Turn Around!

shofarObserving the history of the Nation of Israel in scripture, God ordained specific seasons or times for his people to participate with the worldwide plan of Heaven. These were known as feast or Holy days that celebrated, in visual and sometimes dramatic form, the relationship God had with His people. Remember, God’s Kingdom does not follow our calendar but Jewish dates established long ago. For instance, our traditional New Year begins in January. However, the Jewish New Year begins in the fall on the Feast of Trumpets. Known as Rosh Hashanah, the secular Hebrew calendar marks this day as the beginning of the new year. Rosh Hashanah also occurs during the season called Teshuva.

Teshuva means, “to turn or to repent.” It is not a Biblical feast recognized in the Torah (5 books of Moses), however the concept from which it originates is from the book of Exodus. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving the Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18). This time was marked by the feast of Pentecost. After returning to camp at the base of the mountain, God’s people were dancing before an idol, a gold calf. Moses in anger broke the Commandment stones. He then ascended for another 40 days to the top of the mountain to intercede and repent on behalf of Israel’s disobedience (Exodus 34:28). God’s decision to destroy Israel was reversed by Moses’ intercession and repentance. This second forty days became known as Teshuva, the season of repentance and turning to God.

The custom is to blow the shofar or trumpets for the 29 days of Elul, leading up to the beginning of the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah. The purpose of this was to awaken sleepy hearts and minds and focus our lives on God. At this time, a person searches their heart, turning to God and asking forgiveness for any sins, failures or offenses they have committed. They also focus on others. Each person is to evaluate their personal relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Any repentance and forgiveness toward others must be one during this season. Letters are written asking to bless friends and inscribe their names in the Book of Life. Certainly, if a believer sins, they should immediately repent and not wait for this season. However, this is a time of united repentance, just like a nationally called fast or a national call to prayer. The entire church should spend time before God.

This year (2016) Elul began on Sept 4th.   This Sunday,  October 2nd at sundown, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah  or Feast of Trumpets will begin. This marks the beginning of Tishri, the first month on the Jewish civil calendar. From October 2nd through October 12th, culminating in the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur  are the 10 Days of Awe. This is believed to be the time when God opened a special window for prayers to be received and answers to come. It is also believed to be a time when God makes decisions for the following year, which are sealed on the Day of Atonement, beginning this year at sundown on October 12th, and completes the 40 days of Teshuvah or repentance.

As western Christians, we generally don’t observe Jewish Holy Days. However, we should remember that God’s times and seasons do not change and it is appropriate, if not necessary during this time to search our own hearts and align ourselves with the Kingdom purposes of Yahweh and seek for His favor in this coming year. May the Lord help us to do this at such a time in American and world history.

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