Real men don’t cry…they weep.
“He keeps the storms clouds hidden
Behind the wall of pride
Laughs out loud spits on the ground
That’s how a cowboy cries
Its just how a cowboy cries”
— Trent Wilmon “How a Cowboy Lives”
The adage “real men don’t cry” is driven into men of all ages. From ball fields to rodeo arenas, gravel driveways to haylofts, cattle pens and stockyards; kids from ages 2 to 13 have heard it muttered in their direction. By 13 they are the ones imparting this wisdom. This worldly wisdom has been dispensed liberally to all men to all men at every age.
Real men don’t cry, but Scripture certainly shows the Man after God’s own heart weeping, but for what? and why?.
The man after God’s heart weeps over his family. Charles Dickens called the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke, “the greatest short story ever told.” Dickens didn’t have to live through the betrayal of a son. The story of the Prodigal son, could have been called “the Story of David and Absalom”. Absalom took the kingdom through political undermining, set himself up as king, slept with David’s wives, and began to run the country, all of which placed him under a curse. When David’s men marched out in battle and met Absalom and his army, it was David’s men who prevailed. Absalom caught his hair in the tree’s of the forest during the battle and hung there [hb. talah]. This word in this tense (qal passive) is only used in two other places: Song of Songs when the woman’s neck is like the tower of David where shields “were hung” (4.4) and in the famous verse of Deuteronomy 21. “…anyone who is hung [talah] on a tree is under God’s curse.” (23) Absalom is certainly under a curse for a) sleeping with his father’s wives and b) rebelling against his father. David had given his command to protect and deal gently with Absalom, but when Joab saw him hanging there, he killed him. When the news that Absalom was dead struck David, he wept. His enemy was still his son. David wept over his family, regardless of their loyalty. Husbands, when is the last time you poured out your heart so passionately and truthfully to God about your family, that tears flowed from your eyes? Men when is the last time that we wept over the lostness of a family member or the sin of a brother or sister? Are we able to find the depth of heart to sob over relation? David, the man after God’s heart was.
The man after God’s heart weeps over his friends. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18.24: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” David had his in Jonathan. Elsewhere we looked at the friendship between Jonathan and David, and don’t have the time here, but the history there is weep worthy. First Samuel 20 records the longest interaction we have between David and Jonathan. In effort to save print, let me sum up 1 Samuel 20: Saul wants to kill David, Jonathan finally sees it for himself and goes to tell David. Verse 41 and 42 concludes the narrative: “…Then they kissed each other and wept together–but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left and Jonathan went back to town.” The covenant of friendship is shown in the language (“The Lord is our witness…”); the identifier (“sworn…in the name of the Lord”); and the duration (“between you and me and our descendants forever”). The covenant of friendship is worth weeping over. Especially as the two roads head opposite directions; one back to town and the other to Nob (42). David is unsure if their roads would ever converge (they would briefly in 1 Sam 23.16 where Jonathan would help him find strength) and the separation of brothers in battle, best friends, and compatriots. Friends are worth weeping over. Job’s friends sat with him in the midst of his trials…who needs your presence now? Who can you join in battle and fight alongside? Is there tears that need to be shed for a buddy who is at the end? The man after God’s heart spilled his.
The man after God’s heart weeps over injustice. “The Lord is known by his justice…” writes the Psalmist David (Psalm 9.16). Twice in 2 Samuel, David is brought to tears over injustice. The first instance, in 2 Samuel 1, David is brought the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan. Clearly he is distraught over the death of his friend who he loved dearly (26), but Saul has been chasing him down for years. What would bring tears to his eyes about the death of an enemy? It wasn’t at his hand as it could have been (1 Sam 24, 26), but still, it was the death of the Lord’s anointed (15-16). At the news, David and his men “took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” (11-12) The army of God, the people of God, the chosen of God, was not supposed to meet this end. Death, pain, suffering, and rebellion is not the way a just world is supposed to function…but we don’t live in a just world, but we serve a just God. In 2 Samuel 15, David is again met with weeping as he faces the injustice of rebellion at the hands of his son Absalom. David is climbing the other side of the Kidron Valley, up the Mount of Olives, weeping as his back is turned to the city. (15.30) Absalom has taken his city, his army, and is taking his harem in full view of the people. The injustice of rebellion. The king is not supposed to deal with this and life isn’t fair, but it doesn’t remove the sting. Many times in the Law, the people of God are reminded to extend justice to the poor, the outcast, the alien, the widow, the sick. When is the last time you were moved to tears over the sex-trafficked, the orphan, the widow? Has the pages of your Bible been spotted as you read James 1.27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
“God, move me to tears for my wife and family. Open my eyes to the injustice around the world and bring my heart into such submission that it weeps for those being oppressed and neglected. Help me fight alongside my friends, not with spears and weapons, but with tears and humility. Take my tears and move my heart. Amen.”