One of the least appreciated books in the Bible is the Song of Solomon. It is a love story written by King Solomon himself, about his love relationship with his “Shulamite bride”. The narration switches back and forth from the viewpoint of the Shulamite, to the viewpoint of King Solomon. Song of Solomon can also be understood on a much deeper, spiritual level as the love story between Christ Jesus and His Bride (people of God). The Shulamite Bride is a shadow of the Church, and King Solomon is a shadow of Jesus Christ.
As summer prepares to turn into fall, as the air gets a little cooler and less humid, we know that Elul is here. Elul is the 12th month on the Jewish civil calendar (around the month of September). Today is the 4th of Elul. THE MONTH OF ELUL IS CONSIDERED A TIME OF REPENTANCE, a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement, symbolized by the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). We know this time as the Tribulation period.
Jewish sages teach that the Hebrew word “Elul” is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase from Song of Solomon “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” – “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine“. The name “Elul” was imported by the Jews after their 70 year exile in Babylon. It is thought to originally come from an Akkadian word meaning “Harvest”.
In Jewish tradition, repentance is called teshuvah , a Hebrew word translated as “returning”, more specifically, returning to God. The month of Elul is the traditional time for Teshuvah. The first 30 days of Teshuvah (month of Elul) ends on Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and is generally known as the Time of Repentance. The last 10 days (month of Tishrei) are known as the Days of Awe and represent the Great Tribulation when evil will be purged from the earth. Feast of Trumpets is a two day Feast. If we count from the end of the Feast of Trumpets until the beginning of Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), we have a total of seven days. These 7 days represent the 7 years of the Tribulation period, also known as “the Time of Jacob’s trouble”.
The 40 days of Teshuvah are also known as “the days of favor” since it was during this time that God forgave the Hebrew people the sin of the golden calf. When Moses went up Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, the Hebrew people grew tired of waiting so they melted down their gold and created one of the “gods of Egypt” (the place where they had been enslaved)…the golden calf. Moses was very angry when he saw the Israelites dancing and partying around this golden calf so in his anger, he smashed the tablets of stone. After the Israelites were punished for their idolatry, God forgave them and Moses went back up the Mountain for 40 days to receive a 2nd set of 10 commandments. Moses was again gone for 40 days, the days of Teshuvah, returning to God, FORGIVENESS BY GOD.
There is an old Jewish Elul Parable for the season of Teshuvah that highlights just how precious the repentant heart is to God.
Once upon a time a king possessed 3 bottles of precious wine. Each bottle was a rare vintage blend that was bequeathed to him from his royal grandfather. The bottles, passed down from generation to generation, were carefully guarded and considered among the king’s most treasured possessions.
One day the king set out to travel to a distant country. He called his 3 most dependable servants and entrusted them with the ancient bottles, one to each. The king warned the servants not to open the bottles and then left for his journey.
The three servants were very curious about the king’s command. The wine must be very fine and praiseworthy, perhaps even possessing some kind of supernatural power. Each of the servants secretly found themselves wanting to open the bottles to taste this special wine….
After awhile, the first servant couldn’t withstand the temptation. He opened the bottle, tasted the wine, and was so overcome with desire that he drank the entire bottle. The second servant, likewise, wanted to open the 2nd bottle, but because of his loyalty to the king, he held himself back, and busied himself with other affairs. The third servant, like the first, opened the bottle, tasted the wine, and was nearly driven to madness with desire to drink, but he restrained himself and overcame the temptation because of his LOVE for the king.
When the king finally returned from his business, he called for the three servants to account for his wine. When he learned the truth, he sentenced the first servant to death by hanging. To the second servant, who didn’t touch the wine at all, the king gave a gift of 1000 gold pieces. But to the third servant, who tasted the wine but then stopped, the King gave 10,000 gold pieces.
When the second servant heard what the third servant received, he was astonished. He went before the king and said “My master, your royal highness, I didn’t drink anything from the bottle you entrusted to me, and you gave me 1000 gold pieces. But why did you give to the one who drank some so much more than me? After all, he did not listen to you, and even defied your commandment! It would have been gracious enough for you to not have punished him, like the first servant, but why did you give him ten times the reward of mine?
The king answered, the reason is that you didn’t taste the wine. It is likely that if you had done so, you would have drunk the whole bottle — You would not be able to subdue your desire because of the extraordinary qualities of the wine. But the servant who tasted the wine and yet withstood its allure proved his great LOVE for me. His reward, therefore, is much greater.
The moral of this story is not to excuse any disobedience to the King, but to encourage those of us who have “tasted the pleasures of sin” and yet have chosen to turn away for the sake of the LOVE of God (Hebrews 11:25). The second servant, though he was technically righteous, had been accustomed to doing the right thing based on training and habit. He was the “religious” soul who had never tasted the flavor and allure of sinful pursuits. But the third servant represents ba’al Teshuvah (the penitent soul). He has tasted of the pleasures of sin, and even become accustomed to them, he chose to turn away from the allure because of his love for God. His challenges are far more difficult than the righteous servant, and his struggles sometimes chronic and painful. Nevertheless, he presses on in his devotion, cleaving to the Lord despite the habits and demons of the past.
This time of Teshuvah is a time of repentance, a time to turn back to the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s important that we repent and turn towards the Lord BEFORE the time of Jacob’s trouble (7 year Tribulation period..symbolized by the 10 days of awe, particularly the 7 days in-between the close of the Feast of Trumpets and the start of Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement.) Why? So that we might be “hidden” in that day. (Rapture)
During the month of Teshuvah, it is customary for the Jewish people to blow the shofar every day (except Shabat (sabbath). Psalm 27 is often cited during this time, as well. The Shofar symbolizes a means to awaken the slumbering soul. It is like saying “Sleeping ones, awaken from your slumber! Examine your deeds. Remember your creator and do Teshuvah. In the New Testament, we see the same theme in Ephesians.
The sound of the Shofar reminds us to return to the Lord and seek His face. In this season of Teshuvah, this month of Elul, let’s examine ourselves, let’s seek the Lord, let’s turn from our sin and ask the Holy Spirit to help us back onto the narrow path that leads to life. I am my beloved and my beloved is mine! Jesus IS our Beloved Bridegroom! Our beloved bridgroom gave his LIFE to rescue us from the bondage of sin and death. Do we hear the sound of the Trumpet? It’s time to awaken and turn back to Jesus while it is yet day for night comes quickly!