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Bible verses about Mourning
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Grief over the death of a loved one or the suffering of some other personal tragedy by Middle Easterners as a highly visible, public, and even professional custom, is a well-attested practice in the Bible. Jacob donned sackcloth following the "death" of Joseph (Genesis 37:34). In II Samuel 13:19, Tamar publicly lamented the loss of her virginity through rape by putting ashes on her head, tearing her clothing, and crying. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 even directs the Israelites to allow a maiden taken in warfare to shave her head, pare her nails, remove her native clothing, and bewail being wrenched from her father and mother for a month. Other signs of mourning include:

The Bible records many more instances of the established cultural customs of those times.

This does not mean God endorses all of these customs, but He duly records what the people did. He makes vivid use of their practices for our instruction, especially in the prophecies. His non-endorsement of many of these practices is verified by an admonition Jesus gives elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount.

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)

This does not directly address the practice of visible, public expressions of grief, but the principle drawn from them nonetheless shows a balance God expects. Enough is in His law to reveal that He is not against mourning a personal tragedy. But public display and the studied approach of the Oriental cultures—that focuses attention on the self—does not have His approval. We can conclude that the mourning Jesus calls a blessing in Matthew 5:4 is most assuredly not the highly visible and dramatic kind seen in the above scriptures, but is a private, spiritual quality inseparably linked to the other beatitudes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Mourning always precedes genuine conversion, for there must be a real sense of sin before the remedy, or deliverance from it, will even begin to be desired. But even here we must note a distinction because many people will quickly acknowledge they are sinners—some even with a measure of pride, a smile and a wink—who have never mourned over the fact. Sin, though, is serious business indeed when we consider that it is ultimately responsible for all the pain, disease, and death, including our own and our Savior's.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Ezekiel 9:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God spares those who suffer inner torment due to the rising societal evils around them. Why? What is so significant about sighing and crying over this world's abominable way of life?

Sigh, by way of definition, is Strong's #584, and it means "to groan," "to mourn," and "to moan." Its rather interesting first use is found in Exodus 2:23-25:

Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of their bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them. (Emphasis ours throughout.)

Note from the context that our God is a covenant-keeping God. He remembers His covenant and acknowledges those who hear Him and those who sigh among His people. In the Exodus story, He moved to redeem them from their bondage in Egypt, making a distinction between them and their oppressors (Exodus 8:22; 11:7).

Cry is Strong's #602 (a fairly rare word, used only four times in Scripture), and it also means "to groan," but it has another meaning as well: "to shriek." This word contains a great deal of emotional meaning. It involves a person's innermost feelings.

Those of a Pentecostal persuasion might tell us that that is the end of it, that sighing and crying is just a lot of whooping and hollering, the outpouring of raw emotion. However, that is not all that it is—not in the least! For us to understand what God requires of us, it is necessary to explain the thinking, the reason, that is behind "sighing and crying." Sound reason underlies the emotion expressed by sighing and crying, which needs elaboration before proceeding further.

Neuroscientists used to talk about compartments in the brain. Sometimes in the popular press there is an occasional assertion that one section of the brain is for sight, another one for hearing, another one for mathematical skills, and yet another for artistic skills. The faculty of reason is supposed to reside in the prefrontal cortex, and emotion comes from another area. This idea is called the "localization thesis." It is a simplistic view that has pretty much fallen by the wayside by neuroscientists who have come to know more about how our brains function. One critic of this thesis says:

. . . functions [of the brain], like properties, are distributed (they require a whole system or mechanism to be realized [or actuated]). . . . A danger inherent in the localization thesis may be illuminated by analogy to an internal combustion engine. In describing an engine, one might be tempted to say, "the opening of the intake valve is caused by the movement of the rocker arm." Except that the rocker is, in turn, set in motion by the camshaft, the camshaft by the crankshaft, the crank by a connecting rod, the rod by the piston. But of course, the piston won't move unless the intake valve opens to let the air-fuel mixture in. This logic is finally circular because, really, it is the entire mechanism that "causes" the opening of the intake valve; any less holistic view truncates the causal picture and issues in statements that are, at best, partially true. Given that the human brain is more complexly interconnected than a motor by untold orders of magnitude, it is a dubious undertaking to say that any localized organic structure [any section of the brain] is the sufficient cause and exclusive locus of something like "reason" or "emotion." . . .

