For this week’s Word Nerd Wednesday, AdeleAlys continues with our next word from the Beatitudes: Mourn.
“How blessed are those who mourn, because it is they who will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 ISV
– Πτωξος(Strong’s #3996) Deep grief or intense sorrow, openly manifested by weeping audibly-found 45 times in the Septuagint
MOURN: A VERB
First and foremost, the word “mourn” is not a noun that defines a person as “someone who has suffered loss,” nor is it an adjective that describes their state of “being sad about it.” Rather, it is a verb and it demands action: the various actions that manifest grief- the embarrassing kind that everyone can see. From the tears of weeping to the words of lament to the distraction of not eating properly and dressing carelessly: to mourn is to be obviously changed.
PRESCRIBED TIMES AND PROSCRIBED BEHAVIORS
It’s common to say that “Everyone should grieve in their own way” , yet there are stringent expectations for behavior in the grieving season. The reason- whether your know it or not- is because both mourners and comforters- are following God’s lead and his example.
Scripture tells us that it was God himself who buried Moses:
“So Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, just as the LORD had said. The LORD buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place.”
Deut 34: 5-6 NLT
God also made a condolence called to Isaac when Abraham died:
“After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near Beer-lahai-roi.”
Gen 25: 11 HCSB
(The Rabbis teach that referencing the exact place Isaac lived at the time was done to show that God’s blessing was in the form of a physical visit.)
When the manner of your behavior could be seen as disrespectful to the deceased or discounting of the relationship and the excessive length of your mourning could try to one up God, it is important to get it right.
SHLOSHIM & SHIVA
For Jews (in Jesus’ time and in ours) the formal period of mourning is 30 days and is known as Shloshim. This time frame should not be extended-even for a prophet .
“And when all the congregation saw that Aaron had perished,
all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.”
Num 20: 29 ESV
“And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days:
so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.”
Deut 34: 8 KJV
Shiva is Hebrew for the number “Seven.” It refers to the entire first week of mourning – counted from the actual burial of the deceased. It is named “seven because there are seven “first degree relatives” for whom sitting Shiva is required.
THE POSTURE OF GRIEF
Grief is the consummate leveler. It brings everyone low. Jews don’t just believe this figuratively; they illustrate it literally. Immediate family members spend the week sitting only inches from the floor in specially designed “shiva chairs” This satisfies the desire to be close to deceased who is now in the ground. As Scripture says:
“I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain…I groan in anguish of heart.”
Psalm 38:6 -7 NIV
THE MEAL OF RECOVERY
Immediately upon returning from the cemetery, the family eats a meal prepared by friends and neighbors. It can contain other foods but it must include bread ( which is the staff of life), eggs (the symbol of new life and resurrection), and lentils (their round shape demonstrates the cyclical nature of life).
This nature of this meal puts me in mind of communion (the round wafer) and Easter (the egg) and also the nature of the Church (friends and fellow believers coming together Sunday upon Sunday and year after year).
The drama in grief is unmistakable, and nowhere is it more apparent than in this Jewish custom. Upon learning of the death of an immediate family member, the mourner rips his/her clothing deliberately. The tear must be large (4 inches or a handbreadth) and it must be conspicuous (in the area just over the heart). And most importantly, it can never be returned to like new condition. The tear must always remain noticeable.
Biblical precedent for this is endless:
“Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time.”
Gen 37:34 NLT
“Then Job stood up and tore his robe in grief.”
Job 1:20 NLT
“David arose, ripped his clothes in anguish, and collapsed to the ground.”
2 Sam 13:31 ISV
BINDING UP THE BROKEN HEARTED
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted.
Isaiah 61:1 ESV
And here, at last, is where the comfort comes. You see, mourning is not just what we feel when a loved one dies. Rather, it is what we suffer when we become aware of our sin and how it has torn us away from a relationship with our God.
“So the holy race has become polluted….Worse still, the leaders and officials have led the way in this outrage. When I heard this, I tore my cloak and my shirt…and sat down utterly shocked.”
Ezra 9:2-3 NLT
“Rend your heart and not your garments.Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, allow to anger and abounding in love.”
Joel 2:13 NIV
Jesus knew that the word Isaiah used for “bind up” literally meant to baste. So Jesus promised that- not matter what we were mourning- he himself would sit with us and repair what we have broken and torn. Stitch by stitch, he will baste our grieving hearts together again. Like him, we will bear the scars…but …our hearts and our lives will once more be whole and holy.
This is indeed the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The daughter of a Lutheran minister and a Catholic college professor, Adele-Alys faith life has always been a patchwork. Married to a Jewish man for 38 years, she delved deeply into his faith. It sharpened my picture of Jesus and popped my spiritual ears in ways I could not imagine.” You can connect Adele-Alys via Twitter (@morgantonrose), Pinterest, and her blog (adelealysblog.wordpress.com).
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