The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth,
and He was grieved *in His heart.
Six letters. Two r’s. Two e’s. One g, one t. What does it mean to gret? And then to re-gret. I looked up the origin of this word in Merriam-Webster online.1 To weep. And throw in there as an older root greet. To greet and regreet. To weep and weep again. In some cases this word in Greek means to feel remorse which in turn can lead one to repentance or change of mind.2
And how’s this for you: in Hebrew repent is a noun form meaning not only regret but also desire.3 Ironically, in this context that which was desired was idolatrous and soon to be regretted. Look at how Daniel uses this term (italicized): “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over”(10:3). That which was desired or considered “choice” was also capable of eliciting regret in the future.
Should we rightly assume that we all have regrets? Do you re-greet memories, choices, decisions, events? Do they cause you to weep from a heart so deeply turned and battered? Because we all have regrets of some degree, what shall we then say is the purpose of regret? When we look at our feature passage from Genesis, we read that even the Lord Himself experienced regret. Matthew Henry explains Genesis 6:6 by emphasizing that God never changes in mind; however, God had to express a change in His way from a state of rest upon the completion of His creation of man to this state of consternation and grief over the sin of man. Henry states, “God repented that he had made man; but we never find him repenting that he redeemed man (though that was a work of much greater expense).” Herein lies our hope: redemption trumps regret.
Though we cannot control our past mistakes, however grievous, we can delight in our redemption and restoration. Those actions we regret can be great internal motivators to not repeat our past mistakes. One purpose of regret is to serve as a sober reminder that redemption is costly. In Luke 7:47 Jesus remarks about the woman of ill repute: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." This gal was forgiven much and was filled with the capacity to love much. Her turning from waywardness to godliness, from regret to salvation captured her heart and filled it with love. God gave His only son. He offers us beauty for ashes, joy for weeping, and redemption for regret.
1 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/regret.11 January 2013.
2 Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for metanoeō (Strong's 3340)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 11 Jan 2013. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3340&t=KJV >
3 Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for nacham (Strong's 5162)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 11 Jan 2013. < http://
4Henry, Matthew. "Commentary on Genesis 6." . Blue Letter Bible. 1 Mar 1996. 2013. 11 Jan 2013.http:// www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm? AuthorID=4&contentID=633&commInfo=5&topic=Genesis&ar=Gen_6_6
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