chagar: to gird, gird on, gird oneself
Original Word: חָגַר
Part of Speech: Verb of Action that became a Hebrew idiom
Phonetic Spelling (English transliteration) : (khaw-gar’)
The term gird up your loins can be found many places throughout scripture, It is a major theme of the Bible. From proverbs 31, to battle cries, to gentle words of Jesus, and finally eschatological promises; these words have great significance to those in covenant. Today much of the meaning has been lost in translation. Let’s bring it back to our Jesus Culture.
The term is first mentioned in Exodus 12 when the instructions were given for the Passover and preparation for the Exodus. Instructions on the lamb meal and sacrifice and marking your family by the blood of the Lamb.
EX 12:11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
It became an Action Verb like none other for Israel. It was a Hebrew idiom that bore great significance to Israel that they should be ready at any moment to follow the Lord with all they were. Like many Hebrew idioms the chant “chagar” literally become a one word sermon on being ready. Through my life I have always lived by a boy scout type motto of “go prepared” with the connotation of being ready for anything. It has been a missional approach to all of life that is rooted the ancient covenant of the chagar idiom.
Throughout Israel’s history this would become a household family and military chant or reminder that would lead them to battle and most great things that was rooted in the idea of simply doing what was asked in the waiting before the Lord, putting things at the altar, painting the door, and giving them to Yahweh in sacred devotion that He might not only go before you, but that he might completely bring you victory. That complete victories were only of God (or later Jesus) and not at all through you yourself. That in emptying yourself in complete humility Jesus meets your humble sacrifice and does immeasurably more than you ever prayed or imagined. This is the 44. That you bring a complete (22) offering of all you have to offer and God doubles the portion. Takes the number of completeness 22 and doubles it to 44 which is actually the sign of innumerable strength… thus the 144,000 it later represents as the faithful remnant that knows no boundary.
(NOTE: Some people are aware of the theological notion that God intended to literally fight every battle for Israel just like he defeated the Egyptian army in the closing of the Red Sea. That Israel wasn’t ever supposed to actually fight. In this way, when the Israelites did physically fight it was actually a sign of not totally trusting God.)
In war time as the Israelite soldiers rallied for battle and chanted KHAW-GAR as they pounded their spears to the ground, their hope and prayer would be that God would completely fight the battle. That should be the way that we also gird up. That is why Paul makes the connection to rather gird up your mind for prayer rather than the physical. If you can mentally and spiritually give something to God, the end result is that your faithfulness results in little to nothing of yourself and all of what Jesus does. Similar to an ancient Israelite battle you might only be intended to be the cleanup crew that through God enabled or brought healing!
It is likely the same word that Jesus declared (in Hebrew) over his disciples in Luke 12 ““Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet”
In Hebraic culture preparation for weddings and wars meant you were ready to give of your life, the ultimate sacrifice and act of humility for another. This is the Exodus motif connected throughout all of scripture. Paint your doorway and be free! In this way chagar also is used in traditional Jewish weddings.
In Proverbs 31, we read, “She girds her loins.” If you are reading the ESV, it is translated as “she dresses herself with strength,” (which I personally think is an injustice to this verse), but the Hebrew literally says, “she girds her loins.” That phrase refers to the act of rolling up one’s tunic and tucking it under a belt or tying it in a knot. Your tunic gave you added strength such as a weightlifting belt does for us today.
A person would do this to get the tunic out of the way and be able to have freedom of movement. Men would typically gird up their loins if they were getting ready to engage in battle, travel long distances, partake in strenuous running (as Elisha did in 1 Kings 18:46), or perform hard labor. It is also used as a symbol of humility form the father in greeting His lost son in the prodigal son parable. An esteemed elderly man would not typically run or show his legs, this was what young men did. It is a picture of Christ taking a role of ultimate humility to save us from the kazazzah or pot breaking ceremony, we should have rightly received after we disavowed our inheritance and left.
The idiom or chagar chant should bring you to freedom in Christ. To accept being recreated (kainos) as a royal priesthood that lives in freedom and is ready to bring others to this freedom in Christ as those that live in ancient intimate covenant to pledge an allegiance to the kingdom and represent the king that goes before them. To live humbly as temples of the Holy spirit in devout consecration to your mission. That you and your family might be living sacrifices that are enumerable in your vocation to represent the king of kings as His ambassador to dark and hurting world. To function as agents that bring order to chaos and healing to brokenness.