By Rev SEIK PITOI
IN last week’s article, we looked at the Feast of Trumpets and its significance to the days we are living in.
We saw that indeed, we are living in perilous times and the blare of the trumpet can be clearly and distinctively heard.
In fact, last Friday’s date was Sept 11 – or 911! It was 19 years ago on that day that terrorists from the Moslem extremist group Al Qaeda attacked America on her own soil through the suicidal crashing of four hijacked aeroplanes. The first attack saw two planes crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, a third plane hit the Pentagon outside Washington DC, and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Almost 3,000 people were killed during the 911 attacks. That attack should keep sounding in our ears like a loud trumpet blast, sounding a warning for what other dangers may lie ahead.
The day we discussed last week, the Feast of Trumpets, actually begins at sundown today, Friday, Sept 18. It continues right through to sundown tomorrow (Saturday, Sept 19). In last week’s article, I explained a bit about the meaning of the feast so I will not repeat it here.
In today’s article, though, I will teach about the period of repentance that comes after the Feast of Trumpets. This period of repentance (teshuva) commences at Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets) right through to Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) on Sept 28. This 10-day period is called the “Ten Days of Awe” or “Ten Days of Repentance”.
It is a time when the Jewish people meditate on the subject of the holidays and ask for forgiveness from anyone they have wronged. Fractured relations are salvaged and forgiveness is released and received in order for one to be forgiven and cleansed in preparation for entering the joyous season of Tabernacles. There are spiritual principles that we can glean from this practice that we can implement in our lives today as Christians. As we are told, what the scriptures record for us in the Old Testament are for our learning and edification (Romans 15:4).
Clarion call to repentance
The call to repentance is the clarion call to the Church of God, and to the nation, in this period of Trumpets. It is primarily a call to the church and I will explain why later. But from the sounding of the shofar at 6pm this evening, the 10 days of awe commence.
Yes, we had our own PNG Repentance Day on Aug 26, but I believe if we have been serious in that call to repent, we should be ready to be ushered into the Biblically mandated season of making teshuva. The Hebrew word, teshuva, literally means ‘return’. It is one element of atoning for sin in Judaism. There are four steps that one is encouraged to observe in making teshuva. Known as the four “R”s, they are:
- Responsibility – we must recognise that we have done wrong, therefore we must take responsibility for our actions.
- Remorse/Regret – we must have true remorse for doing wrong and for the pain and problems we have caused.
- Resolve – we must be committed to never repeat the act regardless of the situations that arise.
- Restitution/Repair – this is the most difficult to do. It involves swallowing one’s pride and apologising directly to the injured party. It also includes doing practical things to repair the damage done and salvage the relationship, where possible.
On a personal level, all the above are necessary in order to restore broken relationships. Fractures among family and friends can be mended using these steps, but remember, there are two parties to every problem. Apologising and reaching out a hand in friendship is great but whether the other party comes along to the table or not is another issue. In any case, we should do what we can do, and allow God to handle the rest.
But what happens when the ‘injured’ party is the Lord? What happens when it is His word we have trounced, His Spirit we have quenched and His love we have spurned? Just like everything else in life, there are ramifications for our actions. When it comes to breaking God’s covenant, if we are His people, then we too must expect consequences.
We are not exempt. As such, repentance towards Him is necessary. But why are we saying the act of repentance must come primarily from the People of God, the Church? Let’s look at a popular Scripture we should all be familiar with in all repentance services:
If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
Condition for repentance
After King Solomon concluded the prayer of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, God appeared to him and gave this powerful word, setting a condition for prayer and repentance that He would seek, emanating from that temple, when Israel had sinned. He also states the consequences for their sins.
Notice the similarities today:
Who is the temple today? Individually, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 6:19), but collectively, “we are the temple of the Living God” (verse 16). So God is interested with the prayers of His people, His Church/Temple, on earth.
