Luke1:16

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Translation

And the hearts of many of the sons of ISRAEL

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he will turn

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to the LORD

their GOD.

Paraphrase

He will cause the return of the hearts of many of those whose heritage is to THOSE WHO REFUSE TO LET GO OF GOD;

he will cause them to return to THE SUPREME RULER, to the one they had pledged to follow as THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS.

Footnotes

1

The name Israel means: “One who fights, One who wrestles with God, One who strives or contends with God.” It denotes a combative, demanding relationship with God, but for a good purpose, to receive what one knows only God can deliver, and it is based on the knowledge that God has already promised what is desired but He is looking to see if we will demonstrate persistent tenacity. Some scholars say it means “God strives, God is persistent, or God perseveres.” It is quite possible that the Jews of Jesus’ day understood both sides of this name, recognizing that God is striving with us too, testing our tenacity, calling us to higher levels of faith and obedience. But I think the Jews placed the emphasis on man’s role here, man’s tenacious striving toward God (thankfully God meets us more than half way); they allowed this name to remind them of the story of Jacob wrestling all night with the representative of God (Jesus) and focus their thoughts on the questions, “How badly do you want this? “How hard are you fighting for every spiritual gain?” I could express the meaning of  this name like this: “those who are tenaciously persistent in showing God how serious they are about holding on to Him in order to receive what He has already promised” (the long version), but I can also express it simply as “those who refuse to let go of God,” (the short version). Obviously, we cannot do this entirely in our own strength, we need God’s help to even fight like that. As I see it, the Jews would have understood that, in this endeavor called spiritual growth, man has a role to play, and God has a role to play. We do our contending with God by being tenaciously persistent, not letting go of God for any reason, always having a fighting attitude against sin in our own lives.

How can all this be in a name? One had to understand the story behind the name, not just the meaning of the word. The Jews would have remembered the story almost every time the name was mentioned, (see Genesis 32).

2: “he will turn”

Notice the irony in this statement: Those who “refuse to let go of God,” had failed to hold on to Him, had stopped being persistent and needed to “return” to God. The mission of John the Baptizer was to call the children of Israel to make changes in their lives so they could once again live up to their name; he called them to be what they claimed to be.

Dear reader, how about you? Are you being what you claim to be? Do you claim to be a “Christian?” “Christian” means “little Christ.” Are you living as a representation of, or little picture of who Christ is? Are you an Israelite? Most of us in Christianity would say “no.” But we should be Israelites in the sense that we too should be striving with God and for God, taking hold of God and not letting go for anything.