This weekend Jews around the world, and an increasing number of Christians, are reflecting with fasting and prayer on the historical tragedies that befall Israel on Tisha b’Av (the 9th day of the 5th month).
Looking at current events, it’s unsettling to see the potential for tragedy on our watch. However, God promises in Zechariah 8:19 that the fast of the fifth month will turn to a day of joy. I believe He has anointed the Body of Messiah to serve as a catalyst for transformation. He wants to redeem this season of time from the enemy’s curse and dark spirit of death (cf., Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5). Lives can be spared rather than taken; glory instead of gory released.
How can we redeem the time? First, we must understand the back story of darkness ultimately known as Tisha b’Av. Second, we break agreement with the enemy in our own lives with any similar darkness. Then we stand in the gap for God’s ancient covenant people.
Jewish tradition records how, on Tisha b’Av, Israel rejected the notion of facing giants in the Promised Land. Following their spy-out, Joshua and Caleb returned with a faith-filled call to advance, declaring God’s promises. But ten other spies gave a negative report, which the people of Israel took to heart. Instead of entering the Promised Land, they were propelled by unbelief into 40 years of wilderness wandering. (Note: The Scriptures nowhere state this event occurred precisely on Av 9; the longstanding association derives from the Talmud. We will cautiously assume here the act of unbelief took place on Tisha b’Av).
According to Hebrews 3:19, unbelief is the ultimate condition that prevented the Hebrews from entering the Promised Land.With this precedent, in their unbelief, the Israelites’ engagement with darkness seems to have released a demonic authority over Israel that threatened their very existence many times through history, at this same day and season. Now, if the Church is grafted into the commonwealth of Israel and if she is joined to the Jewish people spiritually, then she is impacted by the realities associated with Tisha b’Av. The good news is that the Church carries an anointing to redeem the times by the blood of Yeshua. She is allotted power, sealed by His resurrection, to minister deliverance from the power of unbelief at this season.
Before we stand in the gap for Israel, we must first invite the Holy Spirit to deal with any need for personal repentance. Have we ourselves engaged with the dark stronghold of unbelief? Do we see ourselves in the sad “Tale of Ten”?
The twelve spies dispatched to the Promised Land actually represented each of the twelve tribes, or God’s people as a whole. In a real sense, they represent you and me. They saw Canaan as an immensely fruitful place, with giant-sized produce. One grape cluster was so huge it could only be carried on a pole by two full-grown men. At the same time, the spies also found genuine giants living in the land. (The reference to giants here is literal, not metaphorical.) Big blessings lay ahead, but big battles would have to be fought first.
Bear in mind that all Israel was saved at this point, in the sense of having been redeemed out of Egypt and established in covenant relationship with God. They had already received the Ten Commandments and the tabernacle was in operation. They had witnessed incomparable signs and wonders by God’s hand. Now they were invited to see His hand again. They were like you and me.
Today God’s covenant people still face giant-sized enemies. Like the ancient Hebrews, our natural tendency is to fear, because the natural tendency is to focus solely on the natural realm. But this only gets us more unbelief! Although you and I face seriously gigantic enemies, God never intended for us to battle them alone, without Him. Instead He invites us, by faith, deeper and deeper into Him, toward gigantic blessings in His Promised Land.
Yet deep in our hearts, questions remain. Will God safely navigate us through the present crisis? Or have we gotten ourselves in too deep this time? Can we really rely on Him to subdue adversaries bigger than we’ve ever known before? Or has God taken us this far—like our Old Covenant predecessors lamented—only to serve as meat for the giants? Like the ten spies, we are offered a choice either to yield to God or to unbelief. If we choose unbelief, striving to navigate this “narrow straits” season with our own reasoning and resources, we’re likely on course for a shipwreck.
How do we navigate narrow straits His way as we transition from one season to the next, hemmed in by uncertainty? How do we stay steady in faith over the fact we can’t get through without God?
A navigational compass lies in Joshua’s words of encouragement: “Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land…” (Numbers 14:9). First–do not rebel against God. In other words, fully surrender your heart and will to Him. Bring all aspects of your life into alignment with His heart and will.
Second–do not fear the giants in the land. You are a child of God’s covenant. Keep before you the reality that your enemies’ protection has been removed, and God is with you; big blessings lie ahead. So when He says go—go!
Because an un-surrendered human spirit looks naturally to itself, or to other people and natural resource besides God, it quite naturally sees inadequacy. But the intimate knowledge of God’s loving, supernatural character, and thesupernatural reality of His presence, summons our courage. Knowing how much He loves us, we can’t help but trust Him. This is why perfect love casts out all fear.
At this season, as an act of repentance, we can consciously re-align with the knowledge of our Savior’s unfailing character, unfathomable love and supernatural ways. Then we can stand in the gap for Israel, redeeming the time by the power of His Spirit.
Redeeming the Time: Intercession
The Israelites’ unbelief so angered God that He wanted to destroy them all and use Moses to create a new nation in a divine do-over. But Moses’ intercession so moved Yahweh’s heart that He refrained. Moses’ firebrand prayer is offered on the basis of three key points in Numbers 14:13-19:
* for the sake of God’s name
* for the sake of God’s glory
* for the sake of the nations
Moses’ plea for the Israelites, which is not offered for the sake of the Israelites, serves as a launch-pad prayer for us today. You and I stand in the gap by the blood of Yeshua and the power of His resurrection. We are called to release His redemption for the sake of His name, His glory and the salvation of nations. We can release His Word which assures that Israel will be saved. We can release His glory to transform the gory known as Tisha b’Av. And regardless of how things unfold in the natural, we can stay fixed in faith, for He Himself is supernaturally faithful.
Shabbat Shalom and a Redeemed Tisha b’Av!