Tisha B’Av and Standing Firm in Love

Tomorrow, July 30, Jewish people around the world will soberly commemorate Tisha b’Av, which simply translates, the 9th of Av. Av is the fifth month of the biblical calendar and generally corresponds to late July or early August. Tisha b’Av is of penetrating significance in the spirit realm and in God’s dealings with Israel. It is a day on which wide-scale calamities to the Jewish nation have repeatedly occurred, including the destruction of both the first and second Temples. For the traditionally observant, it is a day of mourning not only over the Temple, but over Jewish hatred (more on this later). For the international Body of Messiah, I believe the 9th of Av may be an appointed time in which the opposite spirit—a spirit of agape love—is released from heaven and changes our reality on earth. \

Tisha b’Av: Key Events

According to rabbinic and historical sources, the following devastations each occurred on Tisha b’Av: Worship of the golden calf; return of the spies from the Promised Land with their negative report; 586 BC — Destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians; 70 AD — Destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans and start of the second Jewish exile; 135 — Fall of Betar, last stronghold of the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation; 136 — Jerusalem was destroyed and the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina established to replace it; 1096 — Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade, murdering masses of Jews; 1290 — King Edward I expelled all Jews from England; 1306 — Jews expelled from France; 1492 — All Jews expelled from Spain; 1555 — Pope Paul IV confines the Jews into a walled ghetto in Rome; 1648 – Cossacks massacred thousands of East European Jews; 1914 — World War I began, culminating in World War II and the Nazi Holocaust; 2005 — Israel planned to forcibly evacuate all Jews from Gaza on the 9th of Av. (The evacuation was rescheduled for Av 10 after it was brought to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s attention he’d “coincidentally” slated his unilateral disengagement on Tisha b’Av.)

Today, Tisha b’Av is observed by religious Jews primarily as a day of mourning over the destruction of the Second Temple. The saddest day of the Jewish year, it is marked by fasting, doleful reading of the book of Lamentations and other Scriptures, and supplications for rebuilding the Temple. To varying degrees, sorrow may also be expressed over the sin of ancient Israel. The day is referenced in Zechariah 8:19, a prophetic passage assuring that in the age to come, God will turn Tisha b’Av’s fast into a cheerful feast.

Why Tisha b’Av?

From the traditional Jewish perspective, the Second Temple was destroyed on Tisha b’Av for one reason only, namely, sinat hinam, or baseless hatred. According to the Talmud, Israelis at the time hated one another for no valid reason. As a nation they ceased to relate among themselves with justice, righteousness, kindness or mercy. (See Talmud, Gitten 55b-56a) In reality, when Israel’s national rabbinic authorities rejected Yeshua, we rejected God’s authority over us at a new and dangerous level. Lawlessness and lovelessness—or baseless hatred—followed. Sadly, judgment would inevitably result.

At the same time, from a Messianic perspective, after Yeshua came, died, and rose again, the Temple was no longer needed as an instrument for sacrificial atonement for sin (Hebrews 9:11-15, 28). The once-for-all shed blood of the Lamb, combined with our faith in Him, reconciles us to God. Our bodies become the temples in which He dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16).

What Does Tisha b’Av Say to the Church in 2009?

Concerning the last days, Yeshua gave this exhortation: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” ( Matthew 24:12-13).

The Scriptures indicate that in the last days, both good and evil will simultaneously increase in scope and intensity. As evil seeks to overtake our leaders, as well as some of our colleagues, friends and perhaps even family members, the Body of Messiah will be tempted by lovelessness as never before. The increase of wickedness will cause some to wrongly hate those who sin. (However, sin itself we should indeed hate.) We will be challenged to stand firm to the end—by grace—in love for men and women created in God’s image, despite their sin, and despite their perceived mistreatment of us. Actually, it’s already happening.

Baseless hatred—the inevitable consequence of not surrendering to Yeshua’s lordship—characterized the spiritual climate in which the Second Temple was destroyed. Sadly, baseless hatred will once again characterize the spiritual climate in which living temples of the Holy Spirit could be destroyed. But God is so good. He’s showing us another way. He’s teaching us to love and stand firm like never before.

Fulfilling Prophecy: You Shall Love the Lord With All Your Heart and Your Neighbor as Yourself

In recent years, the bridal paradigm of love relationship with Yeshua has been restored to much of the Church. Many have embraced a glorious realm of the affections of their Bridegroom-King. Fiery passion between the Lord and His Bride, in the spirit of the Song of Solomon, ought not cease through eternity. For God’s greatest command is also a prophecy: You shall love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength—-and your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36-39). As the Bride’s love for the Lord matures, she will be entrusted with greater dimensions of His heart. She will love those whom the Bridegroom-King loves; she’ll love others as herself.

