L’shana Tova. During our Rosh HaShanah services we read Twelve Reasons Why We Blow The Shofar. These reasons range from a reminder of the faithfulness of the patriarchs to the eventual end of all wars with the return of Messiah Yeshua. The reasons why we blow the Shofar may be varied, but the sound of the Shofar ringing in our ears is very straightforward and simple, it causes us to wake up and pay special attention to what is going on around us.
We all really need this kind of strong, unavoidable wake up. It is needed because we can spend most of our time on a sort of autopilot or sleepwalking. We just go through the routines of our lives, day in and day out. This cycle is only broken by deliberate planning of something different or a crisis that demands our attention. We are broken and the world we live in is broken and so it makes sense that many of us would rather distract ourselves or ignore what is going on around us. But Rosh Hashanah is a time for us to hear the Shofar and through the Lord’s power break the cycle of sin and mindlessness that ensnares us throughout the year.
So, this morning, Lord willing, I would to spend a few minutes discussing one of the ways the Shofar calls to us to break the cycles in our lives, through repairing our relationships with one another.
It is tradition that starting with Rosh Hashanah and continuing until Yom Kippur we spend this time during the Days of Awe apologizing, forgiving, and reconciling with one another. On Yom Kippur, we atone and reconcile with the Lord. We start first with reconciling with one another before we get right with Adonai, because that is the order presented to us in His Word. We read in Matthew 5:23-25 how Messiah Yeshua stresses the importance of restoring our relationships and not putting them off until later:
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca (a term of insult),’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.“
While we do not bring our sacrifices to the altar today, the principle of being reconciled to one another before seeking the Lord still stands. Messiah Yeshua makes it very clear in these verses that restoring our relationships is incredibly important to the Lord, and we are commanded to take this very seriously. The severity of His command is meant to wake us up to the importance of what He is saying, that restoring our relationships with one another when possible should not be something we put off, but should be a priority for us.
We need to understand that part of the Shofar’s call to repentance is also a call to reconciliation between one another. Through Messiah Yeshua we have complete forgiveness of our sins and restoration of our relationship with our Great Creator. It is because of this reconciliation, this restoration of our relationship with our Creator that we are inscribed forever in His book of life. But, this does not allow us to avoid working on our relationships with one another. This can be a very difficult command for us. I can confess that some years I find this harder to do than fasting.
I believe it’s true that many of us have no problem fasting and going through the liturgy for Yom Kippur, but avoid this important step of letting go of grudges and trying to restore our relationships with one another. It’s very easy to just demonize those who hurt or wrong us, to see them as caricatures, as Judas, Absalom, or any other villain in God’s Word. But if we are followers of Adonai then we need to push past this kind of thinking through the Holy Spirit and to try and make peace in our lives through reconciliation.
This week we all need to pray to the Lord to show us if there any relationships in our lives that need working on, people we need to reach out to. If there is anyone in our lives we need to apologize to or forgive, then we should not delay to do so like we have throughout the previous year. If we are holding grudges or hurts in our hearts, we need to ask the Lord to help us let them go and turn them over to Him. If it is not safe or possible to reconcile with someone in our lives, we can still let go of the hatred and hurt in our hearts through Adonai’s help.
This is one of the most important and hardest jobs for us to do as human beings. It is not natural for us to want to apologize or to reach out to those who have hurt us. There is a reason the Lord had to say repeatedly the importance of loving our enemies, because that is not something we are ever motivated to do on our own. We need to take seriously the command of Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Messiah God forgave you.
Now as I reach the end of our time together I need to say a very important word of caution. Much of the reconciliation between others talked about in Scripture involves relationships that can be safely worked out. In the passage from Matthew I read earlier it seems that the disputes involved can be resolved quickly enough that the gift can be left in front of the altar. However, we live in a very fallen world that is full of dangerous, abusive, and emotionally manipulative people. It is not always safe to approach others that have wronged us and seek to restore that relationship.
We do not have to put ourselves in danger to fulfill our Messiah’s command, and there are many times where it is appropriate to have a mature friend or family member advise and help us in our relationships with others.
Discerning friends and family members can be used by the Lord to accomplish His desire for reconciliation and forgiveness. They can give us perspective when we are blinded by our hurts and emotions. I am very grateful for the good council of brothers in the Lord that I have in my life, to check my pride and thinking when I really have needed it. It can be very hard to accept their words and advice but it has saved me from making serious mistakes, and helped me fix many problems. As we read in Proverbs 14, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
But even in the darkest and most painful of situations with the Lord’s help we can come to a place of peace and forgiveness with those who have deeply hurt us, whether we speak to them or not and whether or not they are still alive.
However, when situations are not incredibly severe and dangerous, when our willingness to reconcile has to do with our pride or the fact we feel we are in the right, we need to be willing to seek out our brothers and sisters and not cut them out of our lives. The Shofar’s call cuts through our pride and avoidance and wakes us up to our need to take this seriously.
So as we enter into the Days of Awe as we prepare for Yom Kippur let us take this opportunity to examine ourselves and our need for reconciliation, not just with the Lord, but also with one another. I pray that each on us may be inscribed once and for all time in the Book of Life through Messiah Yeshua. I also pray that each of us will do the hard prayerful work of forgiving and being reconciled to one another.