Prepare the way of the Lord. The topic is repentance and how it’s used in Luke 3. John the Baptist tells the crowd to produce fruits worthy of repentance. Then he gives some examples to the people who ask him questions about how to do that.
If you only look at the Greek word for repent and repentance, the official definition says it means to “change your mind.” The meaning “to be sorry” originates from one of several definitions that come from the Hebrew word. There are not always corresponding terms when converting from one language to another, and sometimes, there are opposite definitions of the same word (talk about making translation difficult!) That’s why I like to try to widen the view of word interpretations.
The word repent is a case in point. My comparison is based on reviewing what “repent” means in the Old Testament, and how it’s been converted into English in the Old and New Testaments. This is only a brief explanation.
Here are three Bible verses that will illustrate my point (the Old Testament were arbitrary selections, not picked to reinforce my view):
Jer. 4:28 For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.
Ps. 135:14 For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.
(For biblical analysts, the Septuagint uses the root of metanoia in Jeremiah, and paracletos in the Psalm.)
Luke 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
When you see how the English word repent is compared to the Hebrew words in the Old Testament., new options arise. The following are the different ways of interpreting the Hebrew word that has been converted to English as repent/repentance:
1) to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted
1) to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion
2) to be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent
3) to comfort oneself, be comforted
4) to comfort oneself, ease oneself
b) (Piel) to comfort, console
c) (Pual) to be comforted, be consoled
1) to be sorry, have compassion
2) to rue, repent of
3) to comfort oneself, be comforted
4) to ease oneself
The way it appears Luke means it, to produce fruits worthy of repentance means “produce fruits worthy of comfort, worthy of compassion.”
Luke tells us three areas where we might focus in this Advent season:
1. Those of you who have two coats, give one to someone who has none. If you have more food than you need, share some with the ones who have no food. That’s pretty clear. If we have more than we need, what a perfect time of year to give comfort or show compassion to others who have nothing.
2. John said to the tax collectors who asked what they should do, “Don’t make people pay more than they owe.” Think about what people owe you…and decide not to make them pay any more than they owe…don’t try to squeeze more interest out of them for your own benefit.
3. John said to the soldiers who asked what they should do, “Don’t force people to do things for you just because you have power or influence over them. Be satisfied with your blessings.”
Advent is the season of repentance…a season of comfort and compassion. This is how we prepare the way for the coming of Christ into our world. Not by just feeling sorry for the bad results of our behaviors, but by counting our blessings and looking out for the needs of others…their physical needs, their emotional needs, and their spiritual needs.