by John Parsons
Hebrew for Christians
The theme of the High Holy Days is teshuvah (הָ ובּשְּ ֹח ,(a Hebrew word often
translated as “repentance,” though more accurately understood as turning back
(shuv) to God. In spiritual terms, teshuvah may be regarded as a practical
turning away from evil and a turning toward the good, though it is simpler to
regard turning to God as the means by which we turn away from evil. Indeed,
the Greek word translated repentance (meta´noia) means going beyond our
habitual thinking, changing our mind, and learning to see from a radically
new perspective. As we look to God, we begin to see that “everything is
new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Teshuvah (repentance) believes that the kindness of God can give life to our
dead hearts, and therefore it is first of all a matter of faith, trusting God to
perform the miracle for us. However, even though it is a great gift from Heaven,
repentance requires honesty and acknowledgment of the truth. We must confess
our inner poverty, our neediness, and mourn the loss and harm caused by our
sin (Matt. 5:1–12). Repentance turns away from attempts to defend or justify
ourselves and instead turns to God to heal our separation from Him (Rom. 8:3–4).
Teshuvah buries our old nature when we are made into a new creation.
Yeshua illustrated the heart behind teshuvah in the story of the “prodigal son”
(Luke 15:11–32). After squandering his inheritance from his father, the wayward
son returned home, full of shame and self-reproach. “But while he was still
a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he
ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The father ordered
a celebratory meal in honor of his son’s homecoming. When the older brother
objected, the father said, “We had to celebrate and be glad, for your brother
was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
This parable reveals that teshuvah ultimately means returning to the compassionate
arms of your Heavenly Father. God sees you while you are still “a long way
off” (Rom. 5:8). He runs to you with affection when you begin to turn your heart
toward Him. Indeed, God’s compassion is so great that He willingly embraces
the shame of your sins and adorns you with “a fine robe, a ring, and sandals.”
Your Heavenly Father even slaughters the “fatted calf” (Yeshua) so that a meal celebrating your life may be served. Amen. Teshuvah is a gift from God and the very reason that we celebrate the High Holidays.