Summary: How long has it been since you wept over a soul?

A Time to Weep

Rev. 5:4-5 NLT

“Then I wept because no one could be found who was worthy to open the scroll and read it. [5] But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, "Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has conquered. He is worthy to open the scroll and break its seven seals."

In our text, John discovered that it is not always appropriate to weep, but King Solomon wrote in Eccles. 3:4 KJV [There is] “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”

I love to laugh and wish I knew how to dance–I don’t, but I think I’m like most people in that I don’t hunger for more opportunities to weep. Yet they come, and when they do, they are often a blessing.

The Scripture speaks of a blessed weeping. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 KJV)

Remember the tears of reconciliation Joseph shed when he embraced Benjamin and later his father. “Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin also began to weep. [15] Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and then they began talking freely with him.” (Genesis 45:14-15 NLT)

And then in Genesis 46:29 NLT the scripture says, “Joseph prepared his chariot and traveled to Goshen to meet his father. As soon as Joseph arrived, he embraced his father and wept on his shoulder for a long time.” These were times of blessed weeping.

Unfortunately, there are also somber times that we weep.

A recent news story described an occasion when many innocent people wept. Let me read a portion of it to you. “NORFOLK, Va. -- On a dreary gray day that matched the mood, thousands gathered at the USS Cole’s home port Wednesday to pray for, cry and remember the 17 sailors killed in a terrorist bombing half a world away.

At the front of a crowd dotted with thousands of white-uniformed sailors, seven men who were wounded in last week’s attack watched from wheelchairs and stretchers. With casts on their legs and IVs connected for pain medication, they sat stiffly, as if at attention, in their dress whites.

A lone bugler played taps, and the base’s Sea Chanters sang the Navy Hymn to end the ceremony, but most people didn’t leave. One woman threw 17 red carnations in the water. Others milled about on the giant dock, some weeping, some clinging to others for support.”


Shortly after the attack, Lt. Jamie Buchanan emailed me and shared with me how the tragedy affected him. With his permission, I want to share a portion of his note with you:

“Here in Norfolk, it was certainly a hollow feeling that we experienced when the Cole was attacked. Just two months prior to the attack, the Cole was at the next pier over from us here at the Naval Station. Given that our ship is moored next to the destroyers (and hence, we tower over them), our Captain has made it a policy to open our flight deck to the families of sailors leaving on deployment with other ships.

On a morning back in August, family members of the Cole said goodbye from our flight deck. I’ve seen this played out with other families and ships as well in my five short months aboard the Nassau. I can never get accustomed to seeing a spouse crying or a child screaming because Mommy or Daddy is slowly leaving for the next 6 months.

The loss of shipmates on the Cole has certainly left a very deep impression upon me. When I saw the list of names and ages of those killed, I couldn’t help but think of the guys in my division, many of whom are 19 or 20 years old. I don’t know how most are, but I think that our country has become somewhat complacent because we’re told we live in such a "safe" world. Perhaps this was our wake-up call......for I certainly don’t bother to think that leaving port in Norfolk will be my last time to see these great United States. I’m sure that those killed on the Cole didn’t think so either.”

Some of the children who screamed and the wives that wept aboard the Nassau in August, experienced the ultimate pain as the bugler played taps a few months later. Certainly, tragic death is a time to weep.

David wept when Absalom died, “The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to his room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son." (2 Samuel 18:33 NLT)

Weeping isn’t just appropriate when people die. Manly Esau wept when he lost his blessing. “Esau pleaded, ‘Not one blessing left for me? O my father, bless me, too!’ Then Esau broke down and wept.” (Genesis 27:38 NLT) Yes, real men do cry.

Peter wept when he came face to face with his own sinfulness. “Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went away, crying bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75 NLT)

Then there are the sweet tears of repentance. "’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning;’” (Joel 2:12)

When is the last time your sinfulness broke your heart? Some might weep when they get caught or when they get convicted, but that’s not what I’m asking here. When is the last time your sinfulness broke your heart?

As appropriate as all these types of weeping are, this morning, I want to draw your attention to another type of weeping, one that results in longing tears. 1 Samuel 1:7 KJV describes the tears Hannah shed because she longed for God to bless her with a son. It says: “And it happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her, so she wept and would not eat.”

Hannah went to the house of the Lord every year to plead with God to give her a son. She longed for a son, so she prayed, fasted and wept.

When is the last time you longed for something so bad, that you wept?

Do you long for the Lord that much? The psalmist wrote, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God.” Psalm 42:1

A couple of years ago, I got an email from an official at the International Mission Board who was assisting me in an article I was writing. Listen closely to what he wrote about members of the “Wa People” in Burma: “Believers are living out a modern day Paul and Silas story as they sit chained to walls in their own filth knowing that imprisonment leads to infection and death often within a few months. Yet, they continue to praise God that they can suffer for the Kingdom’s sake. Many in prison have come to faith in Christ because of the gritty faith that continues to awe me. In Somalia out of eight converts, five were killed within days after their baptism by their own family members.”

Do you long to live for Christ as these believers do?

Do you long to see souls saved?

When is the last time you wept over a soul?

It is as appropriate to weep over a soul going to hell as it is to weep at the loss of a loved one like David did, or when losing a blessing like Esau did, or when failing Christ like Peter did. We weep whenever we suffer a personal loss. Is it personal to you? Is it personal that without Christ, your friends and neighbors will miss heaven?

One day, Jesus will speak to those who lived life without Him and will say to them: "And then I will declare to them, ’I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23

And when they begin an eternity in hell, they will weep. Matthew 8:12 says, “but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Perhaps if we spend some time weeping over souls today, they won’t have to weep and gnash their teeth throughout eternity.

Going, Weeping, Sowing, Reaping . . . Will you make it personal. Will you care enough for souls that your prayers will turn into tears for their salvation?