Sandstorm ushering in High Holy Days

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A sandstorm shrouds the outdoor Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem on Sept. 8, 2015.
A sandstorm shrouds the outdoor Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem on Sept. 8, 2015.

Tuesday morning Jerusalem — the whole of the Middle East — awoke to skies choked with sand. The sun was darkened and visibility was maybe a quarter of mile. After Wednesday when the air was hardly improved, we learned this storm may last through the weekend.

We are in the last week of the Hebrew month of Elul. Tishrei and new Jewish New Year begin Sunday night with the Feast of Trumpets, which is the call for repentance 10 days before Yom Kippur.

The timing of the sandstorm (or haboob) did make me wonder, but busyness delayed more thought and prayer. The BBC reported that the sandstorm came out of Iraq (ancient Babylon), and Reuters quoted a Cyprus weather official who said, “We have had sandstorms before, but not of this intensity. It’s very rare for this time of year too and it’s covering the entire region.”

A sandstorm obscures much of the Middle East in this satellite image from NASA.
A sandstorm obscures much of the Middle East in this satellite image from NASA.

So is there something the Earth is trying to tell us? Something aside from the 2,000 year old message from Romans 8 that “creation waits eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed … We know that until now, the whole creation has been groaning as with the pains of childbirth … as we continue waiting eagerly to be made sons — that is, to have our whole bodies redeemed and set free” (CJB)?

(What does that mean, to be made sons? That we would come into our full inheritance won by Jesus through the cross at the resurrection.)

There is a lot of expectation building as we await the last of four consecutive total lunar eclipses that fall on Jewish feast days (and the end of the shmitah or sabbatical year).

All I can repeat to you is be sober and vigilant. Cling to the LORD with mighty intensity. We are seemingly in the time of the wheat and tares, when both good and evil come to maturity.

I ran across two possible interpretations of the sandstorm. The Jewish sages wrote “that the Hebrew word ‘Elul’ can be expanded as an acronym for ‘Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li’ (I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine – Song of Solomon 6:3). Elul is seen as a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement and Day of Atonement.” (Wikipedia)

A friend serving here in Jerusalem said God is showing us how dirty we are, how our sin blocks out His Light and encumbers our walk. She said we need to wash and make ourselves clean (see Psalm 24).

The thought was complemented by a quote from an article by Bridges for Peace.

“It is as if the horror of Syria caused the earth itself to pass an evil wind. It has made Jerusalem look like a post-apocalyptic scene from Mad Max. But like the bloodbath to our north and east, this is not a movie set. What’s happening there, just a few miles away, is a perfect storm of atrocities that like this odd haboob are real. All too real.”

Go and make yourself clean and ready. A trumpet will sound in Zion soon calling us all to awake from our complacency, to consider our sin. The right reaction is humble repentance before the Creator, who tarries because He wishes none to perish but who will soon come to judge the living and dead.

4 thoughts on “Sandstorm ushering in High Holy Days

  1. Dear Carino,

    Blessings and thanks so very much for this timely update. I particularly find myself in agreement with the person who quotes Psalm 24.

    May God give us grace to draw near to Him, bowing in repentance at the foot of The Cross. Only The precious Blood of Messiah Jesus cleanses us from sin.

    Be well and Shalom in His Love,
    Anne Nelson

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