Observing the history of the nation of Israel in scripture, God ordained specific seasons or times for his people to participate with. 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 golden 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 for 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 done 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 was a time of united repentance, just like a nationally called fast or a national call to prayer. For us today, it can be a time when the entire church spends time before God.
This year (2019,) Elul began on September 1st. Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets) 2019 will begin on the evening of Sunday, September 29. This marks the beginning of Tishri, the first month on the Jewish civil calendar. This also begins what is known as the 10 days of awe and culminates on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur beginning the evening of October 8th. These 10 days are believed to be the time when God opens 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 8th and completes the 40 days of Teshuvah or repentance.
I realize most of us are removed from the Hebrew calendar. However, the Lord is not. We simply ask that during this time, Christians spend time focusing their lives on the Lord with sincere repentance, forgiveness, and grace to others as we seek the Lord for his blessings in the coming year.