“These are the regulations for any diseased person at the time of their ceremonial cleansing, when they are brought to the priest: The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them …”—Leviticus 14: 2–3
The Hebrew month of Elul, which means “search,” is a time of intense soul-searching and repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Elul is also a time to begin the process of asking for forgiveness for wrongs done to others. This is one of 13 devotions on repentance and forgiveness. To learn more about the shofar, which is blown every weekday during Elul¸ download our complimentary Bible study.
In the first few verses of Leviticus, Chapter 14, we read about the healing process of a diseased individual who has been forced to live in isolation until he is completely cured. Verse two begins by outlining the procedure for cleansing when the diseased person is “brought to the priest.” However, verse three begins, “The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them . . .” Did you catch the contradiction? Which is it? Does the diseased person go to the priest or does the priest go to the afflicted person?
The answer is both.
A similar contradiction is found in the book of Lamentations: “Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return” (5:21). Are we asking for God to return us to Him by changing us from the inside out so that repentance is easy and natural for us? Or are we saying that we will return to God on our own, no matter how difficult that may be?
Again the answer is both. We ask that God both help us return to Him, and we also promise to make an effort to repent on our own. In the case of the diseased person, the afflicted goes toward the priest and the priest also goes out to the diseased. They meet halfway.
The message in both situations is the same: In the quest for healing our souls, we don’t have to do it alone. Yes, we must put in the effort and do our very best, but we will also receive plenty of spiritual help along the way.
Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by our shortcomings and past mistakes that we feel stuck, unable to move closer to God. How can we begin a journey that seems so long and so difficult, one with a destination that we will probably never reach anyway?
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” These words hold true for many situations, and they are especially helpful when we take the first step in repentance. We don’t have to know how we will succeed or when, and we don’t need to worry about how far up we have to climb. Because as we learn from our Scripture verses, God will help us make our way to the top. We need to take the first steps and head in the right direction, but God will come out to greet us and meet us halfway.