OBSERVING GOD’S CALENDAR
I follow the Jewish calendar every year, not because I was born Jewish, but because I am a follower of Jesus Christ.
Following Jesus makes me want to imitate Him and do the same things that He did when He walked the earth.
It is my personal belief that all Christians are called to keep the calendar that God chose to set in motion from the beginning of time, and I know His chosen people have been diligent to keep these days He has set aside faithfully for generations and generations.
It is through following the sacred calendar of God that I have come to celebrate the season of Elul annually.
APPROACHING THE SEASON OF ELUL
Now this ancient Hebraic season of time called Elul is approaching. It is one of my favorite times of the year. Understanding Elul and going through the process of the season is very special.
If God created it, I’m all for it. There are no more decisions for me to make once I understand that fact. This decision to have a month in time called Elul was not based on MY intelligence, but the Mind of God, which puts my feeble little brain to shame.
I can rest in the fact that His ways are higher than my ways and His decisions for my life and the seasons of my life are so much better than mine. I accept what I know is from the mind of God and try to be “mindful” of these things in my daily life, not out of a sense of duty or dread, but out of a sense of love and obedience and honor.
FOR THE SAKE OF LOVE
I do not observe for the sake of keeping rules; but for the sake of loving God.
Also; I do not judge those who do not believe this. I hope that they do not judge me. The bible tells us that we must all work out our salvation. Everyone must answer to God for the truth that He has revealed to them.
As for me and my house, I love all the things that My Father teaches me throughout the year with His special occasions called feasts and festivals. Since I’ve loved keeping these days for many years now, I can’t imagine life otherwise!
RICHES FOR THE JOURNEY
There is a richness in following the scriptures through these days; a deep richness that cannot be described in words; something that cannot be found anywhere else in the course of one’s life journey.
So here at the end of August, I am paying close attention to the turning of the pages of the sacred calendar. I’ve done this for a long time now; but for many years before I did not know to observe the month of Elul. After the process of discovering this sacred time, yet another present from God wrapped inside of time; I never want to miss another season of Elul.
God tells time much different than we do. He taught His way of telling time (using the phases of the moon) to the Hebrew people. Using the Jewish calendar you will note that the month of Elul comes at the end of the sacred year. It usually falls sometime around America’s calender dates of August and September.
This year (2017) Elul starts at sunset on Wednesday, August 23rd. Elul lasts for 40 days. It has jokingly been called “Jewish Lent” in that many of the customs are similar in nature.
A THEOLOGY OF A LOVING, MERCIFUL AND FORGIVING GOD
This month of the season called Elul highlights God’s grace so beautifully.
If you pay attention, you quickly note that these next 40 days are very special days. In this year, the days right before the time period of Elul, were underscored by a total eclipse of the sun. Perhaps this was a way of God saying “get prepared for what is to come.”
If you pay attention you will notice that MANY astounding occurrences tend to happen within this window of time.
A TIME FOR MEDITATION
I always try to enjoy a special meditation for each day during Elul. There is abundant comfort and peace in hearing the truth of the ancient teachings in relation to God’s grace. The truth comes out during this special time and it paints such a beautiful canvas of amazing theology. It is the theology of a loving, merciful and forgiving God.
You can trace Elul all the way back to the time of Moses, to the first year that the Jewish people left Egypt. It was only seven weeks after they had crossed the Red Sea and made a covenant with God to be His people forever that they violated this covenant, and sinned by worshiping a golden calf in the desert.
Moses saw this terrible sin taking place when he returned to the camp with the 10 Commandments that God had personally inscribed on stone with His Own finger.
In frustration at what was going on with the people upon his return; Moses smashed these first stone tablets.
After he had corrected the ways of the people, Moses went back up on the Mountain to plead with God and to ask for mercy.
It took another 40 days until He received a second set of the commandments. This time God made Moses write them down.
FORTY DAYS OF WRITING DOWN GOD’S COMMANDMENTS
I always wondered if this was God’s way of making Moses memorize them.
Have you ever had your child write things down on paper when it seemed that they could not remember?
Well, this time God dictated the law to Moses, and Moses inscribed them himself on the stone. It must have taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work. What comes easy to us is sometimes easy to forget. When we have to work hard for something, we are usually more diligent to maintain what we’ve worked for.
In Elul we are like Moses during this period of 40 days. The time of Elul is like re-writing the commandments over and over again only upon our hearts instead of stone. We are searching for the meaning in each commandment and we are examining our lives to see if we are truly keeping the ways of God in our lives.
LOOKING AT GOD’S BACK
While Moses was on the mountain with God during these 40 days, he was allowed to glimpse at God’s back.
Have you ever noticed that when you quarrel with someone and they turn their back on you that you are looking at their back instead of their face?
This is what “returning” is like; a long time of looking at God’s back instead of His face. We cannot see His face until we have truly done all that we must do to return to His best ways to live.
Elul is all about returning to God.
Do you desire to see the face of God? Then why not return to the things He has taught you?
God also taught Moses the 13 attributes of mercy while he was there on that mountain.
It occurs to me that mercy and forgiveness take more effort than simply doing things right in the first place. God only gave 10 summarized commandments, yet he gave 13 summarized ways to forgive and have mercy. Interesting set of numbers.
God turning his back around was a way of showing mercy instead of revealing a type of righteous anger that would have led to Him destroying His own people. Instead of manifesting His anger and destroying them in their sins; He turned His back away for a while.
He still does this for all of us. We provoke God’s anger every day by disobeying His instructions for life; yet He continues to love us and waits patiently for us to change.
LOVING AND FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER TAKES TIME AND EFFORT
Moses remained on the Mountain for 40 days learning from God starting on the 1st of Elul and lasting through the 10th of Tishri on the Jewish calendar.
Today we are still benefiting from the blessings that God bestowed to Moses on that mountain!
One of those blessings was that we are now taught from the scriptures to love and to forgive one another. We have the 10 best ways to show love written down in writing, and when we mess up and forget them, we have 13 ways to show mercy, compassion and forgiveness. This not only reconciles us to one another, it also reconciles us to God.
So it is that the time of Elul has become known for beginning the time of the year for remembering to meditate on obtaining God’s whole-hearted mercy and forgiveness.
Sometimes this also involves obtaining the whole-hearted mercy and forgiveness of those around us.
It always involves learning how to love.
ELUL IS A WAY NOT TO FORGET WHAT IS IMPORTANT
Of course, it goes without saying that we should be doing these acts all through the year, and not just during the season of Elul. However; if we get too busy and forget, Elul is designed to give us a deliberate and clear focus on the subject of being obedient to God and loving our fellowmen.
It was and still is a time of people being reconciled with God as well as one another.
I find it interesting that this season of time was noted on the Jewish calendar right before their sacred year ended. It was sort of like saying, “I know you’ve made mistakes this year, so let’s work them out before we close out the year.”
How wonderful it is to know that God has set aside a special time for showing divine mercy and forgiveness.
I can see some similarities that tie in with the Catholic Feast of Divine Mercy on this day. The Roman Catholics celebrate a day of Divine Mercy sometime in April, a totally different season than Elul, but with a very similar focus.
I prefer using the Hebraic calendar for this observance because I prefer ending the sacred year with divine mercy and beginning the new sacred year with a clean fresh slate.
In a perfect world we would have need of neither calendar period, because we would all be mindful of what we do EVERY day, and we would all be constantly seeking God’s mercy immediately after we made mistakes or sinned.
You may have noticed though that the world is not perfect.
At least this is a reminder for those things of which we tend to forget to pay attention. It calls us to stop and meditate and pray about whatever things we have missed or left out all year long.
A TIME FOR PAUSE
It is also said that this is a time to pause. When I put my DVD player on pause, I find myself stopping to think about the latest part of the movie that just played out.
That is how Elul is, we are pausing to think of the last year that just played out in our lives. We are looking back at scenes from our daily lives and we are paying closer attention to the details of how we were living.
