Shabbat Shuvah: Three Portraits of Grace and Repentance

Shabbat Shuvah means the Sabbath of Repentance or Return. It is the Sabbath between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It is this Sabbath, October 4, 2008.

The following are notes from part of our synagogue’s Torah study for this weekend…

Hosea 14:2-10(1-9); Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27
Haftarah VaYeilekh

Three Portraits of Grace and Repentance
Coming as they do during the days of awe and specifically on Shabbat Shuvah (the Sabbath of Repentance), these three prophetic portions are read to teach us what repentance means and how God shows us grace. Grace is undeserved favor and we should not imagine that our repentance makes us deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift.

Hosea: The Wisdom of Returning
Hosea, a prophet to the northern kingdom shortly before Assyria come to destroy, gave Israel a four-part message:

14:2-4(1-3), Bring words of repentance and return to God, rejecting all idols and reliance on human power.

14:5-8(4-7), God will heal and restore you to a place of love, blessing, and divine protection.

14:9(8), You need God and not idols.

14:10(9), Those who are wise understand the need for repentance and rejection of idols, even in an unwise generation.

Micah: The Miracle of Forgiveness
Micah, prophet to the southern kingdom in days of apostasy, gave us instruction about the wonder of God’s gracious pardon. God prefers mercy to judgment and easily forgives. God attacks iniquity when we return to him, destroying the record of our judgment. God desires to restore and reconcile, not remember past offenses.

Joel: Weeping Turns to Rejoicing
Joel, whose era is not known, gave to Israel a message of contrition, deep sorrow over sin, followed by God’s fierce love and blessing:

2:15-17, Joel calls for a public display of emotional repentance. This repentance is characterized by a gathering of everyone, great and small, and the weeping and intercession of leaders for the people.

2:18-27, God’s response to this contrition is jealous or fierce love. The idea is that God longs to see his people restored with an emotional fervency. When the people cry out with emotion, God reacts in kind, loving and restoring with zeal. God will restore his people to blessing if repentance is real.

Lessons From the Texts

• Hosea emphasizes sole allegiance in returning from idols to God where Joel emphasizes emotional contrition. Hosea’s emphasis is on the will and Joel on the emotions, yet both are teaching repentance. Their instructions add to each other, giving us a full picture of repentance as a choice and a deep-felt need.

• Hosea and Joel both speak of healing and restoration, but Micah emphasizes the grace behind the very idea of divine forgiveness. In Hosea God promises to turn from anger and in Joel, God is jealous to restore his people, but in Micah, God is unique among all the deities of religion for his eagerness to show devotion and love. God’s mercy is greater than his judgment.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Holidays, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Theology, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

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