"HEAR O HEAVENS AND GIVE EAR O EARTH for the Lord has spoken; Though I brought up and raised My children, they have rebelled against me.” Isaiah 1:2. This timeless scripture has been read and lamented for thousands of years at exactly this time of the year on God's calendar.
It has been read for millennia on the last Sabbath before the ending of a 3-week period of fasting known biblically as the Fasts of the 4th and 5th Months, and historically as “Three Weeks of Sorrow”. The fast began on the 17th day of God’s 4th month, June 28 on our 2021 Gregorian calendar, with the destruction of the Ten Commandments because of national idol worship. It continues through the 9th day of the 5th month of Av, Tishah B’Av, July 19 on our calendar. This last Sabbath reading of this scripture is timed for Sunday, July 18 on our 2021 Gregorian calendar.
To this day, Israel mourns tragedies that happened during this period because of their national idolatry. The anniversary date of the beginning of Israel’s sorrow began around 3500 years ago on Tammuz 17 when the Ten Commandments were destroyed by Moses. Millions of Israelites had grown tired of waiting on God’s timing and took matters into their own hands. In a vain attempt to control their own national destiny, they formed their own image of worship, effectively waving it in the face of the Almighty, not long after witnessing His actual presence on the mountain. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/4104683759611782
Two years later on the 9th day of Av, 12 Israelite spies returned after 40 days of checking out the Promised Land. Most of them doubted the Lord could or would deliver what He promised. God’s response to their lack of faith was to make them wander an additional year for every day they spent doubting Him. At that time, that amounted to another 38 years wandering in the Wilderness. An entire generation would not enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 13-14, Deuteronomy 2)
The 9th day of Av also marks the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple 587/586 B.C.E.. The great and mighty physical place of God’s presence on this earth, where He had chosen to “put His Name”, went up in smoke. More than 100,000 people were killed and millions of His chosen people were led away into Babylonian exile. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13)
After the exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem, the Temple was rebuilt. Incredibly, in 70 AD, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem for a second time on exactly the same day as the walls were originally breached around 500 years before. On the 17th day of Tammuz, the assault began and continued for 3 weeks to the 9th day of Av. Two million Jews died, and another million were exiled.
Jews are taught to this day that Jerusalem fell because of “sinat hinam”, or “baseless hatred”, which caused the once united people to attack each other, making them weak and vulnerable to their enemy. IsraelAM made this impassioned statement in 2018 as the 9th day of Av approached: “The Talmud attributes the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple to baseless hatred. The political and social situation in Israel at the time of the destruction was rife was infighting and strife. Instead of focusing on fighting the Romans, the various Jewish factions fought and killed each other before finally uniting to face the Romans, when it was already much too late. Had the Jews been united, perhaps the destruction, even the war itself, could have been avoided. The destruction of the Second Temple marked the start of a close to 2,000-year period of statelessness and exile, filled with persecution and massacres, and culminating in the ultimate horror of the Holocaust. Now we have returned to our homeland, reestablished our sovereignty over it (more or less, despite the efforts of most of the world to keep us vulnerable) and made it thrive. We have a second chance to correct the mistakes we made the first time around. If we can unite and exist in (relative) harmony, we can remain invincible in our land forever. That is the message, and challenge, of Tisha B’av, and why we continue to commemorate the day of our greatest defeat (what other nation commemorates defeat?)."
What was the cost to a nation called forth under God’s name who mired itself knee-deep in the pit of “baseless hatred”? The next year on the 9th of Av anniversary, the Roman army literally plowed Jerusalem with salt to make the ground sterile and fallow, in order to eventually build a pagan Roman city. This act directly fulfilled the prophecy in Micah 3:12. “Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field; Jerusalem will become a heap of rub, and the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.”
In the centuries since the Israelite pilgrimage to the Promised Land, Israel has recorded many other national disasters on the same anniversary date. On the 9th day of Av In 135 AD, over 500,000 Jews civilians were killed by the Romans in the Bar Kochba Jewish revolt. The Temple area was plowed under again and Jerusalem was then rebuilt as a pagan city, and Jews were denied entrance.
