Tisha b’Av, the annual day of Jewish mourning and fasting, falls this year on July 26-27. With Israel facing a possible civil war and existential war with Iran, Tisha b’Av 5783/2023 summons us to facedown sobriety before God.
Tisha b’Av literally means “9th of Av,” referring to the 9th day of the month of Av, the 5th month of the biblical year. Israel’s first and second temples were both tragically destroyed on Av 9, in 586 BC and 70 AD, respectively. Through history, numerous other horrific calamities have befallen the Jews on Av 9 and during the three weeks preceding it. These three weeks are known as Bein HaMetzarim, meaning “Between the Straits.” According to rabbinic teaching, recurrent disasters take place on these days not by mere happenstance, but by the hand of God. Assuming they are correct, is it possible for Tisha b’Av to be redeemed, even partially, in our day?
Rabbis traditionally teach that Tisha b’Av traces to the sin of the spies who scouted out the Promised Land under Moses’ leadership. By traditional Jewish calculation, it was on the 9th day of the 5th month that ten of the twelve spies reported the land would be impossible to conquer and inhabit. (Mishna Taanit 4:6) “Too many giants,” they hopelessly sighed. Sadly, the Israelites trusted in the spies’ frightful prognosis instead of God’s faithful promises. (Numbers 13:26-14:38) As a result, they never received the rich blessings our Father wanted His beloved sons and daughters to enjoy in the place of His promise.
Temples Past and Future: Signposts
For millennia, observant Jews have spent the 9th of Av in doleful reading of the book of Lamentations, mournful fasting and passionate weeping. The collective grieving is not so much over our forebears’ unbelief, however, as it is over the destruction of God’s holy temple. The tradition is to grieve and wail before God until a temple is rebuilt.
To digress slightly in order to address an important topic, we should note that religious Jews long to rebuild a temple mostly so that animal sacrifices can be reinstated as the purported means of forgiveness of sins. When a third temple is rebuilt, it will therefore represent a concrete, next step in Israel’s rejection of the once-for-all atonement of Yeshua. The rebuilt temple will render His sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins more irrelevant than ever in the perception of most Jews (and probably many Gentiles). As such, the project is underlaid by anti-Messiah or anti-Christ foundations.
The book of Hebrews cautions us against seeking to replace the blood of Messiah with the blood of bulls, goats, turtle doves, etc. For that and other reasons, Jewish believers in Jesus rarely proactively advocate for rebuilding the temple until Yeshua returns. At the same time, many Gentile believers actively promote the endeavor because they say it is prophesied in Scripture. To this I must respectfully respond that the rise of anti-Christ and a great falling away of followers of YHVH are also prophesied in Scripture. Should we actively promote these events as well? Or should we dedicate our lives and resources to fulfilling the Great Commission by sharing the Gospel and making disciples of Yeshua of all nations?
In any case, the rabbis have long taught the chief sin leading to the temple’s demise, together with our exile in biblical times, was the “baseless hatred” of ancient Israelite against Israelite. Some are warning this same sin threatens to destroy Israel today. The Jewish state is once more highly, even viciously polarized between various and extremist camps. Lawlessness is mounting, fast and furious.
As we intercede in faith on Israel’s behalf, God may intervene. He may slow down or even temporarily turn the tide of hate and violent, domestic discord. If not, from a Messianic perspective, the increasing lawlessness would seem to pave way before too long for the figure described in Scripture as the end times man of lawlessness or man of false peace.
Now is the time, therefore, to keep praying with expectant faith for the salvation of many in Israel and the nations, before this perfidious figure comes to power. Let’s believe for revival! Already, more and more Israelis are beginning to turn to God, troubled by the worsening domestic discord and Iranian threat. He is using the tumult to bring us to our knees and circumcise our hearts according to His covenant of love (Jeremiah 31:31). A spiritual harvest is ripening! Could it even be that some Israelis are responding, consciously or unconsciously, to the subtle and not-so-subtle lessons of Tisha b’Av?
Does this point to the possibility that Tisha b’Av, despite its notorious implications, might be redeemed in our time? If so, what might be some of the implications for God’s international ekklesia?
A Time to Take Ground
Consider that the very day God appointed for Israel to enter the place of promise and rest became the day they were distanced from it. Tisha b’Av was to have been a day for advancement and appointment into fuller Kingdom realities. It was their time to literally take new ground. But the people couldn’t or wouldn’t believe it. Therefore, death in the desert replaced life in the land for an entire generation. It seems our rebellion also resulted in profound demonic access to us as a nation, expressed tragically through history on Bein HaMetzarim, culminating on Av 9.
Let us assume for now that Av 9 was indeed intended by the Creator to be the very day for His people to enter into a magnificently greater degree of Kingdom reality and promise fulfillment. In our fallen world, entry into a new level of Kingdom promise generally requires an overtaking or overcoming of enemy strongholds. In other words, battles must be fought to take new ground. So, assuming God intended the 9th day of the 5th month to be a day for entering new realities of His promised rest, it would also have been an appointed “time for war” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,8). In that case, Tisha b’Av would have been divinely mandated as a day of battle. But, even more important, it was also to be a day of celebration. God’s people were to rejoice greatly with Him in the spectacular victory and mighty power of YHVH.
