Burn the Ships – It’s the month of Elul

Back in the early years of exploration the phrase, “Burn the ships” meant something drastic and extreme.  It literally meant to burn the ships you had been sailing in.  When a ship’s captain set sail with his men to a new land, he had every intention of finding a whole new world- one full of riches and promise.   Oftentimes a captain and his men would’ve been at sea for months- perhaps years.  When the time came to disembark the ship, it wasn’t uncommon for fear to creep into the minds of the weary sailors.  The dreams of colonizing new land turned into sudden nightmares about what might await them in this unknown place.  These once brave soldiers suddenly found themselves wanting to stay on the dingy, cramped quarters of the ship, where they were probably eating hardtack and suffering from scurvy.  But hey, at least they knew what to expect on the ship!  Sure they had to relieve themselves in buckets and sleep in rat infested quarters, but it was a life they knew.  Even though it was often a dreadful life, it was familiar.  Fear often stems from the unknown.

So, what’s a captain to do when his men just won’t get off the ship they’ve called home for so long?  There’s really only one thing to do-  BURN THE SHIP!  The Captain would set fire to the ship! Now, the men had no choice but to leave it all behind.  They had to go forward.  They couldn’t reclaim the past days of living on that ship.  They had no hopes of returning to the country they’d left.  It was only the new that awaited.  

The song Burn the Ships, by For King and Country, is inspired by this idea I’m writing about.  Here are a few of the lyrics.

Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye

chorus:      Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon the heartache, yeah
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships
And don’t you look back

Don’t let it arrest you
This fear, this fear of fallin’ again
And if you need a refuge
I will be right here until the end
Oh, it’s time to

Chorus: Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye

So long to shame, walk through the sorrow
Out of the fire into tomorrow
So flush the pills, face the fear
Feel the weight disappear
We’re comin’ clean, we’re born again
Our hopeful lungs can breathe again
Oh, we can breathe again………..

When I first heard the lyrics of this song I was having a horrible week.  Lots of things weren’t going my way and my heart filled with sorrow.  I felt myself going back to the past and revisiting old sources of pain, sorrow and anger.  I began to pray about it as I cried and the words Burn the Ships kept echoing in my mind.  I listened to the song over and over until I let the message sink in.

God did not want me wallowing in the mistakes of the past.  He didn’t want me dredging up pain and failures of days gone by.  He wanted me to look forward to a new day where the things that bogged me down would be long forgotten.  As the song says,  I needed to walk out of the fire and step into tomorrow.    I had to cut ties with the past!  The only way to do that was to Burn the Ship I’d been sailing on.  Let me tell you folks, I’ve been sailing on that ship for such a long time.  We are talking years!  In the past I kept trying to partially leave the ship, but I’d always come back to it.  I kept hanging on to what was dragging me down.

The idea of Burning the Ship came to my attention at a significant time on the biblical calendar.  It was a week before the start of Elul.  You might be saying “what in the world is Elul?”  Well, I don’t have time to explain the entire biblical calendar, but I’ll give you the short version.

The Month of Elul : The Biblical Calendar

Most of us are familiar with the Gregorian calendar, which runs from January to December each year.  This calendar was instituted by Pope Gregory in 1582 and since then, that’s what most people are familiar with.  The Gregorian calendar is strictly a solar calendar.  But, this calendar is not the same as God’s biblical calendar- also known as the Hebrew calendar.  The Hebrew calendar is a lunar and solar calendar where the months follow the cycles of the moon and sun.  There are 12 months on the Hebrew calendar (with a month added for leap year), just as there are 12 on the Gregorian.   The names of the months on the Hebrew calendar are as follows-in the chart below: also included is the month it usually occurs on the Gregorian calendar.

jewish calendar compressed

When is Elul?

