One of the main purposes of the sounding of the shofar on Yom Truah is to call us to repentance. Repentance means turning to God. Repentance involves turning away from a non-existent relationship with God, or a cold relationship with God, or a lukewarm relationship with God, and instead developing a close and vital and vibrant and warm and intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father. Repentance involves turning from dead religion, turning from sin, turning away from anything that displeases the Almighty, and turning to turning to righteousness, making a commitment to do the right things, and with God’s help, following through on that commitment.
The Creator is the Supreme Person. This supreme Being, who has mind, emotion and will is good and loving. And, He really wants to be close to us, and have a great and eternal relationship with His creatures who have been made in His image. But the Lord is a God of holiness. He does not like anything that is wrong, and can’t tolerate anything that goes against His upright and pure nature. Because it offends Him, He must reject those behaviors, attitudes and thoughts that are wrong. Because they displease Him, our sins separate us from our Creator. Our iniquities interfere with us having a good and close relationship with this holy and great God.
The Lord is holy, and if we are to have a relationship with Him He demands that we become holy. God is good, and if we are to enjoy His good company, He commands us to be good. God is perfect, and if we are to be close to the Perfect One, He expects us to be perfect.
When we are not holy, not good, not perfect, and we become aware of areas we are failing in, become cognizant of bad things we are doing and wrong things we are thinking, we need to turn away from those things and replace them with what is right.
This turning process – turning to God, turning away from dead religion and sin, (repentance) involves reflection and self-examination. Throughout the year, but especially at times like Yom Truah, we are to examine ourselves, our lives, our souls, the motivations of our hearts, our relationships with other human beings, and especially the real condition of our relationship with God, and figure out what we are doing right, and where we are falling short, where things are in good order, or out of order. If we discern that there are areas that aren’t right – wrong behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, we must turn away from them and replace them with right behaviors, attitudes and thoughts.
What is the foundation of our repentance? What enables us to turn to God, and truly get closer to Him, and be accepted by Him, and have the right kind of relationship with Him that we so desperately need? It is the activity of the Three-In-One God graciously working on our behalf.
It is the grace of God, the unearned, undeserved activity of God, that enables us to repent. Unless the Father draws us, we can’t turn to Him or come to Him. Unless the grace of God works through the enlightening and transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will not repent. Unless the Father reveals to us the truth about the coming and the incarnation and the death and resurrection and ascension of the Messiah, the One who is fully God and fully man, who is sinless, perfect, powerful and everlasting, who provides atonement, forgiveness, redemption, salvation and everlasting life, we will not properly repent.
What motivates us to repent? Quite a few things:
The desire to get closer to our Heavenly Father leads us to repentance. God is the Source of life, goodness, blessing, happiness, peace, joy and meaning. When we are not as close to God as we should be, and He is calling out to us, “seek My face” – come closer to Me, so we can be close friends, and enjoy each others friendship” – we want to respond and get closer to this glorious Being, and that involves repentance. Repentance enables us to have the kind of relationship with this good and magnificent God that we are designed to have, which is part of the very purpose for our existence.
When we know what our righteous Messiah Yeshua did for us, we want to repent: leaving the pleasures and honors of Heaven, coming to Earth, taking on a human body that was subject to weakness and pain, surrounded by sinful human beings, being rejected by men, oppressed, humiliated, subject to shame and suffering, and then dying a horrible death on the cross, for us, motivated by His love for us, out of love and gratitude we should want to repent.
When we know God’s Holy and Righteous Spirit is living in us, we don’t want to say or think or do anything that would grieve Him, and we are motivated to repent.
We are motivated to repent by the desire to have a clean conscience. A clean conscience is like enjoying rain after a drought, having a cold, clear glass of water after working hard on a hot day. It is wonderful, refreshing, exhilarating, peace-generating and satisfying knowing that nothing is bothering your conscience, nothing is interfering in your relationship with God, nothing is causing you feel shame, guilt or embarrassment, or feel like a hypocrite, or cause you to hesitate from getting closer to God. It feels so good to be right with God, knowing that all is well between you and your Creator. That desire to feel truly at peace, that all is well, makes us want to repent.
