Tisha B'av - A day of Mourning and of Prophetic Promise
What is the 9th of Av?
The 9th of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar is a day set apart for mourning a series of calamities that all occurred on this very day. The calamities include the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, the burning of Herod’s Temple, the crushing of the final Jewish rebellion against Rome, the expulsions of the Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492. All these catastrophes and more have struck the Jewish people on the same day on their calendar – the 9th of Av.
To understand the reason for the calamities of the 9th of Av, let us take a closer look at the destruction of the first and second Temples in Scripture.
The Destruction of Solomon’s Temple
At the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel and Judah had consistently and stubbornly refused to listen to divine warnings of judgment.
We read in 2 Chr. 36:15-17 that God did not want judgment to come on His people, and ‘rising early’ He sent warnings – but the people mocked and despised the message of warning and persisted in their way until ‘there was no remedy’.
So judgment came as foretold by Jeremiah and the other prophets – on the 9th of Av.
Jeremiah wept for his nation and the destruction of Jerusalem. His weeping was not just for the destruction that he witnessed – but it was also a weeping for a people that had refused to heed the warnings of God.
In the days of Jesus some 500 years later we see a repeat of the same sequence of events. Beneath Jerusalem’s polished surface, the corrupting power of sin was at work and the hand of God was again coming against His people in judgment. God sent His Son but as a nation Israel refused to heed His message.
We read poignantly how Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept because they ‘would not come’. They had blinded themselves and hardened their hearts to the point of not recognising their Saviour standing right in front of them. Just as in Jeremiah’s day, the judgment of God fell upon Israel in devastating power – and again it occurred on the very same day, the 9th of Av.
The 9th of Av thus became a day of appointed judgment on a nation and people that stubbornly insisted in going its own way.
Today, we are seeing many Western nations pursue a path very similar to ancient Israel – refusing to listen to the warnings of the messengers of God and accelerating down a path that seems good to them. Are our nations also heading down a path of judgment? Is there hope for our nations?
Jeremiah’s Hope in Time of Judgment
We find the answer in the prayers of Jeremiah in Lamentations 5:21. He says “Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return (or repent); renew our days as of old”.
Jeremiah recognised that his people had hardened themselves to such a point that they could no longer hear the message of God. He recognised that they had come to a point where they could not repent. His prayer therefore was for God to do the impossible and start the nation on the path of repentance – at God’s initiative, the nation would be able to hear the message of God and would have a renewed opportunity to repent. Through the intercession of God’s faithful ones, there is hope even for those who have blocked their ears to the message of God.
The time of Rejoicing is Coming
Interestingly, the scriptures foretell in Zec. 8:19 that the 9th of Av – known here as the fast of the 5th month – will one day be turned into a day of great rejoicing. How can this day of such great sadness and calamities become a time of joy?
The surrounding passage in Zechariah indicates that this day of mourning will be turned to joy as the Temple is rebuilt amongst the Jewish people.
I believe though that it will not be fully turned to joy until not only the Temple is rebuilt, but also God's people are fully restored to Him.
I believe the answer is found in the words of Jesus in Luke 15:10 – “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”. The day will come that the nation of Israel will be fully restored to her God – and in that day there will be a great heavenly rejoicing. The sorrow over her past judgments will fully pass away as they will find the joy of their salvation in Him.
God is faithful even when we are faithless. Just as God is at work in Israel and will ultimately restore her – so we can trust that He is at work in our nations and among our loved ones. God has not given up on these people – but is looking for someone who like Jeremiah will stand in the gap and intercede for a turn around.
Ps. 126:5-6 tells us that those who sow in tears shall reap in joyful singing. So as you sow tearful prayers for your family and loved ones, be comforted that a day is coming that these tears will be wiped away and they will indeed come into the kingdom! They may face some difficulties before that time comes – but ultimately God will work in their lives to turn their hearts back to Him.
So while the foxes on the Temple Mount are a symbol of judgment, God is faithful and will restore Israel and will return to dwell in the midst of His people.