“Take words with you and return to the Lord.Hosea 14:2 NASB
Say to Him, ‘Take away all guilt
And receive us graciously,
So that we may present the fruit of our lips.'”
After a dry season, do you feel God tugging at your heart? The fall season highlights three Jewish feasts which usher in a time of spiritual renewal where we turn our hearts and minds back to God. This time of inward self-assessment leads us to repentance and a change of course. It’s a spiritual reset where we confess our sins, forgive those who have sinned against us, and give offerings for a blessed new year. This forty-day Jewish cycle, called Teshuvah, reminds us of God’s mercy as well as our need to repent and forgive others.
What is the connection between Moses and Teshuvah?
We might all agree that Moses, as meek as he was, had an anger problem. Although he grew up as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he was still a Hebrew boy with a burning hate of injustice. As a young man, he witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave who toiled in his labor.
So he looked this way and that, and when he saw that there was no one around, he struck and killed the Egyptian, and hid his body in the sand.Exodus 2:12 NASB
After this act of murder was disclosed to Pharaoh, Moses’s fear of execution became the catalyst that propelled him out of the palace and into hiding. He moved to the land of Midian where he married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, and tended his father-in-law’s flocks. Moses expected to live and die in Midian as a simple shepherd.
But God unexpectedly intervened.
No one was more surprised than Moses when God spoke to him from a burning bush. Although God tapped him with the incredible assignment of leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, Moses balked. He argued that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to him, and he was terrified to be a spokesman to the Hebrews. God reassured Moses by giving him miracle power to turn his staff into a snake, and He chose Aaron to do the speaking for his brother.
Let my people go!
Moses struggled with Pharaoh over permission for the Israelites to go worship in the desert, which was his excuse for the people to leave. But after God sent the death angel to every firstborn Egyptian child, Pharaoh relented. Their escape was a nail-biter as God miraculously parted the Red Sea for the Hebrews but allowed it to close on top of the Egyptians, who were in hot pursuit.
So the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.Exodus 14:30-31 NASB
A reflection of God’s righteous anger
When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.Exodus 31:18 NASB
We can only imagine the holy mountaintop experience Moses shared with God as he received the Ten Commandments. Before he descended to the people, however, God told Moses that the Hebrews were worshiping a golden calf in direct violation of His commandments. In His burning anger, God vowed to destroy the people but still make Moses a great nation. Moses, however, pleaded with God to forgive the Hebrews and give them another chance. In the end, God relented.
But this anger didn’t stop with God. When Moses saw what the people were doing, he became righteously outraged and threw the tablets to the ground, shattering them. Then Moses and God both punished the people.
Then he took the calf which they had made and completely burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.Exodus 32:20 NASB
Then the Lord struck the people with a plague, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.Exodus 32;35 NASB
The Establishment of Teshuvah
Moses ascended a second time up the mountain for a new set of tablets to replace the ones he had broken. Israel spent those forty days repenting and atoning for their sins while Moses met with God, thus establishing the season called Teshuvah.
Jews observe this fall season, the moadim, which is a forty-day season of repentance and forgiveness. In 2022, or the Hebraic year 5782, this cycle of spiritual renewal begins during the Hebrew month of Elul, from August 29th to October 5th. Teshuvah involves participation in three basic steps:
- The first step is to repent of sin and return to God. As we change course, we pledge to not return to our former sinful ways, but to leave them behind forever with God’s help and strength.
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.Acts 20:21 NIV
- Forgiveness also plays a key role. Not only do we need to ask and receive God’s forgiveness, but we also need to actively forgive those who have sinned against us.
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you for your offenses.Mark 11:25 NASB
- Last is self-assessment where we look inwardly and examine our hearts.
Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.Psalm 139 23-24 NASB
How does Teshuvah apply to Christians?
Christians initially repent of sin and receive forgiveness when we accept Jesus into or hearts as our Lord and Savior. We don’t wait for a specific date on a calendar to draw close to God or forgive others. Our walk of repentance and forgiveness is ongoing from the point of salvation and continues for the rest of our lives.
Thus, Teshuvah reminds us of God’s mercy and our need to repent and forgive others. During this season, we look toward a good year and seek the favor of God in the coming (Jewish) New Year.
Create in me a clean heart, God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Lord, open my lips, So that my mouth may declare Your praise.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.Psalm 51:10, 15, 17 NASB
Dear Father in heaven, draw us close to You during this season of repentance and forgiveness. May we rejoice in Your free gift of salvation, and may we forgive people who have hurt us in any way. Fill us up with the anointing of Your Holy Spirit, and bless us with a peaceful life full of abundant joy. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
A Season of Spiritual Renewal by Karen Jurgens copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved