As Christians, we are called to keep “short accounts” with God on a daily basis. Each day we should confess our sins and humbly ask for God’s abundant forgiveness. However, the “season of repentance” during the Jewish month of Elul is a sanctified reminder to be spiritually prepared for the appearance of Jesus our Lord, “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” (Matt 25:6).
During the month of Elul, we are to prepare for the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) by getting our spiritual house in order. During this time, we make every effort to repent and “return” to God in every area of our lives. It is a time of thorough self-examination, a time of coming before God in total submission, without worldly distraction, seeking Him to reveal anything in our lives that does not line up with the standard of His Word and the lives we are called to live as those who call Jesus Lord. The month of Elul is, quite literally, the season in which we ensure our lamps are full and our wicks are trimmed in preparation for the arrival of the Bridegroom for the wedding feast.
In Matthew Chapter 25, Jesus tells the parable of the 10 Virgins who are awaiting the Bridegroom. The alarm is sounded for the Bridegrooms’ return and the wise virgins are those who trim away their burnt wicks (sins) and restore full light to their lamps with the extra oil (fullness of God’s word and His Spirit). When the spiritual call of the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) comes, there will be no time for preparation. It must be done beforehand: “And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, ‘No, since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:8-13).
We can observe this “season of repentance” and prepare for the appearing of the Bridegroom in three ways, through three types of “turning”:
1) We turn back to God and make every effort to turn away from sin
—We allow God to thoroughly examine our heart and our life and submit to whatever He asks us to turn away from. If there is anything in your life that you know you shouldn’t be indulging in or doing, then stop. All those things that you say to yourself, “I know I need to stop….” or “I know I shouldn’t be doing…..”, then stop. Stop doing it because you don’t want to be doing it when the Bridegroom shows up. In the same way, all those things that you say to yourself, “I know I really should start doing….”, then start doing it. Whether it’s Bible study, daily prayer, going to church, or anything that encourages you to spend more time in God’s kingdom, rather than your own.
—Whatever you have been putting off, whether good or bad, this is the season to make those changes.
2) We turn to others we’ve harmed or offended
—We honestly evaluate and examine ourselves and make amends for any damaged relationship. We embrace God’s command to forgive each other and to ask for each other’s forgiveness. If there is any bitterness, resentment, ill-will, anger or hurt between you and another person, then prostrate yourself before the Lord and ask Him to make you clean. Ask Him to help you forgive or to ask for forgiveness….and mean it.
—Whatever you have been harboring against someone or whatever you have done to hurt someone, this is the season to get rid of that baggage.
3) We turn to those in need
—We turn away from our own endeavors, our own pursuits and consider the needs and welfare of others, over our own. We pour ourselves out in obedience to Paul’s instructions to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3,4), and “No one should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor 10:24). Do random acts of kindness simply because you genuinely love God, “..let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16).
—When you see a need that needs to be met in the life of another, and you are capable of meeting it, then this season is an active reminder to do it. Even (or especially) if it is inconvenient and requires personal sacrifice on your part.
The month of Elul and the preparation for the Feast of Trumpets remind us to be spiritually ready for the appearance of Jesus our Lord. Over and over we are commanded by Jesus Himself to “watch”:
–“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day on which your Lord will come.” (Matt 24:42)
–“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:13) —“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the master of the house will return
–whether in the evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or in the morning.” (Mark 13:35) –“And what I say to you, I say to everyone: Keep watch!” (Mark 13:37)
—“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds on watch when he returns.” (Luke 12:37) —“If therefore you shall not watch, I will come like a thief, and you shall not know at what hour I will come upon you.” (Rev 3:3) —“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one watching and keeping his garments, so that he should not walk naked and they might see his shame.” (Rev 16:5)
–“But watch yourselves, or your hearts will be weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life—and that day will spring upon you suddenly like a snare. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. So keep watch at all times, and pray that you may have the strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
So what happens to those who aren’t watching by ensuring that they are spiritually ready for the Bridegroom’s appearance? “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’” (Matt 25:12). We’ll talk more about that in my next post.