Head of waters: the intercessory role of tears

sorrow-294328_640Jeremiah 9:1: 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! (ASV)

Tears in this context are intercession as recognised by God. Jeremiah felt sad for and wept for the people of Israel.

When King Saul whom Prophet Samuel anointed to be king in Israel messed up because of disobedience to God, the prophet, knowing the gravity of the situation, felt really sad about it and probably wept (1Samuel 15:34-35).

Saul was the first king of Israel, who had just failed on the job. The basic requirement for the job was not how macho you are, how independent-minded, how great your political or war strategy was. It was about how you trust and obey God. And that will determine how successful you are as a king-warrior.

Samuel also knew that if the leadership is faulty the whole nation is in trouble, the millions of them. When David sinned against God in counting the number of people Israel, many people in Israel died (2Samuel 24).

Samuel also knew from the history of Israel that when leaders like Joshua ran things, leaders like Moses, it was for good. Even when the people did wrong, with the intervention of Moses they were spared the worst of repercussions.

So Samuel mourned for long about the disobedience of Saul but God told Samuel: cut the craps, get over it already, but he did not say it was wrong for him to lament.

Weeping is a legitimate expression of emotion, Paul said that we should rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Weeping is an expression of sadness and the shortest verse in the bible goes thus: “Jesus wept (John 11),” as he connected with his friends Mary and Martha as they mourned the death of their brother.

There, he also groaned in the spirit. He was not weeping because he was helpless, it was a sort of intercession.

Groaning in the spirit in described by Paul as an expression of the intercession of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). So Jesus groaned, he wept and at the end of the day, we see Lazarus, who had died and was buried for four days, and therefore was smelling, came back from the dead.

Before then, Jesus verbalised his intercession in words for the benefit of those who were around, so that they will connect Lazarus rising from the dead to the divine approval of God on Jesus.

This is similar to Elijah verbalising words of prayer before fire came down from heaven to consume the sacrifice made by him, at a time of massive departure from God into idolatry in Israel as influenced by Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab (1Kings 17).

The prayer was meant to impress on the people that the power of God Jehovah was responsible for the fire coming. Elijah stood as one man and there was the miracle of fire from heaven which consumed the sacrifice which had earlier been soaked with water. At the end of that power encounter, the people with one voice said: the Lord, he is God! This was however followed by a threat by Jezebel to kill him.

That really paralleled the experience of Jesus. After raising Lazarus from the dead not only did many people believe in him like never before (like Israel shouted, the Lord he is God), immediately the plan of death against Jesus was ratcheted up one notch. We also know that before Elijah stood to call down fire  from heaven he was involved in intercessory prayer to bring Israel back to God (James 5:16-18), just as Jesus intercede before the grave of Lazarus. Both resulted in people coming to God.

Back to the issue of tears, from the words of David we learn that God takes tears very important, and puts his in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). They become part of the raw material for creating the answer to the prayer of intercession that the tears represent.

Jeremiah in the focus verse was overwhelmed, he could no longer capture his feeling in words, and that is where tears come in handy. Weeping is not just for the weak, it is also for the spiritually broken about different situations.

David in Psalm 36:5 associated tears with prayer saying that God should give attention to his prayer and respond when he shed tears.

Do not say God does not respond to tears. In another place, David associated weeping with fasting, which is a means of changing things spiritually to move when added to prayer (Psalm 69:10). In my personal experience, I weep more easily in times of fasting. Fasting is called “afflicting the soul (Isaiah 58:3),” breaking the soul, it increases your soul involvement in the intercessory work.

When Nehemiah was fasting and praying for the walls of Jerusalem to be rebuilt, he wept the whole time (Nehemiah 1). His was no dry intercession. He was invested in the intercessory work with the tears pouring down from his eyes. He wore an intercessory sad demeanour so much that his boss noticed after some time.

Weeping is not a ploy or gimmick, it was about being moved to tears as you pray and fast. It is all in order, it is all within the ambit of possible intercessory activities.

But the tears need to be in the context of expression of faith in God, not just a feeling of dejection, hopelessness, or railing against God. It is sharing the feeling of God about a situation, as we see beyond what is obvious.

In the focus verse, Jeremiah wept knowing what was going to happen to the people when they continue in their errant ways. Jesus wept when he spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem as they did not respond as they should to his ministry (Luke 19:41-41). Weeping gives a strong sense of identification, which prayer of intercession is about.

Paul said that first of all intercession should be made for everyone, for rulers. He puts a premium of intercession (1Timothy 2:1-4). And intercession is a show of concern, standing in the gap, putting yourself on the line (Ezekiel 22:30).

The bible says that Jesus lives to make intercession for us. He is not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmity. He so identifies with us that we become his body. He embodies us.

That is the work of an intercessor- to embody the people who are the focus of the intercession. With such high-level identification, tears easily become a tool of the intercession trade. So, let the tears roll.


3 thoughts on “Head of waters: the intercessory role of tears

  1. Thanks for sharing this post. I often weep when something touches me deeply when I go to God in prayer. It is often accompanied by me speaking in tongues. I sometimes wonder why I weep so much. Thanks for opening my eyes to see that I may actually be interceding during these times.

    Liked by 1 person

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