While there are occasions when godly men and women wept in the Bible, there are also some occasions when they did not. Let’s notice…
1. Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, were not to mourn the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron.
Moses ordered them, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled. You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the people is upon you” (Leviticus 10:6-7). [Note: The uncovering of the head (cf. Job 1:20; Leviticus 13:45; 21:10-11; Jeremiah 7:29; Micah 1:16) and the tearing of the clothes (cf. Genesis 37:29; 37:34; 44:13; Job 1:20; Leviticus 13:45; 21:10-11; 2 Samuel 1:11-12; Esther 4:1; Acts 14:14) were expressions of grief and sorrow.] We are informed “And they did according to the word of Moses” (Leviticus 10:7).
Why were they not to mourn, while others were allowed to mourn? David Brown comments, “Even in great sorrow over the loss of one’s loved ones God must be sanctified. The death of Nadab and Abihu was the result of their own sin. No lamentations therefore, on the part of Aaron or his sons was allowed. God expected them in their particular office to demonstrate their close submission to the fiery mandate from heaven against unauthorized conduct. Here is a situation where the house of Israel could ‘bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled,’ but the priests due to their responsibilities of their station regardless of the family ties, were not allowed to participate. In fact, they were not allowed to absent themselves from their priestly responsibilities. Service to God comes before every thing” (Editor David Brown, The Book of Leviticus and Numbers, p. 90). Adam Clark comments, “Their mourning might be considered as accusing the Divine justice of undue severity.”
This is a highly unusual situation, but there are a couple of points to consider. First, God demands loyalty to Him over even family. Second, one should be careful not to leave the impression that God’s justice is being questioned. This is especially important for those in public roles of religious service and authority.
2. Phinehas did more than weep.
Balaam taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14). Josephus indicates “Balaam… did tell Balak and the Midianites of a plan by which they could destroy the Hebrews. He advised that the Midianite girls should take the young Israelites fall in love with them and then make the Hebrew youths abandon the LORD for Midianite gods” (Josephus, Antiquities 4).
The plan was working. Israelites became sexually immoral with the women of Moab and the committed idolatry with them (Numbers 25:1-2). God sent a plague among the Israelites which killed 24,000 (Numbers 25:3, 9). Balaam found a way to bring a curse upon Israel.
Something needed to be done. The LORD said that the offenders were to be put to death (Numbers 25:4-5). The children of Israel met and wept at the tabernacle (Numbers 25:6). While they met, one of the Israelites (Zimri, v. 14) openly presented a Midianite woman (Cozbi, v. 15) to the congregation and took her into the tent. Phinehas (the grandson of Aaron though Eleazar), “rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the men of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Numbers 25:6-9). God commends the man to Moses (Numbers 25:10-13 cf. Psalm 106:29-31). [ Thought: I wonder if God’s punishment of his uncles, Nadab and Abihu, left an impression on this man ? (cf. Leviticus 10:1-2)]
There is an application for us. Some times weeping and prayer are not enough; action is needed.
3. David did not continue to weep for his child.
David’s servants asked him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food” (2 Samuel 12:21). David answered them, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead: Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).
Later, David would weep over Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33-19:2). No doubt, David had many regrets with how he raised his family, and dealt with Absalom (cf. 2 Samuel 12:9-10; 13:1-14:33). However, my point is that David did not have an issue, at least not a lasting issue, over mourning the dead.
However, David had already fasted and wept for this infant. There was nothing more that he could do, and he knew this. It was time to move on.
There is a time for us to move on as well. While there is nothing wrong with mourning our lost, we need to live in the present. Let us work the works of Him while it is day (John 9:4). Let us press on to the mark (Philippians 3:14).
4. Jeremiah spoke of a time when there would be no ordinary mourning for the dead.
He said concerning the future of Judah and Jerusalem, “For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in this land: They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be refuse on the face of the earth… For thus says the LORD: ‘Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people… Both the small and great shall die in this land. They shall not be buried; neither shall men lament for them, cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them. Nor shall men break bread in mourning for them, to comfort them for the dead; nor shall men give them the cup of consolation for their father or their mother. Also you shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink” (Jeremiah 16:3-8). [Note: Cutting the flesh is a practice borrowed from the pagan world of Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1].
The basic message seems to be that bad days were ahead. When Jerusalem fell [586 B.C.] there would be no time for burials and public mourning. It would be a terrible time. Wayne Jackson has written, “The horrors of the destruction would be so intense that the normal expressions of grief would be ignored… The usual customs of consoling the bereaved would be neglected” (Jackson, Jeremiah and Lamentations, p. 40). Things would be so bad that God told Jeremiah not to marry and have children (Jeremiah 6:1-2 cf. 1 Corinthians 7:26 cf. Luke 23:29).
Bad things happen when nations turn their backs on God. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
5. Ezekiel was not allowed to weep for his wife.
The LORD told Ezekiel that “the desire of (his) eyes” would be taken away (Ezekiel 24:16). That is: Ezekiel’s wife would die.
Moreover, the LORD instructed Ezekiel: “You shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead; bind you turban on your head, and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your lips, and do not eat man’s bread of sorrow” (Ezekiel 24:16-17). He was to publicly show no sign of mourning. He was to dress as normal and continue his work (Ezekiel 24:17 cf. Micah 3:7). He was not to partake in the customary meal for the bereaved (Ezekiel 24:17 cf. Jeremiah 16:7-8).
His wife did die, and Ezekiel did as he was instructed (Ezekiel 24:18). This strange behavior did not go unnoticed. It caused the people to ask, “Will you not tell us what these things signify to us? (Ezekiel 24:19). They inferred that this had to be another one of symbolic acts of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 4:1-5:17; 12:1-28; 21:19-20).
Ezekiel explained that their desired city, Jerusalem, would fall (it would in a year or less cf. Ezekiel 24:1 cf. 1:2); and they (those captive in Babylon cf. Ezekiel 1:2) were not to publicly mourn over the fall of Jerusalem, though there would be inner regrets for sin (which caused this) and expressions of mourning to one another (Ezekiel 24:20-24). What is the meaning? Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comments, “They could not in their exile manifest publicly their lamentation, but they would privately ‘mourn one to another.’ Their iniquities would then be their chief sorrow (‘pining away’) as feeling that these were the cause of their sufferings (cf. Leviticus 26:39; Lamentations 3:39)” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 705). Jim McGuiggan comments, “It seems to me… that what he is calling for them to do is to accept the judgment as the will of God” (McGuiggan, The Book of Ezekiel, p. 262). This was God’s punishment and they would not be able to publicly express their mourning in captivity.
A couple of thoughts: (1) Do not place your trust in nations, but in God and His word. Some trusted in the temple and in Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 7:4, 8-11). (2) Sin has terrible consequences. We should learn to mourn over sin before we are forced to mourn because of sin (Matthew 5:4; James 4:8-10).