How should we interpret Bible passages that describe God as grieving?

1 Min Read

There are many passages in Scripture that speak of God anthropomorphically, that is, using human expressions, language, and feelings to describe God. The Bible talks about God having eyes to see and ears to hear, that certain sins are a stench in His nostrils, and so on. All of that is anthropomorphism. God is a spirit and has no body.

To add to the issue, there’s the matter of whether God can express feelings. I don’t want to get too technical here, but all that we know of God is accommodated to our finitude. I don’t understand what infinity means. I can explain it as a concept, but I can’t experience infinity. I have no idea what it’s like to possess all possible knowledge; that’s beyond me. So, there is an accommodation in the revelation of God. Calvin said that God speaks to us as we speak to our little children. I think that all of Scripture andeverything we know about God in that sense is accommodated.

God is not revealed to us as a stoic figure. In stoicism, all manner of feeling and so on is regarded as wrong. However, the God that we know is a God who loves, who is pleased, and who is grieved by our sin. There is a will in God that commands us to be holy, but there’s also a will in God that is, in one sense, frustrated by our lack of obedience. That’s not technical, theological language, but God does reveal Himself as one who is grieved by our sin.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Derek Thomas and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.