The month of Elul, according to the chart above, falls in August or September each year on our Gregorian calendar.  The best way to know when certain months or biblical holidays fall on our calendar, is to get a Hebrew calendar like the one seen below.  I purchased mine from Zola Levitt Ministries.   You can also just do a search on your computer and there are calendars you can download.  On the calendar below you will see the days on the Gregorian calendar (this one shows September).  Then, at the bottom of each day you will see the biblical month and day listed.  Then you know where you are on the biblical calendar.

elul calendar

The Feasts of the Lord

The biblical calendar is mentioned throughout the Bible because it has always been the calendar God uses.  Even though the world does not pay much attention to this calendar (unless you are Jewish) it is still used by God and can reveal amazing things to believers in Jesus.  We must never forget that our Savior is Jewish and never stopped being Jewish!  Also, as Gentile believers (non Jewish believers in Jesus), we often don’t realize the Jewish people hold a very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to Jesus and Bible prophecy.  I think one of Satan’s tactics is to separate the Jews and Gentiles so they cannot learn from one another.  This is a mistake because Jesus broke down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles.  Unfortunately, the wall has stayed up in many ways.  If we can just get a hold of the idea that God’s full redemptive plan involves the Jews and Gentiles together, we could see some amazing promises unfolding.  Many of these promises are shown in the Lord’s Feasts, and in the biblical calendar.  Studying them and even celebrating have nothing to do with fulfilling a legal obligation and being tied to the law.  The feasts are not about the Law- they are about Jesus and what he promises to do for us.  After all, they are shadows of what’s to come and they are dress rehearsals.

Colossians 2:17- “All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ.”

Elul is the 6th month on the biblical calendar and it is the month that precedes a very significant holiday known as the Feast of Trumpets.   The Feast of Trumpets is listed as one of the seven Feasts of the Lord mentioned in Leviticus 23.  All seven of these amazing feasts point to Jesus and they are all prophetic.


Jesus in the Feasts

The first four feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost have been fulfilled by Jesus.  The Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles have yet to be fulfilled and that’s why they are so exciting.  We don’t know when Jesus will fulfill these last feasts, but how awesome that we can celebrate these special days each year, if we keep up with the biblical calendar.  After all, the feasts are convocations.  The word convocation means “dress rehearsal” in Hebrew so that means these feasts are a dress rehearsal for the real thing that’s to come!  We don’t know what year or exactly how they will be fulfilled but you can bet Jesus will do something spectacular.  If you study the Feast of Trumpets (which comes right after the month of Elul) you will see some awesome similarities to what Jesus may do when he returns for his Bride one day at the sound of the trumpet.  Again, we don’t know exactly how the Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled.  Some scholars have also tied this feast to the Second Coming of Jesus, and it has been tied to the many trumpets listed in the book of Revelation.

Things to Know About Elul

The month of Elul (which precedes the Feast of Trumpets) is centered around some key elements which are: reflection, repentance and renewal.  Remember earlier when I was saying I heard the song Burn the Ships right before the month of Elul?  Well, the reason that was fitting is because the month of Elul is all about recognizing the sins of our past.  It’s a time to confess them to Jesus and repent of them.  Maybe we’ve repented in the past but we keep dredging them up.  Or maybe we’ve kept them buried and never confessed them.  Well, Elul is the perfect time to reflect and repent!  Once we’ve repented it’s time to Burn the Ship!  We need to turn from those sins and move forward.  We can’t keep hanging on to them day after day.  Of course, we can do these things any day, but Elul is a special time of year when God calls it to our attention on his calendar.  I can tell you that for myself, it is helpful to be reminded to do this each season of Elul.  By this time of year I always have some “fall cleaning” to do in myself.  Jesus and the Holy spirit get out all the cleaning supplies and work on getting out the dirt I’ve left behind.  Elul reminds me in a purposeful way to do this “fall cleaning.”

shofarDuring the month of Elul, the trumpet, or shofar, is blown each day in the synagogue.  The sounding of the trumpet (shofar) is a reminder for all believers to wake up and repent.  It is meant to rouse the heart and mind.  It’s meant to bring the believer out of their stupor and invigorate them to call out to Jesus.  It’s the time to go out in the field and meet with the creator one on one.  As the Feast of Trumpets approaches, believers are reminded that the New Year is approaching.  Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which sees January as New Year’s, this is not so on God’ calendar.  On the Hebrew biblical calendar the Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah, is seen as God’s new year.  In fact, Rosh Hashanah means head of the year.