[For instance] the amygdala is said to be the seat of emotion, the prefrontal cortex of reason. Yet when I get angry, for example, I generally do so for a reason; typically I judge myself or another wronged. To cleanly separate emotion from reason-giving makes a hash of human experience. . . . (Matthew B. Crawford, "The Limits of Neuro-Talk," The New Atlantis, Number 19, Winter 2008, pp. 65-78)

Emotion and reason are not separate entities. They do not occur in discrete areas of the brain, and it is far better to understand them to be two sides of the same coin. One needs both sides; one cannot have a coin with a single side. It is an impossibility.

Therefore, sighing and crying are not just emotions or feelings. They are not just matters of the heart but also matters of the head. These expressed feelings have reason—thought—firmly attached to them.

Charles Whitaker
The Torment of the Godly (Part Two)


 

Zechariah 12:10-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This prophecy affords us insight into the painfully heartfelt repentance of an entire nation across every social strata. This ought to give us a clear picture of the depth of feeling God expects when we recognize what our sins have produced. It is very evident that mourning accompanies and motivates the kind of change that God approves. It is no wonder, then, that Jesus says that mourners are blessed (Matthew 5:4).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Matthew 5:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A specific type of mourning is the kind that receives the comfort of God. Millions, perhaps billions, of mourners in the world do not come within the scope of Jesus' statement. These mourners may even be under God's condemnation and far from receiving any of His comfort.

The Bible shows three kinds of sorrow. The first is the natural grief that arises from tragic circumstances. The second is a sinful, inordinate, hopeless sorrow that can even refuse to be comforted. Perhaps the outstanding biblical example of this is Judas, whose remorse led him to commit a further sin, self-murder. Paul, in II Corinthians 7:10, calls this "the sorrow of the world [which] produces death." The third sorrow is godly sorrow. In the same verse, Paul writes, "For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted. . . ."

Mourning, grief, or sorrow is not a good thing in itself. What motivates it, combined with what it produces, is what matters. Thus, II Corinthians 7:10 states a vital key: The mourning that Jesus teaches is a major spiritual component of godly repentance that leads to or helps to produce the abundant life of John 10:10.

This principle arises often in secular life because humans seem bound and determined to learn by painful experience. For example, only when our health is either breaking or broken down, and we are suffering the painful effects of ignorantly or willfully ignoring health laws, do we make serious efforts to discover causes that lead to recovery of health and relief from the pains of disease. At that point we truly want to bring the comfort of good health back into our life.

Solomon addresses this truism in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Solomon is in no way saying that feasting and laughter are to be avoided, but rather he is comparing their relative value to life. Feasting does not contain an inherent power to motivate positive change in the way one is living. Instead, it motivates one to remain as he is, feeling a sense of temporary well-being. Contrariwise, sorrow—especially when pain or death is part of the picture (Psalm 90:12)—has an intrinsic power to draw a person to consider the direction of his path and institute changes that will enhance his life.

This general principle applies to virtually all life's difficulties. Whether health problems or financial difficulties, family troubles or business hassles, in falling into them and being delivered from them, we generally follow this pattern. However, spiritually, in our relationship with God, some variations from this general principle arise because God is deeply involved in leading and guiding our creation into His image.

In this case, not everything is happening "naturally." He intervenes in the natural processes of our life and calls us, revealing Himself and His will to us. His goodness leads us to repentance. By His Spirit we are regenerated, taught, guided, and enabled. He creates circumstances in our life by which we are moved to grow and become like Him in character and perspective, but some of these circumstances cause a great deal of sorrow. By His grace He supplies our every need so that we are well equipped to meet His demands on our life and glorify Him.

But Jesus' teaching never detaches this principle of sorrow or mourning from God's purpose because the right kind of mourning properly directed has the power to motivate wonderfully positive results. God definitely wants results, fruit produced through our relationship with Him. As Jesus says, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:8).

Concerning Matthew 5:4, William Barclay writes in his commentary, The Gospel of Matthew:

It is first of all to be noted about this beatitude that the Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. . . . It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that it cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes. (p. 93)

This illustrates mourning's emotional power, indicating it has enough power to produce the resolve to accomplish more than merely feeling badly and crying.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Matthew 5:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Jesus gives this beatitude, He does not say, "Blessed are those that have mourned" but "Blessed are those who mourn." He states it as a present and continuous experience. Repentance is not a one-time experience, nor does human nature, "the old man," simply disappear after we receive the new nature. Christianity involves a continuous learning and growing process. We are not instantly created in the image of God by fiat. God has decreed that we must live by faith, and that requires time and experience. We are created in the image of God through the fires of life's sorrows and adversities, as well as its joys. Even of our Savior, Isaiah writes, "He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Paul adds,

Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8)

