When God is Heartbroken

Genesis 6:5-6, The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that He had made man on earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.

If we think today’s times are bad and so iniquitous and evil, imagine how much worse it was before the Great Flood. People were so evil that God destroyed them, so the evil today is nothing compared to what it must have been in the Antediluvian period. Regret is a heavy emotion. How many times have you done or said something you’ve regretted? And it hurts even more because you can’t turn back the clock to undo what you did. It’s even worse when we hurt someone we love. When God regretted that He created the human race, He acted radically. He destroyed the human race and all flesh. But that’s not what I mean by God acting radically. We often think on the Great Flood as an act of God’s judgement. It is certainly His judgement, but we also see an act of God’s mercy. He destroyed the entire human race, but He also preserved the human race through the one man Noah and his family. The world in the Antediluvian period was so wicked that Noah and his family were the only righteous people left. They weren’t saved because of their works. We know God imparts His righteousness to us by faith, so they were righteous because of Him. So while He judged the rest of the evil world, God stayed true to His promise through the seed of the woman (see Genesis 3:15) by preserving the human race through Noah, all in spite of His broken heart.

In our imperfect, puny minds we can devise reasons why this was “unjust” or “hateful” for God to do. But as God Himself said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). As Creator of this earth and all the things within it, God has the right to do whatever the heck He wants with us. You, as God’s created creature, don’t get to dictate what is fair or unfair of God. We cannot understand His thoughts and ways, so what place do we have to question Him? When we create a sand castle on the beach, we often destroy it just for the fun of it. You get to destroy it because you created it. Yet God did not destroy the evil humans of those days because He enjoyed it, but because “it grieved Him to His heart.”

We focus so much on God’s action here of destruction that we completely miss the most significant part, that this grieved God to His heart. Can you imagine God in grief and utter sadness? I can’t, yet He grieved immensely. Instead of living in relationship with Him, people hated Him and lived in gross murder, gross sex, and other wicked ways. This broke God’s heart because their act of rebellion was rejecting the very thing God wanted to give them: life—that is, eternal life found in Him alone. So He took life away from them, and this alienation of theirs grieved Him deeply. It grieved Him so deeply that He promised Noah He would never destroy mankind in such a way again. Noah didn’t ask Him to make this promise. This was not a conditional promise; it was an unconditional promise. God made this promise not on the condition of anyone’s asking or doing, but simply because He wanted to, and maybe also because He grieved so much for the losses of all the creation He destroyed.

When we turn away from God, it breaks His heart; He does not want us to be alienated from Him. However, God responds in faithfulness. Noah and his family were faithful to God, so He spared them (Genesis 6:8). Out of the entire human population at the time, God saw this little family’s faithfulness. Even when God is heartbroken, He responds to faithfulness with faithfulness. Should we return to Him like the prodigal son to his father, or should we remain faithful in the midst of trials and persecution, God responds in His love and refuge. Thus will be the case when Christ returns. God will see the faithful and they will be preserved, just as Noah and his family were preserved for their faithfulness, whereas the rest of creation and the remaining wicked will be destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth will be created.

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