Almost a thousand years later, The First "Christian" Crusade killed 1.2 million Jews. It began on the 9th day of Av. As a result of the Crusade, King Edward I ordered that all Jews be expelled from England on July 18, 1290, the 9th day of Av. No Jewish people lived there again until 1657.
During the Spanish Inquisition, all Jews were ordered out of Spain by the end of July 1492. July 31 of that year would have been the 9th day of Av. 800,000 Jews left. Spain’s fortunes began to decrease, even though Christopher Columbus discovered America that year.
World War I was declared on 9th day of Av, 1914, when Germany declared war on Russia. The war set the stage for the coming Holocaust of the nation of Israel and the global struggle involving all major nations in the entire world. Incredibly, Adolph Hitler’s 1938 “Final Solution” to rid the world of the Jews by gassing and burning them, was also approved on the 9th day of Av. Six million Jews were exterminated. As part of that killing, on the 10th of July 1942, the Germans began a systematic liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, deporting Jews to extermination camps at the rate of six to ten thousand per day. Deportation started on the 9th day of Av.
We have just reviewed 12 national calamities that have fallen on the nation of Israel on the 9th day of Av. Remember, there are 365 days in a year, so the chance that just a second tragedy would strike on the same anniversary day are 1 in 365. The chances for a third event would rise to 1 times 365 times 365 which is 1 in 133,225. The odds on these twelve events happening to the same people, on the same day is 1 chance in 15.318 billion times a billion times or 1 chance in 15 with 27 zeroes after it which is called an octillion, 1 in 15,318,685,820,000,000,000,000,000,000 (15 Octillion, 318 septillion, 685 sextillion, 820 quintillion).
It is no accident that God continues to teach His 21st century Chosen People through the lamentations of His ancient Chosen People. Israel takes this time period so seriously that, by law, restaurants and places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Tisha B'Av and the following day. They realize that God’s Word is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever”. At this very moment, Israeli intelligence estimates thousands are organizing and carrying out military strikes against Israel.
Many note that World War I began on that same date. Add the fact that our iconic July 4, 1776, was marked on God's calendar that year as the 17th of Tammuz, and it's impossible not to see the relevance of today’s lesson to us Christians. "Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ… Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." Ephesians 2:11-13;19-22
Perhaps we should carefully consider this Parable written for the 9th of Av: Once a great artist desired to paint his greatest masterpiece and journeyed with his companion to the top of a high mountain to find the perfect view. After several days, the painting was complete, though the artist began to view his work at different angles to see what improvements might be made. He started walking backward, admiring his work. He continued to pace backward, focusing only on his painting, when he approached the edge of a cliff. When his friend realized the danger, he called out for him to stop, but the artist took no heed to his words. At the last moment, when he (the artist) was about to plunge to his certain death, however, his friend picked up a knife, ran to the picture, and began slashing it to pieces, destroying the masterpiece before the artist’s eyes. “What are you doing!” the artist cried out, having finally come to his senses. “Look behind you and you’ll see why I did it” replied the friend.
We Christians today are a lot like the painter in this parable. Unknowingly, could we be inching backwards toward the abyss of spiritual pride and arrogance? Will our own national “baseless hatred” become our bottomless pit?
Consider this convicting word from God Almighty in Zechariah 7:4-6. “I received this message from the Lord All-Powerful. ‘Tell all the priests and the other people in this country this: ‘For seventy years you fasted and showed your sadness in the fifth month and the seventh month. But was that fasting really for me? And when you ate and drank, was that for me? No, it was for your own good.’”
Zechariah continues with good news for us, in spite of our religious shallowness. "Thus said the LORD of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Judah; but you must love honesty and integrity." Zechariah 8:19
Yes, Tishah B’Av has a powerful, timely message for us deeply divided, troubled Christians. God’s directive for redemption is succinct. We must become like Christ, not just profess Him: we must love honesty and integrity.
HEAR O HEAVENS AND GIVE EAR O EARTH for the Lord has spoken; “Though I brought up and raised My children, they have rebelled against me.” Isaiah 1:2.