The Christian is one whose mind is attuned to God's through an ever-deepening relationship. He has much to mourn over because the sins he commits—both of omission and commission—are a daily sense of grief and will remain so as long as his conscience stays tender. A tender conscience becomes hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. An active and growing relationship with God will lead to an enhanced discovery of human nature's depravity because God will faithfully reveal the massive gulf between His holiness and our corrupt and ever-polluting heart. He will make us conscious of the distance and coldness of our love, the surges of pride and doubt, and the lack of fruit we produce.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Matthew 5:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Those of us in this end-time age may have difficulty comprehending some aspects of the mourning God expects and respects in His children. Our conscience, unless we carefully guard it, can easily adapt itself into accepting its cultural environment. Society's ethics and morals are not constants. There exists a very real pressure for them to decline from God-established standards; what one generation considers immoral or unethical might not be by the next. For instance, what appears on public movie screens over the past thirty to forty years has changed dramatically.

In 1999, the President of the United States went on trial for clearly breaking God's commandments and for crimes for which lesser people are presently serving time. The public, however, gave him high approval ratings, perceived his adulteries and sexual perversions as private affairs, and considered his perjury before a grand jury as deplorable but "no big deal."

Paul warns us in Hebrews 3:12-15:

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

The mourning Jesus desires is the kind that exhibits a softness of heart that is ready for change in a righteous direction, one that knows it has done wrong and is eagerly willing to have it cleansed into holiness. We of this generation face an uphill battle because, through such media as television and movies, we have vicariously experienced the breaking of God's law in unparalleled frequency and in vividly sympathetic ways. On the screen life is cheap, property is meaningless, sexual purity is scoffed at, stealing is fine "if it's necessary," and faithfulness is nerdish and corny. Where is God in it? How much of this world's attitudes have we unwittingly absorbed into our character? Is our conscience still tender? Is mourning over sin—ours and others'—a vital part of our relationship with God?

Godly mourning plays a positive role in producing the changes God desires to produce His image in us. We need to pray with David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). He asks God to give him what did not exist before, that his affections and feelings might be made right, and that he might not have the callused attitude that led him to adultery and murder. A plea of this kind is one that God will not deny. If we are truly serious about overcoming and glorifying God, it is well worth the effort.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Matthew 5:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We should recognize that, when Jesus presents meekness in Matthew 5:5 as a highly desirable quality, He prefaces it with "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (verse 3) and "Blessed are those who mourn" (verse 4). He places it within a context that contains qualities that are similar to meekness. Alexander MacLaren writes in his comments on verse 5, "[Meekness] is the conduct and disposition towards God and man which follows from the inward experience described in the two former Beatitudes, which had relation only to ourselves" (Expositions of Holy Scriptures, vol. 6, "St. Matthew," p. 130). In other words, meekness is the active fruit of the other two, but whereas being poor in spirit and mourning are both internal in operation, meekness is both internal and external in its execution in one's life. Though this is not a complete description, it lays a good foundation.

Godly meekness is impossible unless we first learn a just and lowly estimate of ourselves. We must become poor in spirit. We do this by coming before God in deep penitence and with a clear knowledge of the vast difference between ourselves and what He is and what He means us to be. Paul says in Romans 12:3, "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." While pride destroys self and others, humility serves and builds.

Mourning springs from a sense of sin, from a tender conscience, from a broken heart. It is a godly sorrow over our rebellion against God and hostility to His will. It is the agonizing realization that it was not just sin in general but our own sins that nailed Christ to the stake. Notice that Matthew 5:4 is in the present tense, meaning that mourning is not confined to our initial repentance—it is a continuous experience. The Christian has much to mourn. If his conscience is kept tender by an ever-deepening discovery of human nature's depravity, his sins—both of omission and commission—are a sense of daily grief. Paul writes in Romans 8:23, "[W]e ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." He adds in Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

At the same time, this does not mean a Christian lives his life with a hang-dog expression and attitude, or that he lives his life feeling that he is a dirtbag or sleazeball who is still mucking around in a moral septic tank. A Christian is also forgiven, cleansed, and justified by the blood of Jesus Christ. He has access to God the Father, is the apple of His eye and has an awesome hope before him. He has the Holy Spirit in him. He is a child of the great Creator and looks forward to being resurrected and inheriting God's Kingdom. Christ died for him, and this creation exists for his perfection. A Christian has many reasons to feel a sense of exultation for what has been provided for him. An awareness of sin—as long as it is not allowed to become obsessive—will help him continue in a humble frame of mind by keeping pride in check, tempering his judgments, and allowing him to accept the events of life in a spirit that produces great contentment.

