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D'varim/Deuteronomy 30:8 And you, you shall return and listen to the voice of Adonai
A number of the rabbis let this verse pass without comment, butSforno makes an important connection to the words of the prophet Isaiah: "For thus the L-rd G-d, the Holy One of Israel, has said: 'In repentance [lit. returning] and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength'" (Isaiah 30:15, NASB). In both cases the verb , "to turn, return, repent", is used. In our context, Moshe is speaking prophetically of a time after the curses of the previous chapters have been worked out on the people of Israel and the people are in exile among the nations (30:1), G-d will be gathering the people back to the Land (30:5) and will place the curses upon the nations who have persecuted and pursued Israel (30:7). As the prophet Jeremiah prophesied: "'For I am with you', declares the L-rd, 'to save you; for I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you'" (Jeremiah 30:11, NASB).
In the Isaiah context, however, the prophet is warning the southern kingdom, Y'hudah, against making an alliance with Egypt. Y'hudah is in trouble politically and militarily and G-d is reminding the people He told them that He was their strength and that they should have had faith in Him; as they would not listen and insisted on going their own way, they would discover that Egypt would fail them. Sforno, however, sees this as a messianic prediction; he says: "This will come to pass when Messiah the Righteous One will reveal himself following the destruction of the nations." This is very much in line with the prophecies found in Zechariah and Dani'el.
T'shuvah, that is repentance, a returning to G-d, is crucial to our relationship with G-d. As the fifth stanza of theAmidah says: "Cause us to return, O our Father, to Your Torah; draw us near, O our King, to Your service, and bring us back in perfect repentance into Your presence. Blessed are You, O L-rd, who delights in repentance" (Hertz). Both Yeshua and Yochanan the Immerser began their ministries with the cry to "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17; 3:2). Judaism sees repentance as a two-part process; while sorrow and regret over sin - not forgetting any necessary restitution - are the first step, it is not enough simply to be and say 'sorry'; the second component is a turning around from a path of sin away from G-d, and an active return to G-d and following His commandments. That is why the Amidah can pray for repentance each and every day: we always need G-d to keep us turned in His direction and to be drawing us ever closer into His presence; perfect repentance being that point when we are always in His presence and are so focussed on Him that we have no desire to turn away.
It is a traditional teaching within Orthodox Judaism that every Jew is to engage in Tikkun Olam - fixing the world - so that Messiah will be able to come. But every believer, whatever their eschatalogical view, is called to participate in that task. Speaking to the people in the Temple by way of an explanation after he and Yochanan had healed the lame beggar at the Gate Beautiful, Kefa said: "Therefore, repent and turn to G-d, so that your sins may be erased; so that times of refreshing may come from the L-rd's presence, and He may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Yeshua" (Acts 3:19-20, CJB). In a very real way then, the way we hasten the L-rd's return is by working on and perfecting our repentance, our return to G-d and encouraging others to do likewise.
Further Study: Jo'el 2:12-14; Romans 2:4
Application: So how are you doing in your own path of repentance? Have you passed the point of simply saying 'sorry' and knowing G-d's forgiveness? Are you now pushing on into G-d's presence, determined to know Him in Messiah Yeshua and spurning all distractions and preoccupations to know only Him?
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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