15-3 Passion For The Lost
Consider the passion for saving men and women which there was in Bible
" These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew
unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul,
being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the
name of Jesus Christ to come out of her" (Acts 16:17,18). Paul
didn’t allow himself to be irritated. The tragedy of mental illness
grieved him; the tragedy of the way in which some people have an all
too partial knowledge of Gods truth. And his grieving for her
didn’t merely result in him preaching the Gospel to her; he did something
concrete to help cure her. Paul’s grief of spirit is crystallized for
us in his words of Rom. 9:2: " I have great sorrow and unceasing
pain in my heart. For I could pray that I myself were anathema from
Christ for my brethren’s sake" (RV). With full allusion to Moses
prayer that he be blotted out from the book of life for the
sake of Israel finding salvation, Paul felt that if it were possible,
he would be condemned if only they would respond to the Gospel.
This is quite something. He woke up each day, the words imply, with
this pain in his heart: that Israel had not heard. And can we not rise
up to at least something of this passion for them, and for a Gentile
world that is equally resistant to Gods grace? It was this which led
Paul on to Jerusalem, even though the Holy Spirit specifically warned
him (in effect) not to go there, for bonds and imprisonment awaited
him. Why did he go? What impelled him? To forge ahead past weeping women
on the shore, the tug of close friends, the pressure of common sense,
and the direct statements of the Holy Spirit? It could only have been
this pain in his heart, this grief for Israel, and this earnest desire
to at least try to bring their Jerusalem leaders to repentance.
This was how strong it was.
J.I. Packer has written: “Paul sought to save men; and because he sought
to save them, he was not content merely to throw truth at them; but he
went out of his way to get alongside them, and to start thinking with
them from where they were, and to speak to them in terms that they could
understand, and above all to avoid anything that would prejudice them
against the Gospel...in his zeal to maintain truth he never lost sight
of the needs and claims of people”(2) . A
cameo of his attitude is presented when Eutychus falls down from the window;
Paul likewise runs down afterwards and falls on him, on the blood and
broken bones (Acts 20:9,10). The language of Paul’s descent and falling
upon Eutychus and Eutychus’ own fall from the window are so similar. Surely
the point is, that Paul had a heart that bled for that man, that led him
to identify with him.
" Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul
grieved for the poor? When I looked for good, then evil came unto
me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness" (Job
30:25,26). Note the past tenses; even in the past, it seemed that evil
came when he deserved blessing; but despite this, he hadn’t become inward
looking; he had wept and grieved for the misfortune of others. "
Weep with them that weep" seems to be quoting from here; as if
to say: Job is really our pattern in all this.
The Hebrew word translated " grieved" also occurs, about Noah,
in Gen. 8:10: " And he stayed [s.w. to be grieved, hurt] yet other
seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark" . This
word is found translated in other places like this: " Be in anguish"
(Dt. 2:25); " wounded" (1 Sam. 31:3); " exceedingly grieved"
(Es. 4:4); " travaileth" (Job 15:20); " wounded" (1
Chron. 10:3); " sore pained within me" (Ps. 55:4); " I
am pained at my heart" (Jer. 4:19); it is several times used of a
woman " in pain" , " travailing" in expectancy of
the birth (Is. 26:17,18; 54:1; 66:7; Mic. 4:10). Why was Noah grieved
and distressed, as he waited seven days before sending the dove out again?
Surely for the plight of his world. He was hoping the dove would return
with some sign of civilization, some hint of human survival. His grief
was for the corpses floating, for the animals lost…for the world that
once was. He had preached to them for 120 years, and they hadn’t listened.
Yet he didn’t think Well that’s their problem, they didn’t want to hear
when they could, it serves them right. And neither does it seem he was
looking out of the ark window thinking My, I’m sure glad we were
As the rain came down, it seems to me that the practical reality of the
tragedy would have dawned upon Noah; as the waters rose, he would have
pictured the folk he knew running to ever higher hills he would have seen
the faces of local children, maybe those of the guys he bought wood from,
faces of the women his wife had bartered with, memories of his own brothers
and sisters, perhaps his other children. It seems to me that he spent
all that time in the ark grieving, grieving, grieving for the tragedy
of it all. He surely wasn’t smugly thinking Ha, serves them right, and
praise God, I’m saved, and there’s a great future Kingdom for me in store!.
