We're just a few days into the Jewish month of Elul. It's a quiet month. No official feasts or fasts.
So all eyes and hearts rest quietly, looking forward with anticipation to the first day of next month.
When the blast of the ram's horn will shatter the silence on Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets.
When those startling blasts will then propel us into ten days of repentance building up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
When we will close that holiest and most somber day on the calendar in one congregational voice, fervently praying to be sealed in God's Book of Life.
And when we will collectively exhale after one long, last blast of the shofar.
Rabbis use a parable to teach that during this tranquil month, God is like the ancient kings, who would leave their thrones and walk through the fields as they made their way into the city, receiving anyone who wanted to draw near and speak with him before he returned to the palace.
This teaching puts human flesh on our Divine King, reminding us of God's desire to be fully and personally accessible to the people He loves. Reminding us, during this month before the anxiety of atonement, that God is for us. Wanting us to know, before stepping back on His throne - the judgement seat of the High Holy Days - that judgement is not God's default. Chesed - lovingkindness - is.
In fact, this parable was inspired by God's thirteen attributes of mercy, derived from His words to Moses as His glory passed by that hiding place in the rock.*
Then he passed in front of Moses, calling out, “The Lord, the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God, patient, always faithful and ready to forgive. He continues to show his love to thousands of generations, forgiving wrongdoing, disobedience, and sin. Exodus 34:6-7a GW
This rich illustration not only reminds us of God's compassion as we approach the days of repentance and atonement, but it also points to the reality that the Most High God initiates relationship with people. Pursues people. All people. Even us ordinary people working in dusty fields. For me, the parable also made the judgment throne of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur loom less scary, more merciful.
Now, as a Jewish believer in Jesus, I love this parable all the more, because it paints such a beautiful and perfect picture of the Messiah. Who left His throne - not in parable but in reality - to walk the fields of the earth with us in literal - not parable - flesh. To welcome anyone and everyone who wished to approach Him, no matter what field they called home. To show the way of mercy.
It's only fitting, then, that in Aramaic - Jesus' everyday earthly tongue - Elul means "search." Because He left that heavenly throne room for the sole purpose of searching us out. To not just walk the fields and let people approach. But to approach us. To seek and to find us wherever we're stuck or scared, lost or hiding, wondering or wandering. To find us and walk the road alongside us, showing us the way home. Our eternal home, that He's preparing for us even now.**
On this side of the Cross, every month is like the month of Elul. Because the King is still in the field. Drawing us to Himself with compassion through His Spirit. Lingering in the fields, until that final day. Not wanting anyone to miss their moment to join Him. To enter the sanctuary eternal at His side.
The King is in the field.
** John 14:2-3