“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our
heart with our hands unto God in the heavens” — Lamentations 3:40-41.
ABOUT TISHA B’AV
Tonight begins Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) on the Hebrew calendar, and it lasts until tomorrow evening (from the evening of July 31 to the evening of August 1). Tisha B’Av is a time of mourning, fasting, prayer, in which a number of different tragedies that happened to the Jewish people are remembered, including the two destructions of their Holy Temple in Jerusalem: Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians and Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D. by the Romans.
During this time of fasting and mourning, it’s customary to read the biblical book of Lamentations, in which the prophet Jeremiah writes regarding the destruction of Israel’s first Temple, built by King Solomon, by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. In addition, while mourning these various tragedies, it is customary to do the following:
- to abstain from eating or drinking
- to abstain from wearing any leather footwear
- to abstain from bathing or washing oneself
- to abstain from swimming
- to abstain from applying ointments or creams
- to abstain from engaging in any marital relations or any form of intimacy
- to abstain from sending gifts
- to abstain from engaging in outings, trips, or similar pleasurable activities
- to abstain from wearing fine, festive clothing
It should be remembered that this is a day of mourning for the loss of not only God’s two temples that once stood in Jerusalem, but also for the loss of many lives over the years that had been killed on this day as well.
However, as a modern-day disciple of Yeshua/Jesus who believes that all Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament) is for believers today, I have to call into question the traditional practice of not bathing or washing, as well as not using ointments or creams, because Yeshua/Jesus taught us in the “Sermon on the Mount,”
Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; that you appear not unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret; and your Father, which sees in secret, shall reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Am I saying that Jewish people today are making a show by fasting and mourning? No, absolutely not! But there were some during Yeshua’s/Jesus’ day who would overdo it simply so that they could gain people’s pity or attention, and make them feel sorry for them. We are not to use opportunities like Tisha B’Av to gain outward attention for ourselves by trying to look hungry, unkept, or pathetic to others. Again, I am not saying that Jewish people are doing this; I am merely noting that some people may use occasions like this for that purpose, and this is NOT something that any Christian should do since it clearly violates Yeshua’s/Jesus’ teaching on fasting. In accordance with His teaching, then, we should outwardly look like we are not fasting, and then what we do in secret to our Heavenly Father will be honored and rewarded by Him.
However, I do believe that we should join and support Israel in this fast and time of mourning. In Romans 12:15, we are told –
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep (or mourn) with them that weep (or mourn).
In joining Israel in this fast and time of mourning, we will be showing them that they are not alone, that they do have Christian friends in the United States who care for them and support them. We should also remember the Israelis who have been recently shot or knifed by radical Muslims, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for those Israeli families, who had loved ones who were wounded or killed.
My Own Thoughts
As a Christian, I am fully aware of atrocities that have been done to the Jewish people in the name of Messiah/Christ over the centuries, and I plan to use part of this time to ask God’s forgiveness for these criminal acts against the Jewish people by Christians, Early Church Fathers, Reformers (such as Martin Luther), and even Christians in our day. Yeshua/ Jesus never told anyone to verbally and/or physically attack others, including the Jewish people, much less cause them any type or form of harm. Instead, He taught us to –
You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans (sinners) do the same? And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? Do not even the publicans (sinners) do so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Yes, there are some Jews who do hate Jesus and Christians, but a lot of that, I believe, is in response to the persecution, torture, and killing of Jews that’s happened over the centuries by Christians (e.g., pograms, inquisition, holocaust). But many evangelical Christians today are trying to show their love and support of Israel to demonstrate the true heart of Yeshua/Jesus for His people, a heart of passionate love and concern for them. Some Jews are still skeptical about this change in attitude, while others are willing to openly accept these new found Christian friends. Personally, I believe we should pray for all Jews, those who have accepted Yeshua/Jesus and those who have not. We should also pray for all rabbis (whether they are believers or not) that God would bless their lives and ministries, and that God would reveal Himself to them and to the members of their congregations in miraculous ways, leaving no doubt to anyone that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one and only true and living God.
Last year, my wife and I went to Jerusalem for three months, and while we were there, we met many Jews, as well as a Bedouin family, who all treated us quite kindly and did not mistreat us in any way. We left there having gained some new insights on the land and the issues there, as well as having made some special Jewish friends.
But in looking at what’s happening around the world, there are reports of great persecution going on against Christians by radical Muslims. They are being beaten, tortured, raped, and some beheaded and some crucified for their faith. Yeshua/Jesus did not teach us to respond to persecution with anger and violence, but with love and prayer. We are not to respond to hatred with hatred, nor respond to their violence with violence. Just as Yeshua/Jesus told Shi’mon Peter, “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
We should also use this time to pray for the living Temple of God, the Body of Messiah. We should not only pray for those who are enduring persecution right now around the world for their faith in Messiah, but we should also pray for the body of Messiah here in America. The Enemy is attempting to use politics and racism to bring division and hatred into God’s Temple, among His people. We need to remember that we are first and foremost citizens of God’s Kingdom and secondly citizens of the United States.
As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we follow the laws and teachings of God first and foremost, and then the laws of the United States second. This priority is crucial because whatever we identify as our first and primary citizenship will be where we derive our values and beliefs. If God’s Kingdom is first and foremost in our lives, then we derive our values and beliefs from that Kingdom, but if the United States is where we identify our citizenship first and foremost, then we will derive our values and beliefs from there. And right now, in the United States, there are many values and beliefs which are in complete opposition to those of the Kingdom. It is my continual prayer that I may “seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), rather than the values and beliefs I see currently all around me in our culture today.
In conclusion, I would like you to join me in praying for Israel, the Jewish people, the rabbinical community, the radical Muslims who are persecuting Jews and Christians, the persecuted Church and their families, as well as the Church here in America during Tisha B’Av. I believe this time can bring about true breakthroughs and blessings in the lives of the people we pray for, as well as in our own lives, if we are willing to reach out in love and prayer for these various issues and groups in the name of our beloved Master, Lord and Savior, the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus. Amen.