I also muse- and no more than this- that perhaps he went on a bender on
coming out of the ark because he just couldn’t handle the tragedy of it
all. Walking around an empty earth knowing he was saved and the others
hadn’t made it…
And this all has vital, biting relevance to us. For Peter takes Noah
in the ark as a symbol of us all in Christ. Yes, he was there thanking
God for His gracious salvation, looking forward to the new world to come,
but distraught at the tragedy of those masses who hadn’t responded, and
who had died the slow, desperate, struggling death of drowning. He sent
out the dove to see if the waters were " abated" - but the Hebrew
word is usually translated " curse" ; he wanted to know if the
curse was still evident; if the waters were cursed in the presence of
the ground / earth. The same word is found in Gen. 8:21 " I will
not again curse the ground" (3).
If our concern for this world is genuine, if our preaching is not just
seeking to gain members, or prove ourselves right and others wrong, then
we will grieve for this world; even though the exclusion of some from
Gods salvation is in some way their fault. Those who reject our message
we will grieve and bleed for; not just shrug our shoulders over. Lack
of response should concern us, worry us, drive us to think of
how we could be the more persuasive of men.
The extent to which Jeremiah’s heart bled for his people is reflected
in Jer. 9:1-3. He wished he had more moisture in his body, so that he
could weep both day and night for Judah- and yet he goes on to describe
them as proceeding from evil to evil in an ever downward spiral, shooting
lies everywhere… Everyone is special, nobody is like anyone else. This
is how God sees His children, and we should reflect this perspective.
It is this which will make us arrestingly different from the people with
whom we daily walk. We will cry out with Jeremiah: “Is it nothing to you,
all ye that pass by?”, unmoved and lost as they are in their own petty
issues (Lam. 1:12).
If we too have a heart that bleeds, we will come to know the mind of
Jeremiah, who as he proclaimed the judgments of his last days, interrupted
his sermon: “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at the walls of my heart;
my heart is disquieted in me…because my soul heareth the sound of the
trumpet, the alarm of war” (Jer. 4:19 RV). His very soul heard
the message which he preached, and he interrupts his proclamation of it
with this emotional outburst; this was no mindless distribution of bills
or casual mention of our church. He was pained in his heart to the extent
that he seems to have had some form of seizure. This is how much Jeremiah
felt for those he preached to and warned, both within and without of the
ecclesia. And he speaks of the pain of his heart after having
spoken of the pain that would reach unto the heart of Judah (Jer. 4:18,19).
The pain of their heart became the pain of his heart. And yet Jeremiah
had the mind of God in this sense, as David was after God’s own heart.
This is reflected by the way in which it is very difficult at times in
Jeremiah to decide who is speaking- Jeremiah, or God. Jer. 9:1-3,10,11
is a good passage to work through from this perspective, asking ‘Who is
speaking? Jeremiah, or God?’. Their minds were clearly so intertwined.
Both of them are described, in consecutive verses, as rising up early
to plead with Israel (Jer. 25:3,4).
Jeremiah could say in truth that “mine eye runneth down with rivers of
water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. Mine eye trickleth
down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission…mine eye affecteth mine
heart” (Lam. 3:48-51). What he saw with his eye affected his mind / heart.
Let us not see the doom of others, the pain and suffering of another life,
and walk on by not permanently moved. What we see should affect our heart-
if we have a heart that bleeds. And a bleeding heart doesn’t merely bleed-
it does something concrete, in prayer and action. Consider other
examples of the bleeding heart of Jeremiah:
- “Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is
poured upon the earth [“my stomach is in knots”, the Net Bible], for
the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and
the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city” (Lam. 2:11)
- “For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water…
my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously
rebelled” (Lam. 1:16,20).
- Having pleaded with Judah to repent, Jeremiah goes on to say: “But
as for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as is good and right
in your eyes” (Jer. 26:13,14 RV). It’s as if he doesn’t mind if they
kill him because they misunderstand him, his passionate concern, far
over-riding any desire for his own preservation, was that they should
Notice how Jeremiah’s bowels were turned for his people, because he felt
that he had shared in their sin. The arrows of God entered into
his “reins”, his kidneys, and this is why he so cried out (Lam. 3:13).
But God’s arrows were against a sinful Judah (Lam. 2:4). Yet Jeremiah
so identified with them that he felt they had entered him; and
this is why he could cry out in the way he did. Even though he hadn’t
rebelled, he felt that because they had, so had he, as he was so identified
with them. He reached such a level of grief through identifying himself
so closely with those for whom he grieved. Time and again, the descriptions
of his personal suffering and grief are expressed in the terms of the
very sufferings which he had prophesied as coming upon a sinful Israel.
