All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. Psalm 22:28
Turn – If there is one verb in Hebrew that summarizes God’s message to human beings, it is shuv. Used more than 1000 times in Hebrew Scripture, shuv has perhaps two dozen nuances of meaning, but they all surround the basic idea of returning, coming back or turning around. Just think about this for a moment. Most Christians would not consider shuv as a summary of the good news. They would think of words like agape or aphesis (forgiveness) or eleutheria (freedom). You might notice that these Greek words are nouns while the Hebrew word is a verb. That already tells you something important about the difference in orientation between the Hebrew and the Greek views. But there is more.
Christians typically focus the attention of “conversion” on the future. Usually this involves concern about where you will go when you die. Getting to heaven is, too often, the goal of religious experience. Ultimately, this preoccupation with what happens after death is based in a Greek philosophical belief that the world is a bad and terrible place and the only real solution to problems here on earth is escape. Heaven will solve it all. If Jesus just comes back soon, our problems will be over.
The startling reality is that the Old Testament has almost no emphasis at all on heaven (or hell, for that matter). After we die, there is judgment, but how and when that happens is anyone’s guess. The focus of the Old Testament is not on the future afterlife but rather on the world right here. And shuv reminds us that the objective is not escape but rather return to the original. In other words, the Hebrew perspective is that God made everything perfect to begin with and this temporary disturbance in His perfect order requires our concerted effort to prepare the earth for a return to the original. We are going back to the future. It takes action here and now and it is not an escape plan.
If you read this verse in Hebrew, you would notice something else. The verbs come first. Literally, the verse reads, “Remember and return to YHWH all the ends of the earth.” The action is at the forefront. And the action requires two steps. The first is to remember. Remember what God made. Remember who God is. Remember who you are. Remember why the world is the way it is now. Remember who is in control in spite of appearances. Remember who will bring the victory. Remember the Lord!
Then, return. Return to His goodness. Return to His compassion. Return to His favor. Return to His mercy. Return to His perfect order. Return to those walks in the cool of the evening when there was nothing to hide.
Read the verse one more time. Notice that the day is coming when all the earth will remember and return. There is a victory day ahead when the perfect order will be restored, when the original will once again be the exclusive, dominate order of the universe. That day is guaranteed. But until that day, we are called to action here and now, to prepare for the day of the Lord and the return of the King.
Topical Index: turn, return, shuv, day of the Lord, victory, remember, Psalm 22:28