At one point during the reign of King Hezekiah, a powerful army comes against the people of God. Rumored throughout the land as conquerors, this army has every right to brag - they have defeated literally everyone they have battled. They're undefeated. They have smashed gods, taken prisoners, and not looked back. And when they come to the people of God, they assume that none of that will change.
They intend to do the same to Judah.
They intend so much to do the same to Judah that they've taken the time to learn the Hebrew language. When they come to the fortified cities, they do not rely on an interpreter or on the leaders or elite of Judah to know their language; these soldiers know the language of the people of God, and they speak it. Boldly.
Hey, people of God. There's no use fighting us. We're going to do the same things to you that we've done to everybody else we've encountered - we're going to blockade you, attack you, defeat you, then strip you naked and carry you off while we pound your God into the dust and stomp all over Him. Unless, of course, you want to make it easy on us and just, you know, open the gate and come out like good little boys and girls.
The leaders of Hezekiah's administration are quick to respond, demanding that this bully army stop talking to the people in their own language and instead, speak to the leaders directly in a tongue that the common man would not understand. The army, of course, refuses to oblige.
And here we see one of the great troubles of the church today, perhaps throughout her history. We are caught in the same trap as Hezekiah's army - the world speaks all too well our language, and we respond by demanding some kind of cryptic tongue.
The world knows how to speak of Jesus. They know how to talk about this Son of God. They know words like grace, love, hope, and mercy. This world can pull the red letters out of our Bibles more fluently than many of our Christians can, and they do it in a mocking tone. This world is bent on taking our God, smashing Him into a thousand pieces, and trampling Him underfoot as just another empty idol, just another worthless hope.
Then we come back at them in our own voices, the voices of the high and lofty, the voices of the elite and educated. We don't use words like hope; we use words like sanctification. We don't use words like forgiveness; we use words like justification. We don't say Jesus; we say Second Person of the Trinity. We talk about Communion and Eucharist while the world talks about bread and wine. And we're happy to do this, as though our language somehow shields us from the misinterpretations of the world. We even shout to our soldiers, Do not listen to them. Their common language is laughable. They do not know our God if they do not know His big words.
I gotta tell you - if I'm a soldier on the front lines and I hear the enemy talking more God than I hear my commander talking, I'm scared. If the guy who is coming against me says more words that I understand than the one who claims to have my back, I'm listening to the guy who is coming against me. And all of a sudden, you know what? Maybe I'm willing to open the gate.
Maybe I'm willing to come walking out like a good little girl. Maybe I'm willing to surrender to an invading army because it sounds a whole lot better to be led away defeated than to be carried away naked. Maybe I'm willing to let this world talk me into what it believes about my God because it feels like, the way they talk, they're the ones that can prove it. It feels like they're the ones not trying to hide anything from me. So yeah, maybe I'm willing to open the gate.
And the sad truth is that this is not just rhetoric; it's real. This is what is happening to the church right now. There are too many soldiers on the front lines who are willing to open the gate because the world is speaking a more conversational language about our God than our churches are. The world is telling us more about what Jesus sounds like than our pastors are. The world sounds like it's making a lot of good points because, at the very least, we understand what the world is saying; we don't understand the words that echo in our sanctuaries.
We have to change this. We have to stop pretending that the language of God is a high language. We have to stop talking with each other, and with the world, as though this is a tongue that most people just cannot understand. Jesus Himself spoke plainly; we ought to do the same. When we don't, we're creating a generation of Christians, a force of God's people, who are far too quick to open the gates and let another army just come walking in. And we are seeing where this leads us:
To a faith that isn't real because the Temple is empty. To a hope that isn't real because the hands that hold tomorrow also hold our necks. To a grace that isn't real because sin isn't real. To a truth that isn't real because it's not loud enough. To a God that's in a thousand pieces, trampled underfoot like dust because His people...because His people heard a voice that spoke to them in their own language and they opened the gates.
Because being led away defeated feels so much better than being carried away naked.