And the Month of Elul
by Christine Egbert
Ecclesiastes 3:1 assures us there is a time for every purpose under heaven. The Biblical month of Elul (which falls in the month of August on the Gregorian calendar) is a time for spiritual introspection. Elul begins a 40 day period known as Days of Teshuvah, which ends on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This season is also known as “Yemei Ratzon” the Days of Favor, for it was during this very same period the Yahweh forgave Israel for their worship of the golden calf.
So why 40 days?
I don’t know. All I know is that in Scripture the number 40 is very significant. Moses ascended Mount Sinai for 40 days (3 times,) the flood lasted 40 days, and Yeshua fasted in the wilderness for forty days. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Interestingly, it also takes 40 days for a fetus to be formed in the womb. Likewise, the commencement of Elul ushers in 40 Days of Teshuvah, a word often translated into English as repentance.
Unfortunately, for far too many people the word repentance means only one thing: to be sorry for one’s sins. And while that is certainly important, it misses the bigger point. In Hebrew the word teshuvah is not about a feeling. It’s about an action. It comes from the Hebrew root shuv, which means return. To make teshuvah is to return to God and His ways. It is not enough to feel sorry for our sins. God wants us changed. He wants our minds renewed. We are to be conformed to the image of His Son, Yeshua.
If I were to pick out a passage from the apostolic writings (N.T.) to be the theme for this period of spiritual introspection, it would have to be James 4:8–10. “Draw near to Elohim and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of YHVH, and He will exalt you.”
Our Jewish brothers teach that during Yemi Ratzon, those days of favor that begin on the 1st of Elul, in which we are to audit our life, God illuminates His 13 attributes of mercy more than he does at any other time during the year. Elul is a haven in time. It’s a time when our King is out walking in the field. Run to Him! Meet with Him! Prepare your hearts for the Feast of Trumpets and the 10 days of Awe that lead us to Yom Kippur.
For those of us who have returned to the old paths and are contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints, teshuvah should be nothing new. We have, and we are, returning, returning to God’s ways. Being human, however, we can become complacent and want to rest on our laurels–I’m certainly guilty. That’s why I’ve written this short article. It’s to encourage myself and others to use this special time leading up to Yom Kippur to search the inner landscape of our hearts. For although Yeshua is our Yom Kippur sacrifice, a sacrifice He made once and for all, teshuvah is not a one-time event. It must be our lifestyle.
As the 23rd Psalm says, “God leads us in paths of righteousness for His name sake.” Only paths is a poor translation of the Hebrew word magalah. A much better one is cycles. For in Hebrew thought life is cyclical. There is a time, a season for every one of God’s purposes. That’s why He gave us His Biblical Calendar. It was so we could keep track of His cycle of days, of weeks, of months, and of years–His Mo’ed. His Appointed Times! His Feasts Days! So let no man judge you, for these days are shadows of things to come (Col 2:16-17), and with them the Most High leads us in cycles of righteousness.