Elul…40 Days and 40 Nights, Teshuvah

Elul is the last month of the civic calendar in Judaism. Elul is the sixth month of the religious calendar. Jewish tradition points to the name of the month to be an acronym of “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” a quote from Song of Songs 6:3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine… In Aramaic, the vernacular of the Jewish people at the time that the month names were adopted), the word Elul means “search”. Per Strong’s Concordance, Elul means “nothingness” in the Hebrew. The month is mentioned one time in the Bible. Nehemiah 6:15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. Cultural customs per http://www.jewfaq.org, http://www.myjewishlearning.com .

The month of Elul initiates a 40 day period called Teshuvah. The point of the season is to prepare for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It is a time to turn toward God. People are called to turn away from their sin, repent, and change course. It is a time of inward reflection and sincere self-assessment. The goal is a change in lifestyle away from sin to obedience in God’s word. The 40 day period starts on Elul 1 and ends on Tishri 10, Yom Kippur.

There are many examples of the significance of the number 40 in the Bible. Notice, the examples ultimately demonstrate a turning away from sin and a return to God’s word. The result is a changed mind, a lifestyle consistent with obedience to God.

On three occasions, Moses went up to Mount Sinai for 40 days and met with the LORD. Israel had worshipped a golden calf and committed idolatry against God (Exodus 32). Moses pleaded with God for mercy against His chosen people. He turned to God and instructed the people of Israel to turn from their sin. The golden calf was destroyed (Exodus 32:20). After the destruction of the golden calf, Jewish tradition has Moses ascending Mount Sinai on Elul 1 to Tishri 10 (Yom Kippur) to receive a second set of tablets. Moses came down from Mount Sinai when the people had repented (http://www.chabad.org, http://www.hebrew4christians.com).

With a lack of faith in God, Israel was left to wander in the desert for 40 years. God told them He would help them take the Promised Land. Only two men believed, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 32:12). The others did not turn and trust God. Numbers 32:13 So the LORD’S anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed. It was considered “evil” to not believe God. When this came to pass and the last one died. God brought His people back to the land for the taking. 40 years later, the Jewish people returned to God and His word. Course of nation Israel had changed. The Law, God’s word, was reintroduced to the people before they entered the Promised Land (Deuteronomy).

Noah and his family were in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights during the rain and flood. The world was being judged for sin. The corruption of mankind is described in Genesis 6. Noah and his family had 40 days and nights to contemplate their watery environment as a consequence. They turned and responded to God. Their lives were spared in the ark. They had nowhere to go and plenty of personal time for self-reflection.

Jesus was tempted by Satan for 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). Every time Jesus was tempted by Satan, He turned to God the Father and quoted Deuteronomy. Jesus’ responses to temptation were to turn to the word of God (Matthew 4:4), to not put the Lord your God to the test (Matthew 4:7), and to worship and serve the Lord you God only (Matthew 4:10). Jesus resisted the tempter and was obedient to His Father.

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