And so with us, if we feel and show a willful solidarity with the people
of this world, with our brethren, then we will grieve for them. If we
maintain the selfish, 21st century detachedness from them, then we will
never have a heart that bleeds for them. Jeremiah could so easily have
shrugged his shoulders and reasoned that Judah had had their chance; and
it wasn’t on his head. But he didn’t. His attitude was that he had to
seek the sheep until he found it.
Afflicted (Lam. 1:9; 3:1)
s.w. Lam. 1:3,7
Built against (3:5)
Jerusalem “built against” by the invaders,
“Waxed old”, i.e. prematurely aged (3:4)
The heavens and earth of Judah were to
“wax old” (s.w.) and pass away (Ps. 102:26; 50:9; 51:6).
Felt his prayers not heard (3:8)
As Judah’s weren’t
“Hedged me about, that I cannot
get out…inclosed my ways” (3:7,9)
“Therefore, behold, I will hedge up [s.w.]
thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find
her paths” (Hos. 2:6)
“He was unto me as a bear” (3:10)
“I will meet them as a bear” (Hos. 13:8;
“As a lion”
How God was to Judah through the Babylonians
(Jer. 5:6; 49:19; 50:44 etc.)
God bent His bow against him (3:12)
As against Judah (2:4 s.w.).
“Mine affliction and my misery” (3:19)
Same words in 1:7 “her affliction…her
He drank gall (3:5,19)
As Judah had to (Jer. 8:14; 9:15; 23:15)
None to comfort him (1:21)
None to comfort her (1:9)
He bore a yoke (3:27)
As Judah bore the yoke of condemnation
by Babylon (Jer. 27:8,12)
And so Jeremiah feels that he himself has committed Israel’s sin along
with them: “We have transgressed and have rebelled” (Lam. 3:42).
He feels that God will not hear his prayer (Lam. 3:44), even
though this was only true for the people and not for Jeremiah personally.
In this he looks forward to how the Lord Himself genuinely felt forsaken
by the Father, even though He Himself was never forsaken.
And Jeremiah wanted his grief to be reflective of the grieving prayer
of the remnant to their God: “Cry aloud to the Lord! O wall of daughter
Zion! Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself
no rest, your eyes no respite!” (Lam. 2:18 RSV). His grief really was
and is to be the pattern for others. Doubtless it influenced the Lord
Himself, who wept over Zion (Lk. 19:41), inevitably holding Jeremiah in
But like us, Jeremiah didn’t always have such a heart of compassion.
Initially he didn’t even want to preach to his people. And he even prayed
that he would so grieve for them in regard to the message he gave them,
that he would cry for them day and night: “Oh that my head were waters,
and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for
the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1). And this prayer was
heard. For by Lamentations, this is just what he was doing. And if what
we read of Jeremiah troubles us, we too can pray for a heart that bleeds,
and through the experience of life which the Lord allows us, He will develop
such a heart in those who want it. You may be so caught up in your business,
your family, your ecclesia even, your web of social contact…that in honest
moments, you know that your heart doesn’t bleed as it should. You see
the needs and pain and struggle of men and women, but it doesn’t touch
your heart very deeply. Jeremiah may well have been like this; but he
prayed for a new heart, and so can you. Jeremiah had actually been commanded
by God to have such a level of grief for His people: “Therefore thou shalt
say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day,
and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken”
(Jer. 14:17). Jeremiah’s grief was God’s word of care and concern to the
people; and so it can be with us. Jeremiah was to be like this, to reflect
God’s passion for His people; so he prayed that he would have such a heart
of true compassion [note that the chapters in Jeremiah are totally out
of sequence chronologically]; and in the end, he found it.
The fact others reject our message ought to pain us at the very core
and heart of our beings. Jer. 13:17 records a private soliloquy of Jeremiah:
“But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your
pride”. He would hide away and weep for them, and nobody would ever know.
His grief was to be deeply personal (“my soul shall weep”) and unperceived
by others (“in secret places”). And I challenge us, each one: have we
ever done this, or even come near it, in our frustration with those who
reject our message? Jeremiah wept. He didn’t “…not care a rush”.
Isaiah speaks of “My leanness… I pine away” (Is. 24:15,16 RV), as he spoke
about Israel’s future glory and the inevitable judgments upon the enemies
of his people. He didn’t gloat over the prospect, as many American
Christians appear to gloat over any defeat suffered by their nations’
enemies. Isaiah’s heart bled for humanity, he so believed his message that
he emotionally responded to it himself. He too bled for the people whose doom he had to foretell. Having prophesied
the fall of hated, pagan Babylon, which was to happen well after his death,
Isaiah responded: “Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have
taken hold upon me...I am pained so that I cannot hear [the message he
had to tell]...my heart panteth, horror hath affrighted me” (Is. 20:3,4
RV). Such was his sensitivity for his enemies, and for things which would
happen in the future. It would be rather like us grieving deeply for the
fact that within 200 years, millions of human beings may die because of
global warming. Likewise when it came to prophesying the doom of Jerusalem,
people came to comfort Isaiah in his grief and breakdown, not perceiving
the heart that bled within him (Is. 22:4). He wept, because of how they
would weep in future (Is. 22:4,5). Such was his passionate identity with
The bleeding hearts of Jeremiah and Moses were actually for the ecclesia.