First Corinthians 13 describes this kind of love (agape in the Greek). There the apostle Paul, brilliant scholar and intimate friend of God, concludes that love is the greatest dimension of the Spirit realm. It is the very economy of heaven. According to this passage, the first characteristic of love is that it is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV). Webster’s Dictionary defines patience as: “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.” The King James Version and other early Bible translations are quite to the point, stating “love suffers long and is kind.” The primary trait of love is that it suffers long, yet is kind. God teaches us to love when He takes us through suffering.

Loving in the Last Days

Since moving to Israel at the beginning of the year, I’m more convinced than ever that love is refined, or matured, by that which causes us to be patient, and to “bear pains or trials calmly or without complaint.” Israeli bureaucracy does not move at lightning speed, and as a socialist democracy, the government is more involved in one’s personal life than in the US. In addition, religious authorities can treat believers quite unfairly, even cruelly. In this milieu, I’ve learned that when things don’t go my way, the Lord is usually gently urging me (again) to bear a trial calmly and grow in love. He really is big enough, with my best interest at heart, to work it all out for good! The trial, or suffering, is meant to draw me deeper into Him, that I might better know the height, depth, and breadth of His love. I do not suffer alone, whether the trial is of minor or major proportion (and I’ve experienced both). Instead, He’s inviting me into the fellowship of His sufferings—to that flashpoint on the cross where he bares His Divine Heart which, from Pure Love itself, bore my sins, sorrows and shame. By “the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death” I truly “know Him and the power of His resurrection” (see Philippians 3:10). By death of self, you and I enter into Life.

A community of Jewish believers was once told to “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV) The route to this perfection is navigated by love. Love is the essence of that which will navigate us through this season of dramatic change and beyond—even more than prophecies, strategies, knowledge and miracles.

About the Increase of Wickedness

As wickedness increases, so too will offenses and trials. But God’s love will empower us to stand firm to the end because it empowers us to forgive. By patiently enduring trials or events that do not go the way we’d like, and by loving those who offend, you and I get “perfected.”

You are being made ready for the return of your Bridegroom-King. God’s Word is coming to pass; you shall love (agape) your neighbor as yourself. In fact, since love by definition suffers long and is kind, agape probably requires offense—and forgiveness—in order for it to exist in the human heart.

Now, love does not endure abuse that empowers or encourages sin on the part of an abuser, assuming God provides a way of escape. Enabling abuse does not cover sin with love; it perpetuates sin. Likewise, failure to proactively stand against evil is not the same as love. The challenge is to stand firm in love and against injustice, unrighteousness and the increase of wickedness. God is not a victim and victimization is not a fruit of the Spirit. To the contrary, God is all-powerful and all-authoritative. When we love with His love, we voluntarily surrender our “rights” as Yeshua did. But in so doing, we access some of the highest levels of kingdom power and authority that He desires to delegate to us as His Bride. From this position of authority we genuinely bless those who persecute us, even when we oppose the sin they perpetuate. We stand firm in divine love to the end.

Where does agape love begin? On the horizontal level, it starts with loving our brothers and sisters in Yeshua. “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (1John 3:1). “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love, remains in death” (1John 3:14). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1John 3:16). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1John 4:10-11). By the love of God we mediate, first to God’s people and then to the world, we release the opposite spirit of baseless hatred that has manifested through the millennia on the 9th day of Av.

Rebuilding the Temple

There is a legendary story of Napoleon related to Tisha b’Av. One year on this annual day of Jewish mourning, he was walking past a synagogue when he heard crying and lamenting from within. He inquired as to the reason for their wailing and was told they were weeping over the destruction of their temple.

“When was it destroyed?” he asked. They told him 1,800 years ago. Napoleon reportedly responded, “I vow that this people is destined for a future to worship in their own homeland. For is there any other people who have kept alive similar mourning and hope for so many years?” Afterwards, Napoleon became known for his favorable disposition toward the Jews.

By God’s grace, the Jewish people have stood firm in their resolve to see Israel restored, and after nearly 2,000 years, that restoration has begun. According to the Scriptures, a tangible Holy Temple will, finally, be built up in Jerusalem. Similarly, in these last days and by God’s grace—though wickedness increase—the Bride of Messiah will stand firm in His love. The corporate temple of the Holy Spirit, the Body, will, finally, be built up in maturity.

God is preparing you and me for an awesome, eternal destiny. Getting built up to maturity sometimes involves Tisha b’Av-like trials. When that happens, may I encourage you to go beyond the circumstances and deeper into the fellowship of the sufferings of your Bridedegroom-King? For there you will discover the power of His resurrection—and the authority to love. Then the Bride will cry, together with the Spirit, “Come!” And when we do … then He will.