Perhaps this explains why Zechariah 8:19 says the “fast of the fifth month” will be turned to a day of feasting and joy in the Messianic age. That glorious era has not yet come. But those in whom the Spirit of Messiah dwells can engage even now with some of the spiritual realities associated with the Messianic age. You and I might choose to fast and pray for Israel this Tisha b’Av. We might grieve for the lawlessness and anti-Messiah spirit taking hold in Israel and the nations. At the same time, we can rejoice in God’s eventual, sure and everlasting victory for His covenant people.
Battling to Believe for Your Victory
The Israelites of Moses’ day had to fight to enter into God’s promise of rest. Likewise, followers of Yeshua today must fight to enter into new and greater places of Kingdom promise. This we do by first fighting to embrace and stay in faith for the victory—as He defines the victory in each circumstance. To the extent we battle from faith, we can battle from what Scripture calls God’s rest. (Hebrews 4:11) We rejoice even before we see the victory (again, as He defines it) with our natural eyes because we see it in the spirit according to God’s Word. We do not always see exactly how or when that victory will unfold, but to His glory and delight, we know it will—as He defines it–according to His Word.
To be transparent, this Bein HaMetarim 5783/2023, I find myself personally engaged in such a battle. For many years I have heard Christian leaders say that believers are not only to abide in, but also to battle from, a place of rest. I myself have taught that! But I find it is not always easy to stay in God’s rest in an increasingly restless world.
By His grace, this Bein HaMetzarim I have rediscovered–at a new level for this present age–that the key to entering God’s rest during times of intense warfare is simply “trusting faith.” I put the two words together because “trusting” implies relationship, whereas “faith” can sometimes refer mostly to an act of intellectual assent. The concept does not suggest trusting in faith; it refers to trusting in God by faith. A surprising discovery is how simple the key of trusting faith actually is. It seems almost too basic and unsophisticated to be enough in this age of complexity and perplexity.
While the key of trusting faith is in itself simple, actually using or turning that key to gain entry into God’s rest is not always easy or simple. Turning the key means engaging and maintaining a trusting faith in God, so that His victory is assured even if that victory seems not to be what we personally want, when we want it. Trusting faith means that as we step into a place of promise, we close the door behind us to former patterns of fear and unbelief.
Ultimately, trusting faith involves dying to self so Messiah might live more fully in and through us. It means more of Yeshua manifest to us, in us and through us — regardless of circumstances. The circumstances may not be what we want, but we discover that ultimately, more of Yeshua in us and through us is really the victory we wanted all along — and He did, too. And so, by grace through trusting faith, we enter into more of Him and His magnificent promise of rest, even in a very restless world. That, I believe, is what Bein HaMetzrim and Tisha b’Av 5783/2023 are to be about for many of us.
Tisha b’Av and the three weeks preceding it are, therefore, an appropriate time to very intentionally turn from areas of personal unbelief, fear or rebellion that would hinder trusting faith in God’s leadership over your life, your nation and our whole planet. During Bein HaMetzarim there is a call to reconsecration. Then, on Av 9, regardless of what may or may not occur on that particular day, we celebrate a deliverance from death in the desert to life in the land or place of promise. We step into it by trusting faith. We step into a realignment of sorts. Even if we face some very real giants in the process.
Ancient Israel responded from fear and unbelief when they heard about giants in the land. The people rebelled against Moses and God Himself, ready to stone the small, faithful remnant that took YHVH at His word. Today, how should you and I respond when facing giants on the way to the place (literal or metaphorical or both) God is calling us?
Numbers 14:8-9 records the incisive words of Joshua and Caleb:
“If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”
The giants in your life are meant to be as bread to you. Because God delights in you, you will be nourished in spirit if you face those giants in His grace and in the power of His Word. He intends for you to eat giants and grow strong! Ask for a gift of faith if you need it. Then trust and obey His Word and His loving leadership, even if you must “do it scared” to some extent. His glory-love promises to you will be eternally worth it!
How to Pray for Israel at Tisha b’Av
And please do pray for Israel to do the same. Pray, proclaim and praise God for the removal of our enemies’ protection, especially that of Iran and her proxies. Pray for our deliverance from generational unbelief and raging, baseless hatred. Pray the power of the Blood of Yeshua over global and domestic witchcraft and occult forces inciting that baseless hatred. Petition for Israel and her governing leaders to seek God’s face and will. Intercede for a spirit of grace and supplication to humble ourselves, seek His face and turn from our own ways. Pray for His loving, new covenant circumcision of heart according to Jeremiah 31:31.
Pray for the millions of believers who recently fasted and prayed for Israel to intercede at this critical season. Pray they would enter into the fullness of God’s heart for the Jewish people and His kingdom purposes for them. Together, let’s pray for the peace of Jerusalem and give Him no rest until He surely establishes it.
For His Glory!