What Makes God Sorry?

“Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow…” Lamentations 1:12

To read in Genesis 6:6, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart,” gives us a glimpse of God and His compassion. This statement affirms what we know to be true: God is not a faceless, insensitive being who put things in motion and then left us to our own devices. Indeed, it was man’s devices (Eccl. 7:29) that brought God, as our loving Creator, to this point of grief and response.

We have a heart-to-heart connection here between God and His creature, man. What happens at this intersection? Follow the events as they unfold and prepare to be amazed as we gaze right into the heart of God.

Man’s sin

First, God is aware. We read that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Gen. 6:5), and it grieved Him. How different from the creation account that took place a thousand years before, when “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31)!

If, as Peter says, “One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8), then we say, “What a difference a day makes!”

Second, God is accurate. The account of how sin and death entered the world and spread to the whole human family is a sad story. But the source of such defilement was not global; it was individual. The very heart of the problem was man’s heart. God declared, “that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). This is not what we want to accept in our pride and arrogance, which is itself sure proof of the accuracy of God’s appraisal of man’s heart.

Third, we read that, in response, God is affected. Genesis 6:6 records, “the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” These two verses contain the first mentions in the Bible of sorrow, heart (man’s heart and God’s heart), and grief. The astounding truth is that it is God, not man, who is so affected. The wickedness in man’s heart so moved God that He was sorry that He had made man on the earth.

Finally, God is active. For us, sorrow is to lead to repentance. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning the godly sorrow caused by his letter. It was a godly sorrow that led them to repent of sin (2 Cor. 7:9). Not so with God, for “God is not a man…that He should repent” (Num. 23:19). God’s sorrow led Him to action—action that stretched from creation to redemption.

God’s response

Although God was sorry that He had created man, He did not change His predetermined plan to redeem man. He still sent His Son into this world of woe to redeem us. The Lord Jesus, that Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, suffered sorrow that was unique. The prophet said of Him, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see If there is any sorrow like My sorrow?” (Lam. 1:11a). It was through His Son that He could turn the sorrow of sin into the joys of eternal pleasure. The heart-to-heart interaction of Genesis 6:5-6 finds its satisfaction at the cross.

Does sin still break the heart of God? Oh, yes! That’s why we are exhorted not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). Does God still sorrow? Better to ask, “Does He still care?” The Bible assures us that He does! We have a Great High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 2:15). The hymn writer reminds us,

Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief.

But does He still sorrow over sin? Yes. Sad to say, we can still break the heart of God.

Upon that cross of Jesus,
    mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One
    who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart, with tears,
    two wonders I confess:
The wonders of His glorious love
    and my own worthlessness.

How good to know that while God was temporarily sorry that He had made man in creation, He will never regret His great act of redemption! Both God’s creation and God’s redemption will give Him joy and glory in that eternal day (Rev. 4:11; 5:9).