Bad things should lead us to repentance. Difficult circumstances and trials and judgments, if we cooperate with God’s purposes for them, can soften our hard hearts. The book of Judges records that when Israel was defeated by various enemies and humbled, we turned to God and His ways, and experienced renewal and revival. Therefore from time to time the good Lord, in His wisdom and mercy, will allow us to suffer.
Our trials may come about as the result of a natural consequence – hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods, or the human tragedies that result from war, crime or injustice. Our trials may come in the form of rejection, persecution, physical trials or emotional problems, financial stresses. Our trials may come as the result of the suffering or death of someone we love. Our trials may be hard ones or easier ones, longer ones or shorter ones. When we go through trials, we don’t get angry at God, but try to understand what He may be doing, and examine ourselves, and humble ourselves, and purify our lives, so we can fully turn to Him.
God’s goodness leads us to repentance. When we understand the good things that the Lord has done, is constantly doing for us, and will do for us, we want to repent. He created us in His image, so that we are persons who can love, reason, feel, think, will, and make good decisions. He blessed us with talents and abilities. He has enabled us to create and enjoy families and children, uplifting thoughts, great ideas, beautiful music, noble art, inspiring drama, great literature and amazing scientific discoveries. He has made us just a little lower than God, crowned with glory and majesty!
Yes, God’s goodness leads us to repentance. When we understand that all the good things we can enjoy – the ability to enjoy the wonders of creation – the glories of the cosmos, the millions of fascinating kinds of plants and animals, insects, birds, reptiles, fish, the varied environments, the land and water and rivers, seas and oceans, the fruitful plains and lofty mountains, all the multitudinous riches found in nature; the ability to enjoy good food and drink, have interesting and meaningful relationships with other human beings – all these good things should make our souls want turn to God.
God’s goodness leads us to repentance. Those of us who are committed to Yeshua are the Father’s beloved and eternal sons and daughters, co-heirs of the universe to come – along with Messiah Yeshua, recipients of His Holy Spirit, who is living in us, transforming us, guiding us and teaching us. The Lord is constantly helping us, protecting us, providing for us, saving us, forgiving us, redeeming us, justifying us, glorifying us, completing us, and bestowing upon us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places – these good things cause us to turn to and get nearer to the Source of them all.
Knowledge of reality should lead us to repentance. Knowing that God is good and yet holy; that God is merciful and yet righteous; that God is forgiving and yet a fearsome God and an all-consuming fire; knowing that He is all-knowing, and aware of our every sin, every impure thought, every corrupt motivation, every violation of His good commands, and that we can’t hide the smallest sin from Him, and ultimately He will reject sin and all human beings who cling to their sin and won’t turn away from it, and that what a man sows, that He will reap, and that death is certain, and that a Day is appointed for every human being to come before God, and experience His perfect and complete judgment, and He will judge us for our deeds, and that there really is a place reserved for those who displease the Lord – Gehenna, Hell, the Lake of Fire, and that the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter the wide gate, and the gate is small and the way narrow that leads to eternal life, and few are those who find it, and that the righteous will barely be saved – all this should lead us to repentance.
What motivates us to repent? The desire to one day be completely free from all sin, finally and fully totally pleasing to God, with all the things that are broken about me restored; enjoying the results of my labors – seeing all the people I helped direct to the Lord, people that I planted a seed of truth in, handed a pamphlet to, spoke to about God and Messiah and salvation – this makes us want to turn to God.
What motivates us to repent? The desire to live forever, with God with Father, with the Son of God who loves us and died for us, the desire to live with the holy men and women who have preceded us throughout the centuries, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah and Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, with Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, with Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, with all of holy prophets and saintly priests and courageous and faithful kings, with great men like John and Peter and the superlative Rabbi Paul, and all of the apostles, with family faithful family members and friends and mentors who have died before us, with Michael the Archangel, with Gabriel the heralding angel, and all the other millions of glorious and good angels, all of us together, forever, enjoying unending happiness in the New Heavens and the New Earth, experiencing everlasting life in the New Jerusalem – sons and daughters of God, without any pain, full of happiness, filled with purpose – all of this makes us want to turn to God.
May the good Lord draw us closer to Himself this holy season, and grant us the ability to turn to Him from the bottom of our hearts, so that we embrace the person and work of Messiah Yeshua, and are filled full with the Spirit of God!