s blame our leader. So David becomes very distressed because they are looking at him as the enemy, and they are talking about stoning him because the souls of the people were grieved.
Here we see an example of David responding correctly to his intense emotion, but the people respond wrongly to theirs. They are grieving. So let’s kill somebody. Let’s kill our leader. Do something stupid. What did David do? He shows what you should do when you are experiencing great distress and grief. He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” at the end of 1 Samuel 30:6. That is the direction we should go. He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
I want to cover one more example very quickly. This is another one that is greatly misunderstood: John 11 (slide 25). This is a story that everybody knows. If you can memorize any verse, this is the verse to memorize. John 11:35, two words, shortest verse in the English, “Jesus wept.” At a superficial level, you’ve probably been taught this. You’ve probably heard this taught. Jesus was grieving. Jesus isn’t grieving.
Let’s look at the context. Jesus knows that in five minutes or less He’s going to say, “Lazarus, get up out of that grave and come here.” Jesus knows that later He is going to be having a banquet with Lazarus. Why would he be grieving? You say, well, in His humanity He didn’t know He was going to do it yet. No, no, no, no, no. Read the context. Back earlier in the day Jesus is talking to Martha and said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live.”(John 11:27) How clear can it be? He knew exactly what He was going to do. This is why He delayed. He’s going to walk up to that grave, and He’s going to tell Lazarus to come out.
He’s not grieving because Lazarus His good friend has died. Look at the context. John 11:31–32, “Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out.” So all the mourners are there. All the friends of the family. All their loved ones are there. “They followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” His emotions are stirred up because He sees the grief and sorrow of all these people. He’s not weeping because of Lazarus. He’s weeping because of what those people were going through. It’s the compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God did not design us to go through grief. Grief is part of plan B. Plan A was you are not going to die. You’re not going to sin. You’re not going to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You’re going to continue to stay in the Garden and eat from the tree of life and build a civilization out of obedience. What happened? They sinned. Death came into human existence, plan B. Plan B brought grief.
Plan B is a sign of sin, and every time you grieve over a loss, it is because we’re living in a fallen world. Every time you experience grief, a red flag ought to go off in your head saying, “This is a spiritual lesson. Life isn’t what it’s supposed to be because of Adam. Life isn’t the way God originally designed it. I’m grieving. God knows that I shouldn’t be grieving.” That is a result of sin, and God has compassion on us for that. That’s what Jesus is showing here, His compassion for the people, and “He wept.”
My point is that emotion in and of itself is not wrong. There are wrong reasons to have certain emotions. There are wrong responses to certain of life’s situations. There are right responses to those situations, and in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with emotion, but we don’t run our lives on the basis of emotion.
Emotion is something, and in some cases emotion needs to be kept private. In other cases emotion needs to be kept under a certain measure of control. We must maintain poise in those circumstances; but in other circumstances, it is perfectly appropriate and legitimate to have and experience those emotions, because we are living in a fallen world. The issue isn’t that I have these emotions, something must be wrong with me. The issue is, I am having these emotions: how am I going to handle this test that I have? Am I going to apply the Word or not?
Let’s close in prayer. “Father, thank You for the opportunity to study these things and to realize that Your Word once again addresses life as it is and not life as too many people think it ought to be. We focus upon Your Word, and Your Word helps us to understand the nature of reality. And when the reality of Your Word is more real to us than our feelings or our experience, then we are truly walking with You, and we are learning to walk in light of reality. Father, challenge us in these areas. There are many people listening, many people here who may be struggling with different circumstances, different sets of emotions, and we pray that this will give them insight as to the Biblical approach and biblical framework for dealing with their own emotions. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”