Minutes With Messiah Logo

God, the Collector

by Tim O'Hearn

I used to collect postage stamps. I haven't actively worked that collection for years (decades?), but I was once an avid philatelist. Now I collect Pez candy dispensers, the ones with tops representing fictional persons or some objects. It seems that almost everyone I know has some sort of collection—owls, saltshakers, cows, coins. Perhaps it is instinctive in man to collect things. If so, perhaps it is because God is also a collector. His may be the weirdest collection of all. God collects tears. "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" (Ps 56:8)

Tears? Yes, God collects your tears and my tears. He keeps them in a wineskin. More importantly, he is a meticulous collector. Many birdwatchers keep a log of when and where they make a sighting. God does the same with the tears he collects; he logs the date and time and circumstances in his book. Laura: March 17, 1974, AM, Greenville, TX, childbirth. Tim: August 18, 2002, 10:30 PM, joy at getting the role of Tevye (he thanked me). David (King): 1029 BC, for Bathsheba's first child. And on and on, records of every tear collected.

Why would God do this? Why collect tears? Well, why do we collect things? Because they are important to us. Because they are valuable. Because they are of interest to us. All these and more apply to God's collection.

Tears must be valuable to God. At least, we must think so. The Bible is full of stories about people coming to God with tears, hoping for a blessing. Tears are the currency of a broken heart. When we have nothing else to offer God, we offer tears, and that is when God listens. Sometimes we are like Jeremiah (Lam 2:11) and have no more tears to offer. But that makes them even more valuable to God. Luke 7:36-50 tells the story of a woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. Those tears were so valuable that, as a result of them, Jesus forgave her sins.

Tears are of interest to God. There is no evidence of God ever weeping or shedding tears. Yet when he experienced what we experience, tears were very much a part of his learning about us. Besides the woman mentioned earlier, we know that Peter wept bitterly because he denied Jesus (Matt 26:75). Jesus, himself, shed tears on more than one occasion. The best known is when, outside the tomb of Lazarus "Jesus wept." (Jn 11:35) But he also wept over the city of Jerusalem (Lk 19:41). In Hebrews 5:7 the writer tells of Jesus praying with "strong crying and tears," most likely referring to his prayers in Gethsemane just before he was taken to be tried and crucified.

I think there is another reason that God collects our tears. I think he is trying to collect them all so that we don't have any more. You see, God's plan for us is that we have no need for tears. He told Jeremiah (31:16) to stop crying because Israel would return from captivity. David said, "the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling." (Ps 116:7-8) Part of God's blessing for us, then, is deliverance from tears. God's practice of collecting our tears will continue until we no longer need them. "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces." (Isa 25:8, quoted in 1 Cor 15:54; Rev 7:17; and Rev 21:14)

God is now a collector of tears. Soon will come a time when he stops collecting. It won't be for lack of interest, like with my old stamp collection. It will, hallelujah, be because there will be no more tears to collect!