Don’t worry, Rosh Hashanah is not a new disease; it’s the Jewish New Year, which begins tonight at sundown. A traditional greeting at this season is L’shanah tovah,” which means, “To a good year.” We eat apples and honey, honey cakes and sweets, all to wish each other a sweet New Year. Yet, Rosh Hashanah actually signals the beginning of a time of testing-spiritual testing, that is.
The blast of the shofar (ram’s horn) associated with this holy day calls us to a period of eight days of introspection and self-examination known as “the Days of Awe.” This time of reflection and repentance is to prepare us for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. At this season we test ourselves to see where we stand in our spiritual lives. We must examine our hearts to see if we are truly living for God as we should. If we discover sin in our lives (not too hard of a hunt for me) we need to repent of that sin and turn towards the Lord, seeking forgiveness and restoration.
But we can also find ourselves being tested by God in this season. His reasons for tests are not always clear to us right away. Testing is a fact of life. From the womb to the tomb we endure various kinds of tests. For some, life seems to be a constant test. Many wish for the time of testing and stress to be over for good. But God intends His testing to be a blessing that strengthens our faith and draws us closer to Him. God knows how to design a test that goes straight to the heart of a matter to accomplish His exact purposes.
Throughout Scriptures we see that God tested His people. Look at Abraham. It is traditional at this time of year for Jewish people to read “the Akeda” which means the binding of Isaac. Take encouragement from the fact that not only did Abraham endure the test (willingness to give up his only son), but as a result of passing that test, he received the precious promises of God, “. . . because you have done this thing,.blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. . .” (Gen.22:16b-17)
Today we all benefit from Abraham’s faithfulness, faithfulness in the midst of great testing. The binding of Isaac was a prefiguring of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) passion and suffering, as well as of His death and resurrection. It was predicted concerning the Messiah that God would test him in this way: “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” (Isaiah 53:10) We can only imagine the struggles Jesus endured, knowing what lay before Him. He told His disciples in advance of the emotional toll this test was having on Him. “. . . My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. . .” (Mark 14:34)
Our Messiah Yeshua endured a horrific test on our behalf. But because He endured and passed this terrible test, we who trust in Him stand forgiven and cleansed of all our sin. We have a hope that will never fade, a confidence of our eternal life with Him in glory. Our Day of Atonement came about when we trusted Messiah Jesus to be our Redeemer and Savior from sin. Now we can come before Him with the assurance of His grace each and every day of our lives.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to pause to reflect and test our hearts. Perhaps this season is a good time to do just that. Our confidence in God’s forgiveness doesn’t preclude us from being tested, and it may be that some are enduring difficult trials even now. The good news is that God promises to be with us and to help us endure, even as He helped Abraham and our Messiah Jesus to endure. As with Abraham and Yeshua, we can be sure that our testing is intended to produce good things: “You know that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:3) Knowing that God intends only good things for us, we are also instructed to “test ourselves to see if we are in the faith. . . ” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Lamentations tells us, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:40) Are you being tested this Rosh Hashanah? Don’t fear the test or try to avoid it. Instead, look for the blessing and find out what God intends to do through the test in your life. That kind of trust will help to make for a sweet New Year. L’Shanah Tovah!