For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB
Sorrow – If you don’t know the difference, you could die! Remember those warning posters about pills. The picture shows lots of little pills in various colors. Some are good for you. Some will kill you. But you can’t tell the difference by just looking at them. You have to know what they are made of. The same is true of the word lype (sorrow). According to Paul, there are two kinds of sorrow pills. One brings deliverance; the other brings death. It’s very important to know the difference.
The NASB glosses the text, translating kata theon as “according to the will of God,” but that adds “the will of” to the text. Kata theon is simply “according to God.” You might say that these two are the same, but if they are, why add the extras? When Paul says, “according to God,” what kind of sorrow could that be? We don’t have to look very far to find the answer. Paul is a man of the Tanakh, so his thoughts about sorrow will come from Scripture. In Hebrew, the word would be mar, the word for bitterness in the test described in Numbers 5 and a close link to the event at Marah (Exodus 15). You can find the translation of mar into lype in the LXX at Proverbs 31:6, a comment about the power of wine to relieve the sorrows of life (at least temporarily). The Exodus passage holds the key. Marah was a sad day in the history of Israel, a day of grumbling against God in spite of His demonstrable rescue. Moses cried out again and God provided again, but the people set the tone for their next forty years. Bitterness toward their circumstances was really resentment toward God. They often repented but never changed their minds. This kind of sorrow is guilt at being exposed. It is contrition without lasting consideration. This is sorrow that feels bad now but has amnesia in the morning. It is exactly the opposite of sorrow the produces repentance with regret.
Godly sorrow (as the King James puts it) is turning away from what displeases the Lord, not simply because of guilt but because of genuine mourning over disgracing and dishonoring God. Sorrow that leads to true repentance contains a poison pill, a pill that makes us violently ill if we should once again consider those acts that slandered the lover of our souls. True repentance always has God’s reputation in mind. At Marah, Israel debased God, maligning His goodness with their complaints. They did not recognize His mercy, His rescue or His care, and therefore they continued to abuse His patience. Paul tells us flatly, “This kind of sorrow leads to death.” It may be genuine unhappiness but it is adversity that is adversarial to God. When we allow sorrow, misery, unhappiness or despair to become the avenues for korban, we will discover our heartaches are the way of deliverance.
Topical Index: sorrow, lype, mar, Marah, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Exodus 15, Proverbs 31:6