T’SHUVAH AND MERCY
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The 30-day month on the Hebrew civil calendar known as “Elul”, kicks off an extremely important season of introspection and t’shuvah (repentance). This season actually lasts 40 days from the first day of Elul and includes Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Awe, and ends with final prayers of repentance at Yom Kippur. It is said that by the end of Yom Kippur the gates of heaven are closed for that year. Elul, which is the last month of the Hebrew civil calendar, has been viewed as a month of Divine mercy and grace dating back to the time of Moses after he bought the Jewish people out of the land of Egypt.
HaShem had told Moses to hew out two tablets of stone on which G-d wrote with His own finger the words of the Ten Commandments. During the 40 days and 40 nights that Moses was at the top of Mount Sinai, HaShem was instructing him regarding how the Jewish people were to observe His guidelines and conduct themselves in their new-found freedom from being slaves in Egypt.
But, what happened while Moses was gone for the 40 days and nights? The Jewish people lost faith thinking that Moses had abandoned them or died. So they reverted back to the ways of Egypt by having Aaron fashion a golden calf from all their gold jewelry, for them to sacrifice to and worship; then Aaron then proclaimed “This is your god”. The molten calf was a common Egyptian idol. G-d told Moses to go back down the mountain for the people whom he brought out of Egypt have corrupted themselves.
“’They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them… Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation.’ And Moses pleaded with the LORD, his God…’Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, saying: For evil did He bring them out to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, Your servants, to whom You did swear by Your own self, and said unto them: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.’ And the L-RD repented of the evil which He said He would do unto His people.”
When Moses returned to the people and saw the golden calf and the people dancing and singing before it, he was greatly angered and threw down the tablets of stone, which HaShem had written, and they broke into pieces. He took the calf, burned it with fire and ground it into powder. Then he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink the water. Moses saw that the children of Israel were in a state of mockery, so he announced: “’Who is on the LORD’s side, let him come unto me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.” Moses told the sons of Levi to put on their swords and go throughout the camp and slay those who refused to listen and follow the L-RD.
About three thousand men fell by the sword that day. Moses told the people of Israel to consecrate themselves to the L-RD because they have sinned a great sin. Moses then went before the L-RD to seek atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel. Then the L-RD said to Moses: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”
HaShem then instructs Moses again to hew out two more tablets of stone like the first ones, and to return to the top of Mount Sinai. Moses obeys the L-RD and returns to the top of the mountain again for 40 days and 40 nights to seek atonement for the people of Israel and again receive G-d’s Commandments.
“And the L-RD descended in the cloud, and stood with him (Moses) there, and proclaimed the name of the L-RD. And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-RD, the L-RD, G-d, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation.’ And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.”
We can understand the connection of t’shuvah for 40 days from this biblical account of Moses seeking G-D’s instruction and atonement for his people on Mt Sinai, not long after they were freed from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. It wasn’t enough that the people had witnessed the supernatural power of G-D in the parting of the Red Sea when they walked through on dry land; or the lightning flashes, and thunderings, the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking when G-D spoke; or even that He had warned them specifically not to make any gods of silver or gods of gold. But, what happens – their eyes were on Moses, their leader, and not on the L-RD, their G-D. And when he was gone so long up on the mountaintop, they quickly forgot what they had experienced and seen and heard, demanding something they could see with their eyes to put their hope in.
Rosh Hashanah is most commonly known today as the Jewish New Year marking the day G-d created the world. According to the scriptures Rosh Hashanah is called by several descriptive names which clue us in to G-d’s foreshadowing of a future period in time: Yom Teruah, the day of the blowing of the trumpets (issuing a warning and calling the people to come together using a shofar, which is a ram’s horn); Yom haDin, the Day of Judgment; Yom haZikkaron, the Day of Remembrance. It is said that several books are opened by G-d on Rosh Hashanah of which one is referred to as the Book of Remembrance. These biblical references for Rosh Hashanah are truly tied in with the Messiah and His Messianic Kingdom to come. Malachi Chapter 3 describes it well and ties it all together.
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before Me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, and the messenger of the covenant, Whom you delight in, behold, he comes, says the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming?
