Ten Days of Awe

We are in the first ten days of the new Jewish calendar, in the month of Tishrei — two days of Rosh Hashanah (the civil new year), the seven days following, and Yom Kippur. This time is known as the Days of Awe or Teshuvah (repentance) and it is set aside for introspection and self examination, with the goal of seeking forgiveness from God and reconciliation with fellow man. As my people from all over the world gather in synagogues to reflect, repent of their sins from the previous year, and request forgiveness, pray that they will find the true atonement in our Messiah Jesus. 

The idea of teshuvah is rooted deeply in Scripture. Inherent in its meaning of repentance is the idea of turning back (shuv) to God. We turn away from sin and turn our hearts toward God. Teshuvah requires confession of sins to God. In Him we find forgiveness and healing for our brokenness.

Come, let us return to the Lord,” the prophet Hosea (14:2) urges my people. In Psalm 51, King David confesses his sin and asks God for cleansing and forgiveness. David’s teshuvah is based on God’s great love, his righteousness, and his means for forgiveness through His Son, Messiah Jesus. David acknowledges, “Against [God] alone have I sinned.”

The theme of teshuvah is definitive of Yom Kippur. In fact, kippur means covering or atonement. God established the High Holiday in Leviticus (see Leviticus 16:29; 23:27). God tells Moses:

And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. (Leviticus 16:29-32)

The high priest was allowed to enter the holy of holies on this one day, where the ark of the covenant was kept. This foreshadows the work of Messiah Jesus:

“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:12-14)

Today there is no means for my people to perform all of the ceremonial duties instructed in Leviticus. But God made a way. Jesus’s cousin, John, announced the permanent solution by the banks of the Jordan River. Pointing to Jesus he declared, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Why is blood a necessary part of teshuvah? Leviticus 17:11 explains: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

Praise God that we have Jesus and his perfect sacrifice. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

What do you need to do today to be right with God? He cries out, “Seek Me and live” (Amos 5:4). Seek the Lord and His forgiveness. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

And pray for my people during the Ten Days of Awe. They seek in vain to receive lasting forgiveness. They will attempt with prayers, fasting, and charitable works to have their names written in The Book of Life. Yet, there is only one way to escape the “sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1). Pray that their spiritual eyes would be open and that God would create a spiritual hunger in their hearts. Pray for teshuvah.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)

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