Lessons from Tisha b’Av
The 9th of Av historically has been a day of devastation and destruction for Israel including the destruction of BOTH Temples! The list of catastrophes is extensive, some historically proven, others suggested by the Talmud.
Nevertheless, in Israel and to observant Jews, this is a day of mourning and fasting.
The book of Lamentations is read at sundown.
I decided to investigate the historical context of the destruction of the first Temple and began my reading in Jeremiah 41-44. I was shocked!
God destroyed the Temple IN RESPONSE TO THE PEOPLE’S PRAYER!
Okay, so let’s back up a bit.
Once again Israel was in trouble and went to the prophet Jeremiah to ask the Lord for direction. So far – good.
Now all the people, from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the LORD your God, for all this remnant (since we are left but a few of many, as you can see), that the LORD your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.”
Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard. Indeed, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your words, and it shall be, that whatever the LORD answers you, I will declare it to you. I will keep nothing back from you.”
Now please notice what their response is:
So they said to Jeremiah, “Let the LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the LORD your God sends us by you. Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.”
“True and faithful” or in the Hebrew, “amen and amen”. The people are actually admonishing the Lord God to act according to His character – true, steadfastness, faithful – if they do not obey Him. Thus they were giving God the right to be God in and over their lives. This is quite an act of surrender. Sadly they didn’t mean it!
And it happened after ten days that the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. Then he called…all the people from the least even to the greatest, and said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition before Him: ‘If you will still remain in this land, then I will build you and not pull you down, and I will plant you and not pluck you up. For I relent concerning the disaster that I have brought upon you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; do not be afraid of him,’ says the LORD, ‘for I am with you, to save you and deliver you from his hand. And I will show you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and cause you to return to your own land.’
God’s promise was so very clear. “STAY in your Covenant Land. I will be with you, I will protect you, I will deliver your enemy into your hand. Do not be afraid.” His warning clear was also very clear:
“But if you say, ‘We will not dwell in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the LORD your God, saying, ‘No, but we will go to the land of Egypt where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor be hungry for bread, and there we will dwell’— Then hear now the word of the LORD, O remnant of Judah!
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘If you wholly set your faces to enter Egypt, and go to dwell there, then it shall be that the sword which you feared shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; the famine of which you were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die. So shall it be with all the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to dwell there. They shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. And none of them shall remain or escape from the disaster that I will bring upon them.’
God’s judgment was fast and furious, not only upon Jerusalem, but would also follow the people into Egypt:
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘As My anger and My fury have been poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so will My fury be poured out on you when you enter Egypt. And you shall be an oath, an astonishment, a curse, and a reproach; and you shall see this place no more.’
“The LORD has said concerning you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt!’ Know certainly that I have admonished you this day.
For you were hypocrites in your hearts when you sent me to the LORD your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the LORD our God, and according to all that the LORD your God says, so declare to us and we will do it.’ And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, or anything which He has sent you by me. Now therefore, know certainly that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to dwell.”
Now it happened, when Jeremiah had stopped speaking to all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, all these words, that Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, “You speak falsely! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’
And the saddest line of all in the story:
So they went to the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD.
The lesson from Tisha b’Av and the witness of Israel is that God will NOT be mocked. What we sow we will reap. I think back to the people’s promise when Moses delivered the Commandments, written by God’s own hand. “All the words which the Lord has said, we will do.” (Exodus 24:3) Of course they didn’t keep that promise.
And perhaps the most tragic request of all, ” His blood be on us and our children.” (Matthew 27:24)
As I read the fatal promise of Israel I wept. I wept for God whose love and holiness was so mocked as the people continued not only to disobey, but to worship other gods. They blatantly continued to sacrifice to the Queen of heaven even on the sacred streets of Jerusalem. How patient was God!
Eventually the Faithful and True had to respond. He cleansed the Land, He cleansed the people. And most astounding – He came to save them:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Twice in Revelation Jesus is called the Faithful and True. In the letter to the Laodiceans He even uses the word three times:
These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:
Jesus is the Faithful and True witness of God. He is the Word become flesh. He will answer us according to our prayers, our cries, our vows AND according to His righteousness and justice.
The Psalmist writes: (Psalm 119:71, 75)
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Note, that the afflicted one understands that his affliction came from God’s faithfulness! What an amazing revelation. Furthermore, the affliction was good because it taught the sufferer to change his ways and follow after God’s word. (Psalm 119:67)
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
The Psalmist as Jeremiah found hope and comfort in the unfailing goodness and mercy also found in God’s faithfulness;
Through the LORD’s mercies [hesed]we are not consumed,
Because His compassions [rachamin]fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness [amen].
Let us pray together that we as individuals and as nations, especially Israel will learn the lessons from Tisha b’AV and begin to comprehend awe-fulness of God’s character as seen in the Person of Jesus our Messiah!
hesed: covanent keeping love
rachamin: maternal love from the womb, often translated as tender mercies
amen: steadfast, true, faithful, secure