. Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.'
As he terminated his task of writing the Torah, Moses commanded the children of Israel that, at the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing (Deuteronomy 31:10-11). At the return from the Babylonian captivity, under the strong unabashed leadership Ezra and Nehemiah, we learn of a contrite Israel gathering as one man at the newly rebuilt temple during the Feast of Booths to listen to the Words of the Torah (Nehemiah 8).
At that time, Hebrew was no more the fluent language of the Children of Israel, but Aramaic. The text tells us that certain of the priests “helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading”.
When Ezra opened the scroll and blessed the God who had allowed them to return home, the people “bowed their heads and worshiped Adonai with their faces to the ground”. The emotion was so strong that even though the Feast of Booths is a festival of joy, the people wept and Nehemiah had to command them to rejoice. Why did they weep? It seems that the Spirit of God was doing its job convicting Israel of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16.8).
Reading Scripture should convict us. Oh yes, as we read the admonishing Text of Scripture we can easily justify, exonerate and absolve ourselves from guilt and responsibility. Like Paul on the road to Damascus we can “kick against the pricks” of conviction (Acts 9:5 KJV), but ultimately, true repentance, true return towards the Father does not happen until, even though we have sorely suffered loss as the results of our foolishness, we put down all our self-justification mechanisms, run back home, and prostrate to the ground in utter vulnerability saying, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son' (Luke 15:21.
As we realize the error of our way, as we weep worm tears of repentance, we will realize that the Father Himself is crying, He is crying tears of joy having lived in mourning and never comforted Himself since our departure.
May it be as this season of renewal and repentance approaches, as we hear the words of Torah, that we let them sink into our hearts and allow the Spirit of God to convict us of our ways. As we hear the divine utterances, may we weep warm tears of repentance that we may enter the season of the Festival of Booths with the joy of a Father having killed the ‘fattened calf’ for us.