On August 23 we entered into Elul, the 6th month of the year on the calendar God assigned to Israel in Exodus 12:2. Elul is also the 12th month of the year on Israel’s civil calendar that some rabbis teach was observed in ancient times by the rest of the world. In this present age, Israel operates on both calendars. (The country adheres to most aspects of the Gregorian calendar as well.)
Elul comes after the heat – and often warfare – of Tammuz and Av, but before the judgment associated with the month of Tishrei. It is regarded as a month of transition. According to Jewish tradition, God gives special grace to repent or re-align our hearts with His during Elul. One reason is that, although the definition of “Elul” is uncertain, the word is an acronym for Song of Solomon 6:3: Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li. (“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”)
The 40 day grace period from the start of Elul to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is known as the season of Teshuvah. Teshuvah means to repent or return [to God]. Daily, observant Jews blow the shofar and offer up selichot prayers of repentance. (Selicha is also the modern Hebrew word for “pardon” or “excuse me.”) Some believe it was during these 40 days that Moses interceded for the children of Israel after the sin of the golden calf and that, many years later, Yeshua was tempted in the wilderness. But the Scriptures do not reveal this for sure.
In any case, during this special season — or even if you don’t think it special — why not let God lovingly re-align your heart with His? Surrender anything He shows you that hinders intimacy with Him. Renounce and turn from sin that blocks fulfillment of your destiny. Remember that He created you for holy fellowship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He longs to be your greatest joy.
Why the tradition, “The King is in the field”?
Jewish tradition teaches the month of Elul is a time of visitation by our King. This is based on Ecclesiastes 5:8: “There is profit in the land over all else, for the king is sustained by the field.” In Elul, the heat and warfare of summer subsides. The kingdom’s final, seasonal harvest is at hand. It is time for the king to inspect and evaluate the fruitfulness of his kingdom. So he leaves the palace where he is generally unapproachable, to personally visit his fields. There he can be freely approached. He actually invites his workers to engage with him.
Judaism (not Scripture directly) infers that during Elul, God uniquely meets us in our everyday field of labor or service to Him. In the course of seemingly mundane or difficult work, He draws especially near. He wants to hear your heart. He wants you to hear His.
If you are a follower of Yeshua, “do not let anyone judge you … with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” (Colossians 2:16, see also Galatians 4:10) Your salvation does not depend on your observation of feasts and celebrations. But your walk with YHVH can be beautifully enhanced if you embrace certain days and seasons in a spirit of worship and truth.
Now is an ideal time to intentionally engage the reality of His presence that is with you always. Let His grace refresh you from the heat of summer and any warfare you have faced. Let His nearness and goodness encourage you. He wants to ready you for even a greater level of fruitfulness. For an abundant, final harvest is at hand! (Picture is of the classic “Song of the Lark” by Jules Breton.)
Engaging with Psalm 27
The practice of reciting Psalm 27 each day in Elul arose in the 1700’s. We do not know for sure how this relatively new tradition developed, but it has become commonplace.
We do know the psalm expresses aspects of God’s character traditionally associated with the month of Elul. It takes us from the heat of battle to the sanctuary of God’s intimate presence. It closes with prayers for deliverance and declarations of trustful waiting on YHVH, who is forever faithful. Psalm 27 beautifully encompasses the span of human emotion associated with Elul.
This month, Psalm 27 is being proclaimed throughout Israel. Please pray this Scripture will beckon Jewish hearts into a personal encounter with God’s love, revealed in Messiah. And may the psalm deeply encourage your own heart this month.
“Adonai is my light and my salvation: whom should I fear? Adonai is the stronghold of my life: whom should I dread? When evildoers approached me to devour my flesh —my adversaries and my foes— they stumbled and fell. Though an army camp besieges me, my heart will not fear. Though war breaks out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing have I asked of Adonai, that will I seek: to dwell in the House of Adonai all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Adonai, and to meditate in His Temple. For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His sukkah [tabernacle], conceal me in the shelter of His tent, and set me high upon a rock. Then will my head be high above my enemies around me. In His tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy. I will sing, yes, sing praises to Adonai! Hear, Adonai, when I call with my voice, be gracious to me and answer me. [My heart says of] You: “Seek [His] face.” Your face, Adonai, I seek. Do not hide Your face from me. Do not turn Your servant away in anger. You have been my help. Do not abandon me or forsake me, O God my salvation. Though my father and my mother forsake me, Adonai will take me in. Teach me Your way, Adonai, and lead me on a level path— because of my enemies. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes. For false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. Surely I trust that I will see the goodness of Adonai in the land of the living. Wait for Adonai. Be strong, let Your heart take courage, and wait for Adonai.” (Tree of Life Version)