A World Waiting To Be Won Duncan Heaster email the author


14. People Matter

14-1 People Matter || 14-2 A Feeling God || 14-3 The Personal Pleading Of The Prophets || 14-4 Passionate Preaching And Prayer

15. Hearts That Bleed

15-1 Hearts That Bleed || 15-2 The Parable of The Three Friends || 15-3 Passion For The Lost || 15-4 Loving Our Brethren || 15-5 Reaching Those Who Left Church || 15-6 The Heart Of Jesus || 15-7 The Value Of Persons || 15-8 A dehumanized world || 15-9 Grieving for others


15-3 Passion For The Lost

Consider the passion for saving men and women which there was in Bible characters:


" 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 obedient.

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 repent.

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, Jer. 52:4

“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; Am. 5:19)

“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 miseries”

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 His mind.

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 them.

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…

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.