The Meaning of Elul in the Life of the Believer
By Dr. Richard Booker
We have now entered the Biblical/Hebrew month of Elul. Elul has 29 days and is the sixth month on the sacred calendar and the last month on the civil calendar. It is a month of preparation leading up to the High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah–Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
According to the Jewish reckoning of time, it was the month of Elul when Moses ascended the second time to Mount Sinai to receive the second set of the Ten Commandments and intercede in repentance for the sin regarding the Golden Calf (Ex 32; 34:27-28). The traditional understanding is that Moses ascended on the eve of Elul and descended on Yom Kippur, a total of forty days.
As a result, observant Jews today seek God with more kavanah(focus and purpose) during the forty day period from the beginning of Elul to Yom Kippur. This is a special time of reflection, prayers, forgiveness and repentance when the people search their souls and seek God with their whole hearts in preparation for the High Holy Days.
In Hebrew, Elul is written with the Aleph, Lamed, Vav and Lamed. It is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase, Ani le dodi ve dodi li which means, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). In times past, many of us used to sing our love song to God, “I’m my Beloved’s and He is mine, His banner over me is love.”
Because the name Elul suggest a loving, intimate relationship with our Creator, Jewish sages have likened this forty day period when a king leaves his palace and throne and goes out into the fields to meet his people and relate to them on a personal basis. He is still king, but he has left his throne to be with his people. He is accessible to them and greets them with love and acceptance as one of their own in a way he could not do in his palace. But his presence is only for a short time and he returns to his palace where he is no longer accessible.
To prepare for the king’s coming, in this case the presence of God, the shofar is blown on the first morning of Elul until the morning before Rosh HaShanah, except the shofar is not blown on the Sabbath.
The Encyclopedia of Judaism says that the shofar, “calls upon sinners to repent, awakens thoughts of God’s sovereignty, justice, and redeeming power, and expresses the Jew’s hope that God will before long ‘sound the great shofar’ to herald deliverance and the ingathering of the exiles in the land of Israel.”
Rabbi Wayne Dosick comments that the sound of the shofar “serves as a warning to people to wake up out of their lethargy, to scrutinize their deeds, to improve their conduct, it serves as a prelude to God’s judgment; and it serves as a reminder that one day the Kingdom of God, the time of Messiah, will be announced to the whole world.”
Moses Maimonides, one of the greatest of Jewish sages wrote of the significance of the shofar, “Awake O you sleepers, awake from your sleep! Search your deeds and turn in repentance. … Look at your souls, and better your ways and actions. Let everyone of you abandon his evil ways and his wicked thoughts and return to God so that He may have mercy upon you.”
WOW – this is seriously seeking God. The good news is that the Lord has promised that He will reveal Himself to us if we will seek Him with our whole heart and soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). God makes this promise because He loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us. But we must seek Him and want that love relationship with Him.
For those of us who acknowledge Yeshua/Jesus as our King, we recognize that God loves us so much that He left His palace and throne in heaven and came to the field of our planet to reveal Himself to us. He was still God in heaven, but He prepared for Himself a body and entered the human race to be with us, to relate to us on a personal basis. He came out of Himself as one of our own. He was the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. We see a clear example of this when God appeared to Abraham in the form of a man in Genesis 18. The idea that God reveals Himself to us in ways we can relate to is seen throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. It is NOT an invention of the New Testament writers.
Through the person of Jesus of Nazareth, God became accessible to us on a personal and intimate basis that was not possible as long as He stayed in His palace in heaven. Yeshua/Jesus is our “King in the Field.” Everywhere Jesus went He greeted people with love and acceptance, except for the establishment of His day which refused to accept His announcement that the Kingdom of God, the time of Messiah had come. While the people loved and welcomed Jesus, the establishment crucified Him because He exposed their hate and hypocrisy. But even this was predicted by the prophets in such places as Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, Zechariah 12:10, etc.
Because Jesus was perfect without sin, death could not hold Him! After fulfilling the Sign of Jonah, Matthew 12:40, Jesus was resurrected and spent the next forty days teaching and showing Himself to His disciples. Did I say FORTY days? That’s right. The King in the Field spent forty days with His people. He then returned to His palace in heaven where He took His rightful place on the throne next to His Father as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Now if that is not enough, here is some more exciting news. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave us a great promise. He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).
Yeshua/Jesus promised that He would give us the Holy Spirit who would live in our hearts. The presence of the King in the Field would be with us always. As believers, we do not have to wait for a special month or time of the year for the King to be in the field to greet us. He lives in the field of our heart. He is not just with us; He is in us and we are in Him. The two of us have become one in a spiritual union. In this way, we always have access to our King. But we must prepare the field of our heart everyday by turning away from sin and the cultural bread and circus that hinders our love relationship with our King.
To enjoy His manifest presence living in us we must hear the sound of the shofar of God, the voice of His Spirit, calling us to an ever-deeper relationship with Him. May the King manifest His life, His love and His power every day in the field of your heart.