These qualities are produced when, with God's help, we rightly measure ourselves against the right standards—God and His law—rather than each other, and discover how much we owe to God's merciful grace. Anyone thus convicted and then forgiven and cleansed by Christ's blood is in the position to produce godly meekness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Matthew 9:24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In that culture, crowds of relatives and neighbors commonly showed up at the dwelling of the deceased to mourn. In the midst of this confusion and noise, Jesus declares, "The child is not dead but sleeping." Being ignorant of His use of "sleep" for death, the mourners deride Him.

Christ says the same of His dead friend, Lazarus, in John 11:11. Death as sleep is a euphemism common to many nations. It intimates that, even more sure than morning comes to a sleeper in bed, an everlasting morning will be provided for the righteous dead waiting in the grave for the resurrection. Jesus views death as a temporary sleep because His Father has the power to resurrect anyone from death. God can resurrect whom He wants when He wants, but He has an organized plan, purpose, and schedule for resurrections (I Corinthians 15:20-24; Revelation 20:5-6).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Resurrecting Jarius' Daughter


 

Luke 7:36-38   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This episode demonstrates a contrast between two attitudes of mind and heart. Simon, conscious of no need, had neither love toward Christ nor a desire for forgiveness. His impression of himself was that he was a good man in the sight of God and men. The woman, on the other hand, seems aware of nothing except her sinfulness and her great need of forgiveness. This resulted in mournful weeping over her destitution and love for the One who could fill her need.

Perhaps nothing shuts us off from God more firmly than human self-sufficiency (Revelation 3:17). It is a strange phenomenon that the more clearly we see our sins the better person we are. Perhaps the most damaging of all sins is to be conscious of no sin. The supreme lesson in this vignette is that the woman's attitude not only resulted in forgiveness but also played a major role in producing gratitude and loving devotion for Christ in her.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Luke 15:14-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son unveils a clear progression from awareness of pain arising from want and recognition of sin then on to sorrow for what he had become and done. Repentance, forgiveness, and acceptance were the fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Luke 18:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The publican and the multitude who repented at Peter's preaching felt the plague of sin, each in his own heart. This mourning springs from a conscience made tender and a heartfelt awareness of hostility toward God's will and personal rebellion against Him. It is grief expressed because one has become acutely aware that the morality he holds falls so far short of holiness that shame rises to the surface. One also feels this agony when he realizes that his personal behavior and attitudes have caused the death of his Creator and Savior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Revelation 11:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Clothed in sackcloth." II Kings 1:8 is the response of some people who reported what they had seen to the king, Ahaziah: "So they answered him, 'A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.' And he said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite." Matthew 3:4 describes John the Baptist: "Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locust and wild honey." So Elijah and John the Baptist both wore sackcloth. In a way, they are types of these Two Witnesses.

Being clothed in sackcloth has several meanings in the Bible. They are all somewhat similar, but they have nuances that we need to consider.

Sackcloth was worn by those who were in mourning. Recall in Ezekiel 9 that the angel was supposed to mark all those who sighed and cried for all the troubles of Jerusalem. That is a sign of woe, of mourning, or of being sorry for the fall of this once great nation or for their sins.

Sackcloth also can mean repentance, as an outward sign of the inner repentance of a person. Therefore it also has another meaning of being humble. A repentant person should be a humble person. He has seen his sins and turned from them.

Another meaning is austerity. This is one that the world often sees in John the Baptist and Elijah, that they were "poor" men. However, that is not necessarily the case. Austerity does not necessarily mean that one is poor. It can mean though that a person leads a simple lifestyle, and that he has removed the frills that complicate his life. Wearing sackcloth, then, could mean a person has stripped down to the simplest essentials of his physical life.

Of course, the one that goes with this would then be poverty, yet not necessarily physical poverty (a lack of money) but spiritual poverty (poor in spirit). This is a fine way of looking at the wearing of sackcloth in the case of the Two Witnesses—and frankly, of Elijah and John the Baptist. They were ready to be filled and given the riches of God because they had considered themselves lowly and needy. They knew they needed what only God could give. They were poor in spirit.

However, all of these meanings could apply to the Two Witnesses: They mourn for the troubles this world is going through; they are repentant and humble; they are austere, not having any of the frills and complications that clutter other people's lives—they have stripped themselves of the things that would weigh them down so that they can run (Hebrews 12:1); and they are certainly poor in spirit.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 3)


 

Find more Bible verses about Mourning:
Mourning {Nave's}
 




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