Trolling merrily through Ezekiel, I find this little gem:
Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. (Eze 6:9, NKJ)
I read somewhere that in Orthodox thought, one of the attributes of God is the divine impassibility. The idea is that, since God is perfect, He is not affected by things outside of Himself; He is not subject to passions. Now, on the face of things, that’s obviously not true. God is described hundreds of times in scripture as being affected by what people do. But there’s still this concept of the aseity of God, that God’s source of subsistence is from Himself. (I tried and tried to find the adjective form of the word, but apparently it doesn’t exist. God is aseious? aseiful?) He doesn’t need anything from the world he created, or else, how could he have created it? “If I was hungry, would I tell you?”
One of the great mysteries is that Jesus, being the very image of God, should not have been able to die. He took on the form of man, something that should have been impossible, so that he might die for us. (Of course, being who he was, he couldn’t stay dead…) But the implication that you get is that every attribute that smacks of mortality really ought to be applied to the human nature of Jesus. Does God suffer and die? No, but the man Jesus Christ does. Does God stub His toe? No, but Jesus Christ could. Is God overcome by grief, overjoyed, lost in a fit of rage? No! But maybe Jesus?
I get the impression that, in Orthodox thought, God the Father is sometimes pictured as a great and holy Vulcan: completely free of all fleshy emotion that might hint of weakness, a Platonic postulate of practical reason. Well, that’s Kant, but Orthodoxy sometimes sounds pretty close. And yet… aseity. So my tendency was to split the difference: Passion means “to suffer,” though we downgrade it often to mean experiencing great emotion. Jesus suffered on the cross, God the Father did not. So perhaps, while God can be emotional, only Jesus could be subject to “passions,” that is, overwhelming emotions.
Until I get to Ezekiel. He says in chapter 6, verse 9, “I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols.” That isn’t the Son speaking. That’s God the Father, crushed by the adultery of Israel’s idolatry. Maybe a translation error? Holman says “crushed;” KJV says “broken;” ESV says “broken;” ASV says, “broken.” Now, the NIV says “I have been grieved,” and the New Living says, “how hurt I am,” so it sounds like some translators are struggling with the aseity thing.
The Hebrew word is
- שָׁבַר, Shabar, (Strongs #7665)
- to burst or break; to smash, to shatter, to shipwreck
It’s the word for what happened to Moses’ first copy of the 10 commandments, the word for what ought to be done to all the sacred pillars scattered about on every high place. Most certainly it doesn’t mean “bruised, irritated, abraised.” In short, I don’t think “grieved” really cuts it. “How hurt I am” is in fact the question at hand. The answer appears to be “broken.”
For Ezekiel, God is not impassible. He suffers much. He does not need us in any sense of dependency, yet being broken because of us is part of what it means to be God.
I had some questions, but now I am confident: It’s appropriate to pray, “Lord, break our hearts with the things that break yours.”