This brief Biblical word study is not intended to be encyclopedic, but rather to generate thoughts and questions in our walk before the Lord. Hopefully, we will see how truly related these words are.
Starting with "humble," we have seen how important that characteristic is in a true Christian walk. In our study of Humility, we saw that "humble" means to make oneself nothing so that God might be all. Interestingly, the English word, "humble," is derived from the Latin, humus, meaning earth or dirt. We might ask, "What is lower on the face of the earth than dirt?" In English also, "humus" is a rich soil containing much organic matter. What can grow out of that? (Think of this: in Jesus' Parable of the Sower the truly productive seed fell on "good ground" [Matt 13:8, 23; Mark 4:8, 20; Luke 8:8, 15]. Was that "humus," or one who is "humble"?) We know that Jesus taught about the importance of being humble (e.g., Matt 18:4), and was Himself the perfect example of such (Matt 11:29; Philip 2:6-8). But, of course, the importance of being humble was also taught in the Old Testament. One of the most beautiful verses in the OT is Isaiah 57:15: "For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.' " (Isn't that a strong motivation for us to try harder to be humble, and to ask the Lord's help for that?) There appear to be three Hebrew words for "humble", anglicized (with their associated Hebrew "word pictures"): 'shach' ("destroy the wall")*; 'anav' ("see life's hooks"* or "see life secured"); 'shapal' ("destroy the mouth's authority"). Don't each of these say something interesting about being humble, compared to being prideful?
Now we'll look at "repent," a commonly-used "religious" word, defined by Webster as "to turn from sin and resolve to reform one's life." Some of us might say that it is to be sorry for our sins, and to promise to do better. And remember, the first Gospel message from both Jesus and John the Baptist was, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matt 3:2, 4:17). It is most interesting to look at the Hebrew use of "repent."
Matthew 22:18 [Jesus answered the Pharisees] . . . "Why do you tempt (KJV; other translations: 'test', 'try to trap') Me . . .?"
Jesus' response to the question of the Pharisees about whether it was lawful for Hebrews to pay tributes to Caesar sounded like some sort of personal irritation with the question. But one of the points of Andrew Murray's Humility in our recently-completed study was that Jesus had perfect selflessness. So could it be that Jesus' question was about something else?
Interestingly, in the Greek of the New Testament, the verb used by Jesus was something like peiratzete, which means "to annoy, tease, upset, disturb, tempt." Those sound again like words of personal irritation. But was Jesus speaking Greek to the Pharisees (a Hebrew teacher speaking to Hebrew scholars in a Hebrew setting)? Probably not. And there apparently is not an exact Hebrew equivalent to that Greek verb. The closest Hebrew word seems to be 'nasah,' meaning "to test by examining critically", weighing evidence as at a trial. (The "Word Picture" of nasah is, by my interpretation, "a life's twisting and turning revealed", an example of looking at one's life or actions from all angles.)
How does this help us interpret Jesus' question? We must remember: 1) Jesus had made His last entrance into Jerusalem; He was nearing the end of His ministry, yet the Jewish leaders had not recognized Who He was; 2) Jesus was being pursued mercilessly by those Jewish leaders, who were looking for any reason to accuse and kill Him; 3) Jesus knew it wasn't quite His time yet, so He was subtly trying to teach Who He was without open "blasphemy"; 4) He was dealing with individuals who knew every word of the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy of our Bible) by heart; 5) Jesus was the "Word" that "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14), and had taught that Moses, whom the Jewish leaders believed, had written about Him (John 5:46). So perhaps looking at something Moses wrote in the Torah would help explain what Jesus may have been teaching with His question.
There is this amazing Messianic prophecy in Zechariah: Zech 12:10 (NKJV) "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn." This is clearly a reference to the intended sacrificial death of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, which was a Passover death. Think of this, if you will: at the first Passover, for the Israelites to be freed from their bondage to their masters, the Egyptians, there were two required sacrifices. First, there was the perfect Passover lamb, whose blood on the doorposts saved the Israelites from the passing death - it "passed over" the houses where the lamb's blood was posted. Most Christians know and understand some of that sacrifice. But there was a second sacrifice, an unwilling one, which actually freed the Israelites: the Passover death given to all of the firstborn in Egypt. It was only after the deaths of all the firstborn of their Egyptian masters that the Israelites under Moses were hurried out of the land.
Now think of Jesus' death. Not only was His shed blood the saving blood of the Lamb of God, shed on Passover as the ultimate Lamb of salvation, but He was also the Firstborn Son of the true Master of Israel (and all of us), Father God Almighty. So the question might be: as there was for Israel's freedom from bondage in Egypt, were two sacrifices needed to free Israel (and all of us) from bondage to sin and mortality - the death and saving blood of the Perfect Lamb, and the death of the Firstborn of the Master? Certainly, Jesus' death on the cross was both of these. Was that what Zechariah 12:10 was prophesying?
Getting back to Zechariah 12:10, we may also ask, who was it in Exodus who "grieved for a firstborn?" And just who is it that will grieve and mourn the most for that Firstborn Son "whom they have pierced?" That is something for us to ponder on.