Saturday, August 15, 2009

'Tis the Season to Repent

Thursday night of this week begins a 40-day period known on the Jewish calendar as the Season of Teshuvah. This Hebrew word literally means to turn, as in turn back to G-d from whom we have strayed. In English, we can best translate as the Season Repentance. It starts on the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, which is the sixth month of the biblical calendar or the twelfth month on the civil calendar, and ends on Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement, which is the holiest day of the year.

This period of Teshuvah should serve as a time of reflection for all of us who follow Messiah Yeshua, whether Jew or Gentile. The words of Haggai the prophet always seem to come to mind at this time of year. His message begins by saying,

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the L-RD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judea, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the High Priest, saying: … “Is this a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this Temple lies in ruins? So now, thus says the L-RD of Hosts, consider your ways! You have sown much but bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink but your thirst is not quenched; you clothe yourselves, yet no one is warmed; and whoever earns wages earns it for a purse with holes. Thus says the L-RD of Hosts, consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:1-7)
Haggai is calling the people to repent. Notice that the day of the year when he spoke just happens to be the first day of the 40-day season of Teshuvah. The timing is no coincidence nor should we consider that the words he spoke were only for his generation. We should let them reach across the millennia to our time and allow them to ring true in our own hearts.

The rabbis have a saying that a man should repent the day before he dies. The man who coined this phrase was Rabbi Eliezer of the late first and early second centuries. His disciples asked how a man can repent the day before he dies since no one knows the day of his death. His reply was that one should repent every day. While his words ring true, the idea of repentance is especially profound at this time of year. Judaism teaches that the Gates of Repentance are wide open during these 40 days.

Another passage of scripture that comes to mind is found in Ezekiel chapter eight. There we find the word of the L-RD coming to the prophet in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month (8:1). Again we see that the time of year just happens to be the 40-day season of Teshuvah. Again, the L-RD is chastising His people. Instead of repenting, we find the women sitting in the Temple of G-d “weeping for Tammuz,” a Babylonian deity, while the men were bowing in worship to the sun, with their backs to the sanctuary (8:14-16), symbolizing that they had turned their backs on G-d.

These words were written as examples, warning us not to set our hearts on evil as they did (1 Corinthians 10:6). How will G-d remember our generation? What words will He pen to record our deeds (Revelation 14:13)? Let us not repeat the mistakes of past generations. Instead, let us set our hearts on serving our Creator. Let us remember that He is the King and we are His servants. As servants, we are called to serve, not to be served. Part of our calling is to regularly examine our ways, admit our mistakes, change the direction in which we are headed, and return to the Holy One. Let us seek His forgiveness and forgive others. In seeking His forgiveness, let us remember that if we have sinned against others, we must first seek their forgiveness, possibly making restitution, before approaching our Heavenly Father for mercy. Finally, let us remember that the blood of Messiah Yeshua shed upon his altar atones for our sins if we trust in His redemptive sacrifice and live faithfully to Him.


  1. David:

    I look forward to sharing the season of sorrow and repentance with you and your family. It may seem weird, the way we look forward to High Holidays and their introspection. We know the joy that comes, especially at the end. This season is the most emotional and joyful to me of all of them.


  2. Thank you for the kind words Derek. I'm also looking forward to sharing the season with you guys.


  3. This is very informative and I like the fact I just finished reading Haggai. It's too bad that more people don't read the old testament books.