David’s eyes wept “streams of tears” because Israel didn’t keep the Law
(Ps. 119:136); the faithful in Ezekiel’s time sighed and groaned over
all the abominations committed in Jerusalem (Ez. 9:4); Paul spoke “even
with tears” about those in the ecclesia who lived as enemies of the cross
of Christ (Phil. 3:18), exhorting the Corinthians to mourn for those they
had to disfellowship (1 Cor. 5:2; 2 Cor. 12:21); Ezra wept for the sins
of his people (Ezra 10:1). Is this attitude seen amongst us? We lament
in a gossipy way the weaknesses of the brotherhood; but is there this
bleeding heart for the cases we mention? Perhaps we should never think
of disfellowshipping anybody unless the decision has been come to through
a process of such prayerful mourning for them first.
Ezekiel is yet another example. He sat astonished and silent among the
captives for seven days when he arrived to them with his message of judgment
(Ez. 3:15). The connection with Job’s friends is obvious and intended.
Ezekiel, the one whom Israel hated and rejected as they did all the prophets,
beating some and killing some, felt their grief and sat with them, deeply
sympathizing, just as Job’s friends initially did. The Hebrew translated
“astonished” is usually translated “destroyed” , “desolate” or “wasted”.
All that had happened to Israel for their sins, Ezekiel felt had happened
to him, such was his identification with sinners. Two closely related
words occur in Ez. 3:14,26 [marah cp. maree]: “I went
in bitterness…they are a rebellious house”. Why was
Ezekiel bitter / rebellious of spirit when he went to preach to his people;
even though he personally was willing to preach to them? Surely
it was because he shared their spirit with them; he so entered into their
spirit that he reflected their feelings within himself, even though he
was not ultimately rebellious personally as they were. Because Israel’s
heart would melt and be feeble “Because of the tidings” which Ezekiel
taught, therefore his heart sighed and broke because he identified
with how they would later feel when his words came true (Ez. 21:6,7).
In practice we need to firmly decide upon our aims. Much of Christianity
is, it seems to me, without defined aims; and so many of us have lived
for too long with no clearly defined personal mission statement. One of
the reasons we are here in this world is to be a light of this world.
If we grasp this, then this becomes one of our defining, dominant desires.
It shapes our personality and our direction in life. If we have a heart
that bleeds for humanity, we will seek their salvation; we will want to
see conversions. We will be out to convert. And that dominant passion
will articulate itself in various ways. If somebody is ready for baptism,
we won’t leave them till Sunday, if someone requests baptism we will act
on it immediately. We will catch the spirit of those early brethren who
baptized thousands in one day. We tend to get our dominant desires in
the very end. If we desire earnestly mass conversions and work for them,
God’s blessing will surely attend us. It seems to me that our lack of
a clearly defined personal commitment to convert others, to go out into
our world and make disciples, has led many of our beloved community to
be somewhat listless and aimless in their witness. If we are on the scent
of victory, we will close the long gap which there is on average between
someone desiring baptism and actually being baptized. Jesus said that
although there were four months yet to go until harvest, He saw the gap
as not existing- for He said that the disciples were to lift up their
eyes and see, that the fields were already white to harvest. This is why
He said that the sower [Himself] and reapers [the disciples] would rejoice
together, at the same time. There was such a fast response time between
sowing and reaping that the analogy from agriculture wasn’t true in that
regard. This seems to have been His point. He saw the potential in those
people. He went for it. He played to win, and the Father blessed the witness
because the desire and motive was pure.
(2) J. I. Packer, Evangelism And
The Sovereignty of God (London: I.V.P., 2002 ed.), p. 53.
(3) Prov. 3:20 RV says that " By
his knowledge the depths were broken up, and the skies dropped down the
rain" . The flood was brought about by Gods wisdom, not because a
deity lost his patience and temper with mankind. God destroyed mankind
because of His grief (Gen. 6:6)- and He did so because He planned
on saving the world through water (1 Pet. 3:20). Noah and the faithful
were saved from corruption and the faith being lost by the world that
threatened to destroy them (spiritually) being itself destroyed.