Now look at the context in verse 13: no rain (water shortage in many parts of the world resulting in extreme heat and bushfires, apart from the obvious effects of no rain – ironically we also see flooding elsewhere), locusts devouring the land (2020 is known as the year of the locusts with unprecedented attacks where they have stripped away acres of food crops in just a few minutes), and pestilence (Hebrew = deh’-ber) meaning plague, disease, epidemic \ pandemic), with Covid19 being the main contender at the moment.
So this is the context. We are having all these issues take place in our world today. And now, God sets the condition: “If” gives the condition. “My people”. The operative word is “My”. His people then was Israel; now it is the Church. So the call is on the Church in the first instance, not to the corrupt politician, filthy adulterer or hardened criminal. Their destiny outside of Christ is already set. It is to us, the Church, that the call comes.
Now the Church is required to:
a) Humble themselves – not beating our chests saying we will not be touched by coronavirus because we are Christians or ‘God’s special race’ who are ‘immune’! How foolish is that! So many foolish statements flooding social media by people who never find themselves on their knees repenting, but are quick to claim the credit! Many powerful Christians are praying all over the world for their nations, yet the virus marches on. Even God’s people in Israel are struggling. But we in PNG are to do the right thing by following protocols set for us, which calls for our humility, and at the same time, fall before God in humility to beseech Him to keep the hand of the enemy at bay. Faith in God and common sense action is the way to go.
b) Pray – we can only pray effectively after we humble ourselves. We know on our own, we are nothing. We need Him. We need His grace and mercy. We cry out to God in prayer for our nation.
c) Seek His face – We are quick to seek His hand to take action. We seek His power and deliverance. But the Hebrew meaning of face (pa?n??ym) refers to His presence. We pray not just to do a quick job of spitting out our needs to Him, but to dwell in His presence forever. It’s in His presence that we can know the mind of Christ, and feel His heartbeat. Seek His face, not His hand!
d) Turn from their wicked ways – “Turn from” comes from the word for repentance in the Greek, metanoeo?, and it means literally to ‘change one’s mind’ or to turn 180 degrees around the other way! It is pictured by lying prostrate before the Throne of God!
The Church repent? I thought the Church is a Godly called out people whose sins have been forgiven. What will we repent of? Well, look at the chaotic mess called the Church today. Adultery and sexual sins plague the church, stealing money, fleecing the flock, playing politics and nepotism on all levels. God’s people have brought disrepute to the name of the God we worship. Yet, God knows our frailty. He knows we are but mere flesh. That is why He gives us a door to return to Him. That is why the Church is called to repent for her sins.
At the same time, the nation is called to repent. PNG is not the holy ‘people of God’ some will have us believe! We are a fallen people (Gen 3), who have nothing much to boast about apart from the grace of God. We, our government, politicians and the grassroots people of this nation in general have sinned. We have shed innocent blood, stolen land from the locals, raped, murdered, committed sexual immorality, hade lawmakers abuse the very uniforms they wear, treated our womenfolk like rubbish – and then flooded into churches on Saturday and Sunday! What hypocrites. Yes, this nation needs to repent – but God has His people who must take the first step – and that is to repent in proxy, or on behalf of this nation. It’s on the back of some powerful intercession and repentance that God is holding this nation together!
Notice that the first and last points are like bookends. We begin with humbling ourselves and end with falling on our faces before God. Then as we pray and seek His face, God responds with power. He now promises the three results of our repentance:
He will hear from heaven (God will answer our prayers); He will forgive our sin (Calvary has provided for that, we just need to receive it by faith as we pray), and He will heal our land (by turning around the effects of the devastations of the elements and plagues).
God is bigger than Covid19, law and order problems and a crumbling economy. Our job is to turn to Him in repentance and prayer. Indeed, the Church in PNG will stand strong to the end, by His grace. The Lord Jesus promised that not even the gates of hell shall prevail against us (Matt 16:18).
And as He forgives us by His mercy, He will hold back the hand of the enemy so His repentant Church will rise up in the terminal hour and declare the love and mercy of God to this nation. Then the curtain of time will be drawn shut!
The trumpet is sounding, calling for repentance and prayer. May we as His people be obedient to the sound of His voice today!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.