Ha'azinu / Shuvah
For the week of September 11, 2010 / 3 Tishri 5771
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-17


Blow the shofar in Zion... (Joel 2:5; translation mine) / Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, "Take away all iniquity..." (Hosea 14:2; ESV) / Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18; ESV)

Traditionally the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah (the Sabbath of Return) emphasizing one of the dominant themes of the High Holidays, being that of repentance or turning back to God and his ways.

Underlying the concept of return is the notion that our acts in the past need not determine our future. However broken our lives may be, God has made a way of repair and restoration. There is no sin too great that he will not forgive. No broken heart beyond his ability to repair. No pit so deep into which he is unwilling to dive in order to save us.

Because God has made sufficient provision for our sins, we have the opportunity to return to him. This reminder is dramatically presented to us year by year through the blowing of the shofar at Rosh Hashanah and the call to humble ourselves before him at Yom Kippur.

For some people the idea that the wrongs we have done in the past could ever be satisfactorily resolved is beyond comprehension. Things have gotten so bad that all we can hope for is to endure the consequences of our misdeeds and misfortunes. But the good news is that through the death and resurrection of the Messiah as foretold in the Tenach (Jewish Bible/Old Testament), the effects of human weakness and evil have been neutralized. In ways that we cannot fully comprehend, when we put our trust in Yeshua, we can fully experience the goodness of God regardless of anything we have done or whatever has happened to us. Whoever we are, if we follow Yeshua we can be confident of a positive eternity and enjoy a rich deposit of a most wonderful future here and now.

For others, it's not that we believe that our wrongs are greater than God's ability to deal with them. Rather, it's that we believe that our actions have no real consequences. Since we are simply the products of chance and random evolutionary process, life has no meaning. Therefore, things just happen; so get used to it.

But even those who view the world in this way know deep down that this way of thinking is not true. The depths of grief we experience due to our brokenness testifies that we are answerable for our actions, that life was not originally designed to be full of the pain, confusion, alienation, and devastation that is all too common. Human experience, though far from being an authoritative indication of truth, constantly reminds us that life does matter and actions have consequences. But without God and his promise of restoration, facing this only leads to despair.

Yet we needn't despair. Because of the graciousness of a loving God, we can return. We needn't resign ourselves to the inevitability of our life situations. No matter how far away from God we may be, the instant we turn to him, he immediately establishes us in right relationship with him. He has already done everything necessary to make this possible. Shuvah!

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