Groaning is the one language common to all of God’s people. As the chart above indicates, the Hebrew scripture specialized in groans of all kinds.
Paul instructs us in Romans 8:26, “But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words
In today’s readings, there are seven situations where words might fail:
- When the Pharisees of my day complain about my eating and drinking (Luke 15:3)
- When I stumble and fall and wake up from my spiritual stupor flat broke (Luke 15:13)
- When a child of mine is eating pods instead of God’s food (Luke 15:16)
- When I am praying for the salvation of a loved one (Luke 15:8-10)
- When my brother or sister recieve more of God’s undeserved blessing (Luke 15:25-28).
- When you think of God’s compassion and mercy (Micah 7:14-15)
- When I bless the Lord (Psalm 103)
In the garden, God curses the serpent, the man, and the woman. What’s missing is a curse on mother earth. Throughout the Scriptures, the earth is looked up as a vehicle of God’s grace:
- Hosea 4:3, “Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.
- Joel 1, “The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns…How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed.” In Joel (cf. 1:4), the prophet describes the earth as stripping itself of its fruit in a way similar to person stripping themselves of clothes in the act of mourning and prayer.
Joel looks forward to the day with the Word of God, and the Word of Nature are fully united: “And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim.”
When the prodigal son comes home, (i.e. when God answers your prayer) shouts of joy replace our groans. In preparing the fatted calf, the father looks forward to the day when both mankind and nature are united by God’s redemption. No more groans only the joy of God’s presence.