The Biblical Feasts are Dress Rehearsals

The month after Elul is known as Tishrei and it is the seventh month on the biblical religious calendar, but it’s also the first month on the biblical civil calendar.  The reason for this is because it heads into three very important biblical feasts/holidays (also known as dress rehearsals or appointments in Hebrew).  The Feast of Trumpets, which I will blog about in more detail later, is a holiday that points to the return of  Jesus and it is marked by the sounding of the trumpet 100 times!

The Holy Spirit, Jesus and Elul

In essence, Elul reminds believers to renew their relationship with Jesus and renew their minds.  It’s easy to get “lazy” during the year and let our hearts get further and further away from Jesus.  Doing that can cause our hearts to become heavy and our burdens to become unbearable.  Truly, we should be renewing our minds daily and letting the trumpet awaken us daily.  The Holy Spirit is the trumpet of our hearts and minds.  But, perhaps we aren’t always doing this.   Elul is the month to put it all back into order.  It’s the month to Burn the Ships in our past and move forward to what Jesus wants for our lives.  All of the biblical holidays/feasts are reminders and dress rehearsals for what Christ has done and will do in our lives. That’s why they are called moedim-  this means appointments in Hebrew.  God has appointments on his calendar just like we have appointments on ours.  He sets them to remind us of his promises to us, and often to remind us that he is the one who can heal our hearts and burn our ships, if we will let him!



shells cross compressed
These are the shells I found

For my birthday this year my friend came up with a great idea for burning the ships.  She took me to the beach and we collected sea shells.  For each sea shell we collected, we thought of a burden that’s been on our heart.  We thought about problems that are weighing us down.  We thought of people, situations and overwhelming circumstances that needed one solution and one solution only- Jesus.   Every shell represented something we needed Jesus to take upon himself.  These things were too hard for us to carry.  We prayed over each shell and then threw them one by one into the ocean.



muddy water compressed
The muddy looking water

It was quite fitting that the ocean had a dirty, gritty, grimy look to it.  As we walked to the water’s edge I felt myself stepping in a sticky, slimy mud-like substance.  As I stepped in the grime I was reminded how sin is grimy and slimy.  It messes up our lives and our hearts.  Guilt, pain and shame do the same thing.  That’s why it’s so important to give all of it to Jesus.  He will take it and heal your life.  1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”  As my friend and I cast the shells into the ocean we were reminded of this truth.  Interestingly enough, the shells we found weren’t in pristine condition.  In fact we mostly found broken, chipped shells.  At first I was disappointed we couldn’t find beautiful, well- shaped, full shells.  But my friend reminded me that finding the broken ones further illustrated the point that the things we were giving to the Lord were broken things.  They weren’t beautiful perfect things.  They were the chipped, broken problems of our lives.  It is amazing the way God works isn’t it?

throwing shells compressed

The month of Elul reminds us to cast our cares on Jesus

During the month of Elul it is not uncommon for believers to go to an ocean, pond, lake or other body of water.   They will cast stones or bread into the water.  In fact, on the Feast of Trumpets most synagogues will have a ceremony called Tashlish at a body of water.  Tashlish means “casting off”.  They do this because after the month of Elul has passed and the Feast of Trumpets has arrived they are reminded their sins have been forgiven and carried away forever.  The sins have been cast away.   Messianic Jews (Jewish believers who have received Jesus as their Savior) will do this activity, knowing it represents putting all their sins and cares on Jesus.  When they cast rocks into the ocean they are reminded that Jesus is their rock and refuge.  When they throw bread they are reminded that Jesus is the bread of life.

Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”   Micah 7:19 says, “you tread our sins underfoot, and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”   

The Feast of Trumpets is a feast that foreshadows the return of Jesus for his Bride.  His Bride is spotless and ready for his return because their sins and transgressions have been thrown to the depths of the sea.   The filth of sin has been removed and our garments are white.

The Orthodox Jews do not know Jesus is the Savior.  To them the Feast of Trumpets represents the idea that since they have repented during the month of Elul, and have turned from their sins, their names will be placed in the Book of Life for another year.   Every year they go through the same process so they can once again have their name placed into the Book of Life.  But, as believers in Jesus, we know our names are placed in the Book of Life the moment we receive him as Savior.  To believers in Jesus, the month of Elul reminds us to take hold of what Christ has already offered freely- forgiveness.  It’s easy to forget this as we get bogged down through the year with burdens and guilt from past sins and failures.  Remembering and observing the Lord’s Feasts brings us back to the truth that Christ is able to take it all.  It’s a time to search ourselves fully so we can rededicate our lives to him.  As we approach the Feast of Trumpets, we fill up with hope as we realize that one day this feast will be OUR REALITY!  All the cares, fears, scars and burdens will vanish in the blink of an eye.

The Feast of Trumpets and the month of Elul occur every single year.  Like Christmas or Thanksgiving, we look forward to this feast every single year.  The Feast of Trumpets occurs every year on Tishrei 1 on the biblical calendar.  The Bible says it is an appointment with God.   Keep in mind the reason God created his feasts is to remind us of what he has done, and will do.  The Spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost were being celebrated 1500 years before Jesus fulfilled them to the day and the hour.  This instills the hope in us that he will fulfill the fall feasts one day.  We don’t know what year this will happen since we do not know the day or the hour!  But, we can be certain Jesus will do it when the Father gives him the signal!  It’s our job to be awake and aware, but never setting dates.

Now that the month of Elul is here, take some time to reflect on the past year.  Pray and find out if you are still carrying any baggage, or if you are caught up in the same old sins.  This year, during Elul, Burn the Ships of your past and step out onto new, dry land.  What I’ve realized about God is that what he has for us is always better than some old musty ship.  To us the musty ship seems safe and familiar, but in essence, it’s holding us back from something much BIGGER AND BETTER.

When is Elul 2019?

When is the Feast of Trumpets 2019?

How do you celebrate Elul, or the Feast of Trumpets?

The month of Elul started on September 1, 2019 and will last until September 29, 2019 at sundown.  From there the Feast of Trumpets will be ushered in at sundown on September 29, lasting through October 1 at sundown.   You don’t have to go to a synagogue to celebrate, but it’s awesome to see how traditions point to Jesus in amazing ways.   I actually have a shofar at my house, but I am not sure I can blow it 100 times on the Feast of Trumpets… ha ha.   There’s even many Christian churches who are celebrating the Feast of Trumpets so if you know of one, it will really amaze you if you get to participate.  You can also go to a body of  water and cast your sins into the ocean symbolically.  Of course, you know Jesus carries those sins away forever!  Perhaps on the Feast of Trumpets take the day and spend it with Jesus.  He’s got the appointment open and the whole day is free!  

As Jesus says, “Come to me , all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:-28-30.

Take these verses to heart!  They are true, but we have to take hold of them!  I’m not going to lie, a few of the shells I prayed over and cast into the ocean have come back.  But, do you know what I’m gonna do?  I’m throwing them back to Jesus and I will keep doing that until they never wash up again.

If you want to hear the song Burn the Ships by for King and Country, the video is below…..


beach 2 compressed

Blessings to you- get out there and Burn some Ships!



5 thoughts on “Burn the Ships – It’s the month of Elul

  1. Angela, once again, very well written. I enjoy your writing so much. I will be studying the Jewish Calendar and probably from now on . Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with others.


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