In the Hebrew calendar, Elul is a special month of preparation and repentance before the “Ten Days of Awe” starting with Rosh HaShanah – the Feast of Trumpets, and continuing until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement ten days later. It’s time to turn our backs on sin and turn towards God again. It’s time to turn away from the world, and look to the face of the One who loves and leads us. If we want to say “repent” in Hebrew we say, “Lachzor be Tshuva” – to return to the answer. Actually the two words both imply a return – one is to return as one might go away from home and return later, and the other is from the root word to respond, or reply, to come back with an answer.
The word “Elul”, the name of the month, is written like this: אלול – these four letters, in Hebrew, can stand for “Ani LeDodi, VeDodi Li” – “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”, from Song of Songs 6:3.
This reminds us of God’s great love for his people – and that this love should be reciprocal. The turning of repentance is like the turning in response to God’s great love and forgiveness – turning away from sin and the world, into the embrace of our God who loves us.
In Acts 3:19-21, Peter urges his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem:
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, Yeshua, whom heaven must receive until the time [season] for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
What then follows repentance in this passage?
- Our sins will be blotted out
- Times of refreshing (“cooling” in the Greek) will come from the face / presence of the Lord
- There will be a promised season of restoration
- Yeshua will be sent back for the second time
These things are assured, but repentance must come first. This is what has to set the chain reaction into motion!
Israel has never been without sin, and her hands are not clean now. Jewish people desperately need to know the total freedom of forgiveness that is only found in the Messiah. Just as Daniel, Nehemiah, Jeremiah and others wept, fasted, prayed and repented on behalf of Israel, so we too can stand in the gap and pray earnestly that Israel would turn and be healed. We are doing no favours to anyone by trying to whitewash away sin – this is not in our authority to do. Only Yeshua can blot out sin, and repentance is required first. But we can bring before God our sorrow for the sins that we see – first of all in our own lives, our own families, our own nations, but also cry out to him on behalf of his beloved Israel. It is time to bring things into the light:
“If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
He has assured us of total forgiveness, but ONLY on the condition that we confess our sin, and agree with him about it. And we can also count on God’s promises about what will follow repentance: times of refreshing will come from him, restoration will take place, and Yeshua will return.
Please pray for the Jewish people as we head towards the high holidays in the Fall. Many will be thinking, even if only fleetingly, about God, sin, and repentance at this time. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to lead them to true repentance, so that they can know the embrace of the Father through the powerful cleansing blood of Yeshua.