And who shall stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap;
and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi,
and purge them as gold and silver; and there shall be those that shall offer unto the LORD
offerings in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years. And I will come near to you to judgment;
and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers,
and against false swearers; and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages,
the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not Me, says the LORD of hosts. For I the LORD change not; And you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say: ‘Wherein shall we return?’ Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me. But you say: ‘Wherein have we robbed You?’ In tithes and heave-offerings. You are cursed with the curse, yet you rob Me, Even this whole nation. Bring the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now herewith, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall be more than sufficiency.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your good, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your land; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before the time in the field, says the LORD of hosts.
And all nations shall call you happy; for you shall be a delightsome land, says the LORD of hosts.
Your words have been all too strong against Me, says the LORD. Yet you say: ‘Wherein have we spoken against you?’ You have said: ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked mournfully because of the LORD of hosts?
And now we call the proud happy; yes, they that work wickedness are built up; yes, they try God, and are delivered.’ Then they that feared the LORD spoke one with another; and the LORD hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day that I do make, even Mine own treasure; and I will spare them, as a man spares His own son that serves him. Then shall you again discern between the righteous and the wicked,
Between him that serves God and him that serves Him not. For, behold, the day comes,
it burns as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble;
and the day that comes shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings; And you shall go forth, and leap as calves of the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I do this, says the LORD of hosts. Remember the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the land with utter destruction.”
The Scriptures indicate that G-D keeps records in several books in heaven. According to Jewish thought, it is believed that each man is judged on Rosh Hashanah, as it is referred to in the Scriptures as the Day of Judgment, and that G-d opens three books on Rosh Hashanah: The Book of the Righteous is for those who have made t’shuvah, meaning who have returned to Him according to His direction; the Book of the Rashim or the Wicked Ones, who have decided their own fate by willful and absolute rejection of Adonai and His ways; the third group is comprised of the Intermediates, the ones who are lukewarm and have not made any decision regarding their spiritual life–this group is the largest group. It is said that their fate is not yet decided so they will have the Ten Days of Awe between the Day of Judgment and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, to make a decision before their fate is sealed for that year.
According to Exodus 32:31-33 when Moses was pleading with the L-RD to have mercy on the children of Israel after their idol worship of the golden calf:
“And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said: ‘Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them a god of gold. Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray, out of Your book which You have written.’ And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Whosoever has sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book.”
When David was persecuted from his enemies he cried out in Psalm 69:29:
“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.”
The prophet Daniel was given a clear vision of the Great Judgment in the end of days:
“I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit: His raiment was as white snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; His throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the judgment was set, and the books were opened…I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven One like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him.
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:9-14)
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence. And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.’” (Daniel 12: 1-4)
The New Covenant (Brit Hadasha) also talks about the books being opened and the ensuing coming judgment upon the earth.
“Then I saw a great white throne, and the One seated on it. The earth and heaven fled from His presence, but no place was found for them. And I saw the dead–-the great and the small– standing before the throne. The books were opened, and another book was opened—the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what was written in the books, according to their deeds.
The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Sheol (Hell) gave up the dead in them. Then they were each judged,, each one of them, according to their deeds.
Then death and Sheol were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire. And if anyone was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20: 11-15)
Psalm 143:2 declares: “And enter not into judgment with Your servant; for in Your sight shall no man living be justified.”
Romans 3 states: “For no human, on the basis of Torah observance, will be set right in His sight—for through the Torah comes awareness of sin…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
I Peter 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah! In His great mercy He caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua from the dead. An incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance has been reserved in heaven for you. By trusting, you are being protected by God’s power for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
The book of Hebrews declares: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living G-d.” (Heb. 10:31)
King David knew G-D as he expressed in so many of his Psalms. Psalm 103:8-13 is a vision of G-d’s love and mercy toward those who turn to Him:
“The LORD is full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always contend; neither will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor requited us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father has compassion upon his children, so has the LORD compassion upon them that fear Him.”
G-d states: “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore, be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Listen to His voice and turn to Him today. No man knows what tomorrow holds for us.