When I hit that pause button the second time, the movie begins to move forward again. Whatever happened last is now fresh on my mind. I am equipped with the solid facts. When we take that long pause for Elul, we are better equipped and able to begin to move forward into the new sacred year that lies before us.
We all need to be forced to pause and reflect often. Life is too important to be just another random accident in time. We must value the time we have and treasure the gift of life and not treat it lightly.
A BEGINNING AND AN ENDING
To get the full meaning of the period of time called Elul, you must look at both the beginning and the end of this interesting season and then step back to see the whole picture. It is very similar to remembering the details of a trip.
As mentioned above, the beginning is symbolic of Moses on the mountain for 40 days receiving God’s forgiveness and mercy for the people’s sins and reconciling the nation back to God. Today we are going through all the same motions; just in a different time and while we are living in a different wilderness. We are all constantly seeking God’s reconciliation for our past and God’s hope for our future.
Then comes the process of actually living out what has been learned. We like to call this “a time of turning around.” At the end of the sacred year we are now looking back to see what we have been doing with this gift of our lives. We are asking forgiveness and mercy for all that was wrong and we are turning around now toward the new direction of all that is right.
10 VERY IMPORTANT DAYS OF AWE
At the end of the period of time called Elul there are 10 very important days. We often refer to them as “the days of awe.” The first day of those 10 days is called Rosh Hashanah, which lasts for 2 days actually (although it is counted as one long day.) Among many other things, Rosh Hashanah is known as a time for renewing, for waking up, for paying attention, for getting prepared and ready for new things.
The next 7 days after Rosh Hashanah take us to Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the sacred year, the day that is so symbolic of Jesus’ precious blood bringing atonement for our sins.
UNDERSTANDING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ATONEMENT
The Jewish people know and understand the need for and the significance of atonement. They spend time at the end of each year praying for mercy and forgiveness during these 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur, also called The Day of Atonement.
Those of us who have received the gift of the covering of the blood of Christ should be even more diligent in observing this season. It is as if we have crossed over to a new place and the journey becomes much more interesting. We must be listening to The One who is conducting the journey in order to know the way. Elul is a time for constant listening.
How could anyone take such a gift for granted?
The meditations we do during Elul honor Christ’s gift of His life for us. They bring us to a humble place where we realize that the work of the cross is all that truly reconciles us to God. As Christians we focus on this and we meditate on the ways of how to better live it out. The Day of Atonement clearly spells out the work of the cross.
The purpose is to reach this Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) being reconciled with God, or to attain At-one-ment, or a spiritual state of being at-one with God, joining ourselves to Him through His loving kindness of mercy and forgiveness of our sins. The day of Elul helps our hearts and minds to come fully into this season of mercy and forgiveness.
Have you ever taken a long train ride and had a lot of time to think about things as you gazed out the window at the landscape passing before you?
Most times people arrive at astounding conclusions if just given enough time to sit and think things through in such a fashion. Elul is a lot like that type of train ride. You arrive at your destination with a whole new determination and a clear new perspective on life. Your understanding has been increased.
What could be more beautiful?
THE BLESSINGS OF BEING MINDFUL OF THE SEASON
I never want to miss these days. There are so many lessons to grasp here in this wonderful season.
So please join me in being mindful of the fact that the last days of summer and the first days of fall are taking us into the season of the 40 days of Elul, a time of careful examination, and a time to prepare for the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur.
As Christians going through the time of Elul and approaching the day of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) we must always be examining our lives and trying with cheerful hearts to keep the commandments we have received from The One Holy God. In the times that we fail to do so; we must be diligently asking forgiveness and receiving God’s divine mercy. This is what happens during Elul.
There are some wonderful Elul meditations ahead. Keep reading in the SEASONS section of the blog for more to come.
I hope you enjoy the Elul meditations for this year, and that we can walk together through this refreshing and restoring season as we leave the season of summer and journey toward the wondrous season of fall.