As we approach the month of Elul we traditionally get ready to search our hearts and to turn to our G-d. When we look at the word “Elul,” it is similar to the root of the verb “search” in Aramaic. The Rabbis usually connect “Elul” to the idea of searching our hearts and preparing ourselves for the High Holy Days. This year, however, I am struck with the idea that He, our great, sovereign, all powerful G-d, searches for us.
We usually think about “pursuing G-d,” but we forget that He has always been on a quest to find us, restore us to Himself, and have intimacy with us. We are the ones who are on the run, running away from Him. Whether it is our shame from the state that we are in, or our rebellion, we tend to turn away from G-d. If we look at Luke 15:3-5, we see the dilemma G-d has with us.
“And He told them this parable, saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.'” (Luke 15:3-5)
Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective, notes that “The emphasis of this parable is on being lost because of the sheep’s tendency to stray.” This is the difficulty that G-d has with us, because we wander away, straying away from Him. Even though He is the good shepherd and will protect us, feed us, and care for us, we don’t realize the depth of His love.
According to tradition, the word “Elul,” is an acronym of “Ani l’dod v’dodi li” – “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine – from Song of Songs 6:3. This acronym lays out an important truth that is sometimes difficult for us to believe, that we are the Beloved’s and He is ours. Notice that we are His possession first. In 1 John 4:19 it says, “We love, because He first loved us.” Even though we have strayed away, He continues to search for us.
G-d is willing to undertake this quest to find us because we are a loved and prized possession. In Luke 15:8-10, Yeshua tells us a second parable: “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!'” (Luke 15:8-10)
In this parable it is not enough to have the nine coins, she engages in a search to find the tenth coin and labors by sweeping to find it. Just as a broom sweeps the dust into a pile and then is lifted off the floor, our G-d has swept us and drawn us to Him. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
This love that our G-d has for us is an unmerited love. It is a love that “extends to the heavens.” (Psalm 36:5) The following story is a true story that gives us a glimpse into the love that I’m talking about. My sister told me that a local road in my town was backed up with traffic, which was unusual. Horns were being honked and people were starting to get out of their cars. Then she saw what was causing the problem. There, in the middle of the road, was a sandhill crane flapping its wings and circling its mate that had been hit by a car. The injured crane lay crumpled on the ground, not moving as its mate hovered over it, letting out shrieks that made the people around them shiver. It would nudge the injured crane and then lift up its head again, crying out in distress. There was no consoling this crane as it mourned its mate. Death would separate them forever.
When my sister told me this story, my eyes filled with tears. I thought about the awful separation of these birds. The heartbreak that this crane felt as it mourned its mate is just a small taste of what our G-d feels when we reject Him and choose our own way. He wants us to choose Him! He doesn’t want you and me to keep running away from Him, but to run towards Him.
During this month of Elul, let us stop running and come with open hearts to the One who never stops searching for us.
Diana Levine is the Rebbetzin of Kol Mashiach Messianic Synagogue in Melbourne, Florida. One of her favorite activities that she enjoys is studying the word and then sharing the nuggets with anyone who’ll listen. She has spoken at national and regional conferences, retreats, bible studies, and is an avid blogger. She is also the co-founder of the Daughters of Righteousness Conference. Books, travel, amazing food, and great conversation are some of the things that make her happy.