A groan is usually a quiet but profound utterance of pain, strain, or grief. The Word of God mentions several groans worthy of note.
Groan #1: Creation groans. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly . . . . For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:20a, 22). Creation groans because of the suffering and death brought on by God’s curse following the Fall. Recently, I was jogging down a local street. As I turned a corner, a cat darted in front of me and continued to run, fearing that I was chasing her. Hearing me pounding behind her, she darted to the left, but she could not escape in that direction because of heavy traffic; so she darted to the right, only to be frustrated by a heavy chain link fence. Again and again for nearly one hundred yards, she dashed left then right. Finally, in desperation, fearing I was upon her, she backed up, then charged forward and butted her head into the fence. The force of her own motion knocked her backwards, and she lay stunned for a moment, but finally managed to scramble to her feet before I reached her; then, in one swift move, she hid among the weeds. Yes, creation groans under the curse. And not only animate creation, but inanimate as well: “Cursed is the ground because of you,” the Lord told Adam (Gen. 3:17b). In short, the entire substance of earth is cursed; consequently, it groans.
Groan #2: We groan. “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). Whereas the creation is said to groan in expectation of our manifestation (v. 19. Many effects of the curse will be lifted during the Millennium; all at the end of those 1,000 years.), believers groan because of the effects of the curse which we actively experience in our environment, but especially in our own body and soul. “For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life” (II Cor. 5:2, 4). In other words, real Christians are burdened by this flesh, so much so, in fact, that God works in them a happy anticipation of death, not a morbid wish to die (being “unclothed” of this natural body), but for the blessing of being with the Lord and clothed in our new, glorified body.
Groan #3: The Holy Spirit groans. Here is a wonderful and gracious groan, for the groaning of the Holy Spirit is efficacious: it works purging that produces peace in our hearts and minds. And whereas our groaning may not be productive, His always is; for He is the omnipotent God. Thus, Scripture can truly say that “the Spirit also helps our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). Moreover, “He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (v. 27b). The creation groans for us because it can do nothing but await the revelation of our complete redemption; we groan for ourselves, but can not be wholly successful because of our weak flesh and corrupt nature. But the Holy Spirit within us, who is perfect and whose task it is to sanctify us through the Word, groans with perfect groans beyond the wisdom of the human mind or the expression of human language. And because the Holy Spirit labors according to God’s perfect will, we are assured complete and final victory.
Groan #4: No, there is no 4th groan. For Scripture does not say that Christ groaned. On the one hand, during His agony in the Garden, His supplications went far beyond a mere groan, as “His sweat became like drops of blood, falling upon the ground” (Lk. 22:44b). The agonizing thought of being made sin, being separated from the Father, and being made the object of His wrath wrung from Christ the deepest expression of anguish. On the other hand, concerning His crucifixion, Isaiah tells us that “Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth” (Isa. 53:7b)—not even a groan. Nor is Christ groaning now. “But He having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet” (Heb. 10:12, 13). And while we have a High Priest who can “sympathize with our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15b), and is, in fact, enduring a self-imposed, prolonged fast (Lk. 2:16, 18) as we groan here, He is nevertheless resting in His finished work, waiting until His redeemed ones are delivered from sin and the curse. “For He looked down from His holy height; from heaven the Lord gazed upon earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to set free those who were doomed to death” (Psa. 102:19, 20). Hallelujah!
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