4 Week program for Teshuvah
The Fall Holy Days all occur in the seventh month on the Hebrew Calendar, which is called Tishri. To understand the Fall Holy Days, it is important to understand the time period that comes just before it. The sixth month on the Hebrew Calendar is called Elul. The Jewish people call this time Teshuvah. Teshuvah literally means to return back to where you came from. It is a month-long period before the Fall Holy Days when a person is supposed to repent and turn back to God. It is a preparation period for the Fall Feasts.
Teshuvah starts August 16th at sunset!!!
The book of Haggai gives us a pattern of how to return to the Lord during these thirty days. The name Haggai comes from the Hebrew word chag, which means festival. It is a word used of the three main festival times of the year: Passover, Pentecost, and the Fall Feast Days. This book gives us preparation steps for the Fall Feasts. In Haggai 1:1-11, the Lord speaks to the Israelites on the first day of the sixth month. In these verses, He commanded the people to give careful thought to their ways. The Israelites had neglected the work on the house of the Lord and were occupied with their own projects. God even explains that they planted much, but harvested little. Their harvest was reduced because they did not give the proper attention to God’s house. He tells them that He sent a drought on their crops and reduced the effectiveness of their labor so that they were not blessed. What is He asking them to do in these verses? He is asking them to return to Him! As believers, we have been made a new creature in Christ and become members of God’s Heavenly Temple. The problem is that we have gone astray since being made new. We have to go back to the new, Christ-like creature we are supposed to be!
In the land of Israel, they used to blow the shofar during the sixth month to remind the people to “wake up” and return to God. Throughout the year, we have been giving attention to our own personal affairs. We have not been tending to the house of the Lord as we should. The house of the Lord is not just the physical house; it is also the spiritual house of believers. By not serving in our spiritual gifts and obeying the Word in our personal lives as we should, the body of Christ has suffered neglect! We must tend our walk with God and build up the Body of Believers! We have lack in our lives because we have neglected these two things.
It is said in Jewish thought that on the Feast of Trumpets God judges your upcoming year. Remember, the Jewish people have two calendars: one is ceremonial and the other is civil. The ceremonial calendar begins on the first day of their first month, called Nissan. This is the month in which Passover and Unleavened Bread are celebrated. The Civil Calendar begins on the first day of the seventh month (which is the Feast of Trumpets). On the Feast of Trumpets, every human alive has their name written in the book of life or the book of death. These books go by different names by different people (some call them the book of the righteous and the book of the wicked), but they mean the same thing. God is deciding whether you live or die and to what extent you will prosper for the upcoming year.
If a person does not properly repent during the days of Teshuvah, then they have ten days of grace to make things right with God. These ten days, beginning with Trumpets and going through the Feast of Atonement, are known as the Days of Awe. During this time period, a person has the opportunity to have their name changed from the book of death and put into the book of the life. Because each of us wants to have our name written in the book of life on Trumpets, we follow steps to get especially close to God during this time of the year.
It is extremely important how we return to God during these days. At Hungry Hearts, we actively pursue the Lord’s words through the prophet Haggai to “Consider your ways” during the month of Elul. For this reason, we teach a four week program to help you seriously consider your ways. During the first week, we repent by writing our sins on a piece of paper (called a sin list). We spend time examining our actions and going through our heart to dig out the sins buried deep within our intent, mind, will, and emotions. This is not just surface repentance; it is true heart-felt introspection of your life. We burn these lists on the weekly Sabbath before Atonement so that we can go into Atonement clean before God. During the second week of Teshuvah, we pray for our lost family members. Once we have gotten ourselves right with God, we can pray for others! Everyone has family members that are not believers or not as close to God as they should be. We want them to repent so that their names can be written in the book of life. We want them to come into the fullness of Spirit and Truth so that they can be spiritually and physically prosperous.
During the third week, we examine how we have been blessed by the Lord since the previous year’s Feast of Tabernacles. We write down all of our assets and all of our debts on a sheet of paper to determine our net worth. We review how much money we made this past year, and we make goals for the upcoming year. There is Biblical evidence found in the Torah for doing this. In Numbers 13, Moses sent 12 spies throughout the Promised Land to explore it and bring back a report. The interesting thing is that the 12 spies went out to explore the land at the time of the first ripe grapes. The grapes first ripen in Israel during the summer months and are harvested just before the Fall Feasts. Since the spies were gone for forty days, it is likely that some of their expedition occurred during the days of Teshuvah! In the same way as the twelve spies, you are to go through the Promised Land of your life and find God’s Kingdom provision. We should be able to identify the blessing of God in our lives and give a good report as to what the Lord has done. While we look at our physical blessings from this past year, we should also look at our spiritual blessings. Did you grow in your walk with Christ? Do you have more Bible understanding this year than last year? Did you fulfill your Kingdom assignments passed down from your Pastor or other church leader? Did you overcome sins in your life? These are all important parts of God’s Kingdom provision in our lives. We also ask God for the things we need during this third week. We ask for things such as a higher salary, more net worth, and greater spiritual growth. The whole goal of the Christian life is to advance the Kingdom of God. We are not asking for these things just for our own personal edification. We need to ask for more wealth from God to spread His gospel. It takes money to print books, advertise meetings, and duplicate CD’s. We also make goals in the third week to achieve these things because faith without works is dead (James 2:20). The Feast of Tabernacles is the Feast when the Israelites would give God thanks for the harvest He gave them during the past year. One of the purposes for making a physical and spiritual inventory of our lives is so that we can show up before God at the Feast of Tabernacles and give him thanks for the physical and spiritual harvest in our lives this past year! During the fourth week of Teshuvah, we spend time in intimate worship with God Almighty. We spend time in the secret place of the Most High mentioned in Psalm 91, preparing to encounter Him and during the Fall Festivals.
The first three weeks follow the pattern established in Haggai 1:1-11. In Haggai 1:12, we learn that the remnant obeyed the word of the Lord. In verses 13-15, the Lord spoke and said that He would be with them on the 24th day of the sixth month. This is the fourth week of Teshuvah! This shows us that when we obey the Lord during this time of the year, the Lord will be with us on the fourth week and escort us to the Fall Holy Days. One purpose of this entire process is to have a great God encounter during the Fall Holy Days and receive revelation on the work God wants us to do. Another purpose of this process is to prepare ourselves to go to work after the Feast of Tabernacles. In Haggai 2:1-9, the Lord tells the people to be strong and go to work. He does this on the 7th day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Since we have made our goal lists and have received revelation from the Lord about what we are supposed to do, God is expecting us to go to work after the Feast of Tabernacles. He is expecting us to work hard at our job and work hard for His Kingdom and His Spiritual Temple.
The time of Teshuvah is also called the days of the Open Windows of Heaven. It is the time to ask God for things, whether it be for your family to turn to God or for financial prosperity. In Isaiah 55:6 God said, “Seek God when He is at hand; Call upon Him when He is near”. During Teshuvah, you are closing in on the Fall Feast Days. The Lord is at hand and He is near. It is the time when we can call to Him and He will especially hear our prayers. It is the time for us to wake up and return to Him so we can receive His wonderful blessings!
The Ten Days beginning with Trumpets and continuing through the end of Atonement are known as the Ten Awesome Days or the Days of Awe. During this time, a person who did not repent during Teshuvah has the opportunity to return to God.