Hosea 14:2–10, Return to YHVH. (See also Joel 2:15–27 and Mic 7:18–22.) This portion of scripture opens with the words “O Israel, Return [Heb. shuv] unto YHVH your Elohim, for you have fallen by your iniquity [Heb. avon meaning “perversity, depravity”].” This passage is part of the Haftorah reading, which is part of the additional scriptures that are read with Parashat Vayelekh or Parashat Ha’azinu on “Shabbat Shuva,” which is the traditional name given to the Shabbat just prior to Yom Kippur. This Shabbat falls during the time called the forty days of Teshuvah, which starts at the beginning of the sixth month (Elul) of the biblical calendar and continues through the first day of the seventh month (called Tishrei on the traditional Jewish calendar), which is the biblical holy day of Yom Teruah (the Day of Shofar Blowing), and ends ten days later at Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), which is the most solemn high holy day of the year for Bible believers.
This forty-day period is characterized by the Hebrew word teshuvah (Strong’s H8666 meaning “answer, return”), which derives from the common Hebrew verb shuv (Strong’s H7725) meaning “to turn back, to return, come or go back, restore, refresh, repair, bring back, reverse.” This same word is translated as return in the opening verse of this Haftorah portion (Hos 14:1).
In numerous places in Scripture, YHVH speaking through his prophets urges his backslid people to return to him. Why? Because YHVH made man in his image as an object of his love for him to have someone with whom to commune. The word commune means “to share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” The Christian religious service known as Communion where the bread and wine are partaken of representing the body and blood of Yeshua derives from this word. The heart of our Almighty Father in heaven is to be one with his people, yet he is totally sinless and righteous, and our sin keeps us from him. So when he asks his people in numerous instances throughout Scripture to return to him, it is out of the Father’s heart of love.
Do those who are spiritually backslid realize the true condition of their spiritual state? They probably do not. The prophets of old who attempted to warn YHVH’s people of their sinful state were rejected, ridiculed, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Do you like it when someone points out your sins to you? What is your response? Probably the same as mine: anger, self-justification and defense, excuses, blaming others, and arrogance. Yet in these last days, YHVH is still urging his people to repent and to return to him. Each year, the faithful of YHVH, in preparation for the fall feasts (which are all prophetic shadow-pictures portending the return of Yeshua), spend forty days searching their hearts for sin, seeking the face of YHVH, and crying out to him for his mercy and grace in preparation for his return and their inclusion in his kingdom.
The sixth month is traditionally referred to by its non-biblical Aramaic name Elul. Some rabbinical sources see this word as an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” which is a quote from Song of Songs 6:3, where the beloved is YHVH and the “I” is YHVH’s people. In Aramaic (the vernacular of the Jewish people at the time that this month gained its name), the word Elul means “search,” which is appropriate, because this is a time of year when we search our hearts.
During the month of Elul, our focus is to be on repentance (turning away from sinful behavior), restoration and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The bride must make herself ready. In order to repent one must understand that Scripture defines sins as the violation of YHVH’s Torah, or instructions or teachings in righteousness (1 John 3:4). Traditional Jewish thought characterizes sin as “a failure in our relationship with Elohim.” Our goal should be to continually move closer to Elohim, but “chet” is behavior which causes us to move away from Elohim.
If YHVH requires his people to turn away from sin and turn to righteousness (the act of which is called repentance), then what is therefore involved in repentance? Again, in Hebraic thought, repentance (Heb. teshuvah) literally means “to return.” Biblically, it means “to return to Elohim” and to the behavior required of us by Elohim; in other words, return to obedience to his Torah-commandments. We must deeply regret our movement away from Elohim, and at the same time be grateful that YHVH has provided the way for our return to him and he tells us that when we repent, he will forgive us immediately.
According to Scripture, there are, however, several basic steps to repentance:
- We must confess our sin before YHVH (Lev 5:5; Num 5:7).
- We must turn from our sins and resolve to stop sinning.
- We must manifest heartfelt regret for our wrong actions by evidencing remorse and contrition before YHVH and our fellow man, if applicable.
- An offering of the legally prescribed sacrifice must be made for the sin (Lev 5:1–19). Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, became that sacrifice for our sin once and for all when he died on the cross (Isa 53:5; Heb 4:14–5:10; 7:14–8:6; 9:11–10:22).
- When we have sinned against our fellow man, not only is confession and forsaking that sin required, but we must make restitution in full for whatever has been wrongfully obtained or withheld from one’s fellow man (Lev 6:1–7; Matt 5:23–25).
- We must then accept our Heavenly Father’s unconditional mercy and grace (Ps 103:3–4, 10–17).
What are the benefits of repentance? Repentance leads to a restoring of relationship with YHVH Elohim, our fellow man, and a cleared conscience for us. Furthermore, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews informs us that the doctrine of repentance is one of the foundational doctrines of biblical faith (Heb 6:1). There are tremendous spiritual benefits from repentance. Verses four through nine of Hosea 14 give some additional blessings that are the result of repentance.