July 6, 2023 represents a critical day in the biblical calendar and Hebrew Scriptures, corresponding to the 17th of the month of Tammuz. Zechariah 8:19 refers to this day as “the fast of the fourth month.” On Tammuz 17, in both 586 BC and 70 AD, invading armies attacked and breached the walls of Jerusalem. Both times, the sordid event led to the fall of the city and exile of the Israelites (2 Kings 25:3-4). Observant Jews recognize this was not mere coincidence but the hand of God. They mark the day with repentant prayer and fasting. Prophetic Scriptures of deserved judgment are read and studied.
While significant in itself, Tammuz 17 initiates a three week span of historical Jewish tragedy culminating with Tisha b’Av, meaning the 9th Day of Av (this year, July 27). The three week period is known as Bein HaMetzarim. This usually translates in English to “Between the Narrow Places” or “Between the Straits.” Therefore, the period is alternately called “The Three Weeks,” “Dire Straits,” “Days of Distress,” “Three Weeks of Sorrow” or “Narrow Straits,” all derived from Lamentations 1:3: “Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction…all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.” (KJV)
Monumental disasters have recurrently befallen Israel and the Jews during Bein HaMetzarim through the millennia. These three weeks have often ushered in the most heightened spiritual warfare against Israel of the entire biblical year. The frequency and regularity of military and other attacks against the Jewish people during this period cannot be attributed to mere happenstance.
According to Jewish tradition that is not biblically provable, it was on Tammuz 17 that Moses witnessed Israel’s golden calf idolatry and consequently smashed the Ten Commandments. Tradition attributes the ominous spiritual root of Bein Hametzarim to this event. (It is worth noting the name “Tammuz” is that of a demonic deity adopted from Israel’s Babylonian captivity, according to historical sources.)
What might Tammuz 17 and Bein HaMetzarim suggest for followers of Yeshua today?
Bein HaMetzarim trumpets a clarion call to God’s people. Above all, He summons us to intentional reconsecration and devotional surrender to His love, holiness, goodness and grace. From reconsecration and surrender comes realignment. From realignment He calls us to increased watchfulness, focused intercessory prayer, intentional high praise and authoritative proclamation of His Word. During Bein HaMetzarim we stay sober and alert, yet encouraged in the shalom and redemptive victory of Yeshua. We remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This summer, with war drums beating from Iran and its terror proxies, Israel could face a calamitous military confrontation during Bein HaMetzarim. The prayers of God’s global ekklesia could shape future history.
Here are three simple keys to help you navigate Bein HaMetzarim 2023 fruitfully by the Holy Spirit:
(1) Reconsecrate and realign your heart, mind and will with YHVH so the enemy can not “breach” your personal “walls” to take advantage of weaknesses or unrepentant sin. Consider fasting on Tammuz 17. Then walk confidently and victoriously in Messiah by the power of His atonement, resurrection and grace.
(2) Intentionally worship and joyfully exalt the Lord. Daily declare His Word concerning the sovereignty and supremacy of YHVH over all that concerns you, Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. Bless His purposes for Iran.
(3) Be faithful to your call as a watchman or woman on the walls of Jerusalem. Pray merciful protection over Israel’s covenant and prophetic restoration. For help in learning how to pray more specifically for Israel, you can use “Prayer Guide for Israel” at lightofzion.org/prayer/guide.
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, stay encouraged! In the Messianic Age the fast of the fourth month “will become a joyful and glad occasion and happy festival for Judah.” (Zechariah 8:19) Together in Yeshua, you and I can delight in this certain promise even now!