Reading Life Backward: Why Hebrew is the Language of the Christian
Not German, not Latin, not even Greek, but Hebrew alone is the language of the Church that preaches Christ crucified. In this language the last is first and the first is last. Everything is read from right to left, from end to beginning, from what will be to what is. In the Church, what you see is never what you get. It is the opposite. Appearances are deceptive.
Israel is my servant; Jacob is my chosen; Abraham is my friend; the Church is my bride. So says God. But this flies in the face of what I see. For I see Israel black-eyed and bloody-lipped, wrapped in Babylonian chains. I see Jacob fleeing a would-be murderous brother, exiled far from the land of promise. I see old man Abraham loading the wood onto Isaac’s back, lifting the blade of sacrifice over the promised seed. I see the Church plagued with those who canonize heretics and crucify prophets, chisel bylaws into stone while giving lip service to the sacred page.
These things I see, but in the Church, what you see is never what you get. God says Israel is my servant; Jacob is my chosen; Abraham is my friend; the Church is my bride. Everything must be read in a Hebrew fashion. If Christ is crucified, so must be His Church, His Word, His sacraments, His pastors, all of you—everything and everyone that belongs to Him. Everything that is God’s must bear the cross, and crucifixion is never pretty. It is ugly, messy, bloody, repugnant. We preach Christ crucified, which is to say, we read life like a Hebrew.
Though you feel abandoned and alone, weak and afraid, God preaches, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” (Isaiah 41:10). Though men with forked tongues accuse you of lying, though men become angry at you, slander you, curse you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, the Lord says, “Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing, and will perish . . . For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you,’” (41:11-13).
Read your life like a Hebrew, from right to left, from the end to the beginning, and you will see that the last is first. The dead are alive, the cursed are blessed, the humble are exalted. Israel returns from Babylon; Jacob is repatriated to Canaan; the ram is killed in the stead of Isaac; the body of the crucified is enlivened by the Spirit.
Though for a short time you Jobs scrape your sores, healing is on the horizon. Though for a season you Josephs languish in a dungeon, you soon shall stand at Pharaoh’s right hand. Though you suffer, whether from your own fault or from the fault of others, there is a day of vindication, a day of resurrection, a day in which the last are made first, the crucified are raised, and the bride whom the world considered widowed is kissed by the lips of the king of kings who has betrothed her to Himself.
So do not fear, you worm Jacob (Isaiah 41:14), for the Messiah who said, “I am a worm and not a man” (Psalm 22) is both God and man, and in Him you have partaken of the divine nature. Do not fear, for though the world calls you worms, the Father in heaven calls you chosen servants, friends, and yes, even sons. Good Friday is always viewed through the lens of Easter. The sufferings of this present time are always seen through the glories that await us. Thus that which seems to be so ugly, messy, bloody, and repugnant now—read it like a Hebrew and soon you will behold a most beautiful icon of atonement and absolution, peace and life, all for you.
This meditation is a sampling of what will appear in my forthcoming book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, which will be available for purchase within the next few weeks. If you like my writings, check out my recently published book, The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems. You can purchase your copy, for only $9.99, by clicking here.