Friday, July 27, 2012

The Mourning Fast that will become Joyfilled Feasts!

Most Christians are probably unaware that today is one of the most significant holy days on the Jewish calendar, the fast of the fifth month or often known as “Tish B’Av.”  This fast commemorates 8 national disasters for the Jewish people according to tradition.  These disasters happened all on the same day.  Here are some of them.  First, the wilderness generation from Exodus refuse to go into the land and reject God culminating in punishment.  They are condemned to die in the wilderness because they spurned God and refused to believe in Him (Num 14).  According to the Jewish calendar, that day happened on Tish B'Av.  Second, the first temple was destroyed on this very day in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians after a long siege.  Third, the second temple was destroyed (yup, you guessed it, on the same day) in 70 A.D. by the Romans.  Some others, A Jewish Massacre in 135 A.D. during the last battle of the Bar Kochba rebellion (which was the result of Emperor Hadrian building a temple to idols on the Temple Mount and a self proclaimed messiah) and a couple exiles from countries (England in 1290 and Spain in 1492).  What a very sad day indeed and not one by coincidence.

Think about it, what if we had national tragedies that continued to happen on the same day.  Take Dec 7th or Sept 11th for example.  Just the mere mention of those dates should bring back memories of tragedy.  But imagine several distinctive events that could be attributed to a lack of belief in God.  For Israel, they refused to believe in God and enter into the land and were condemned.  They refused to believe in God and followed after idols so God's glory left (Ezek 8-11) and the first temple was destroyed (2 Chr 36:11–21).  They refused to believe in God incarnate and were judged with the second temple being destroyed (Matt 23:36-24:2).  They followed after a false Messiah and rebelled against Rome in 135 A.D.  What a day to mourn.

But let’s look at something in a little more detail that pertains to the “fifth” month of mourning or Tish B'Av.  Take a look at Zechariah 7.  The Jewish people have been exiled and are coming toward the end of this 70 years. Two representatives come to the priests and prophets to ask about whether they should weep, mourn and fast during the “fifth” month (Zech 7:1-3).  This self-imposed fast was Tish B’Av.  At this time, the fast was to remind them of the First Temple destruction by the Babylonians.  The seventh month fast is the “Day of Atonement” which was commanded by the Lord for them to humble themselves (afflict their souls) over their sin (Lev 16). Yet their hypocrisy is exposed in that this mourning was not done for the LORD but for the people themselves (7:5ff).  They also had a few more self-imposed mourning fasts.  Take a look at Zechariah 8:19–They observed a fourth month —capture of Jerusalem (city wall breached – 2 Kgs 25:3–4; Jer 39:2) and a tenth month– Siege of Jerusalem (2 Kgns 25:1–2; Jer 39:1) fast.  Four fasts in all.  The fourth, fifth,  tenth month fasts all centered around the loss of Jerusalem and the Temple.  The seventh month fast focused on their national sin.

But Zechariah 8:19 also points to something else.  These mourning fasts will one day turn to Joy.  One day, they will stop mourning over the devastation their sin has caused. These sorrowful FASTS will turn to Joyful FEASTS.  But don’t stop there.  Keep reading!  Zechariah 8:20–23, the peoples of the world will one day go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.  Not only that, but the Jewish people will one day play a part in World Wide Worship.  Zechariah 8:13 shows that the Jewish people who are a curse among the nations will one day be saved and will be a source of blessing to the nations.  One writer states, “With the Davidic kingdom established, Israel will be a medium of blessing to the entire globe.”

Today, all over the world, Jewish people who observe Tish B’Av will be saying, “Next Year in Jerusalem” in hopes of seeing a restored nation and temple with Messiah ruling.  After the meal that ends the fast, a common saying is maybe “we won’t have to fast this year.” Maybe “Messiah will come and the Temple will be rebuilt before the fast starts.” 
One day, the LORD will send His Messiah a SECOND TIME, and they will look on whom they have pierced and mourn – Zechariah 12:10!!!  Until that day, Tish B’Av will be a day of mourning for the Temple.  After that day, there will be joyfilled feast for God’s people will have come to faith in Christ.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Righteous Ruler

This weekend marks one of the most somber observances for the Jewish nation.  It is the time when both temples were destroyed on the same day.  There is much to be said of “Tish B’av” and I plan on working through some of these things on my blog for anyone interested.  I am currently in the process of writing my Th.M. thesis on the temple and figured I’d post a few things about it in the next few weeks as well. 

Today, I have been studying Jeremiah.  Both the nation and the king have turned away from following after the LORD.  They have broken His covenant.  In Jeremiah 22, God calls the Davidic kings to “Do justice and righteousness” (22:2-3).  If they obey, then God would perpetuate the reign of David’s descendants on Judah’s throne (22:4).  If they disobey, then David’s “house” would become a desolation (22:5).  All they need to do is follow after God, doing justice and righteousness.  Yet that same theme will come up and expose their lack of these qualities.  They are without” righteousness” and without “justice” (22:13).  Not only will God make the Davidic “house” a desolation, but He has also said if the nation fails to follow after Him and continues to break the covenant, that His “House” (the Temple) will become a desolation (7:12-15; 12:7-11).  The Davidic king and the people were to follow God, not reject Him or His Word.  Yet they fail and the Temple is destroyed, the people exiled and the nation laid to waste.  Tish B'av remembers the destuction of the Temple on the same day in 586 B.C. with the Babylonians and then again in 70 A.D. with the Romans.

While chapter 22 calls for justice and righteousness to be found in the king and then shows that these qualities are lacking, chapter 23 brings about a significant promise for a future Davidic descendant who will one day reign as king and who will do…..”justice” and “righteousness” in the land (23:5).  This coming one will be a righteous Branch from the line of David.  Zechariah 6:12-13 show us that this righteous Branch will also build the temple of the LORD and will be both a priest and king, sitting on the throne of David.  One day, there will be a righteous ruler who does justice and righteousness as King over a one world order.  I love how Jeremiah 23:6 ends, “And this is His name by which He will be called, The LORD our righteousness.”

Israel laments the loss of its temple which signified the dwelling place of God.  They long to rebuild the temple and look to the day when Messiah reigns.  Yet we know that the God-man, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Messiah will reign as King over the entire world.  Matthew 25:31ff describes Christ's promise to return in glory, with angels and THEN He will sit on His throne, judging the nations (righteously and justly) and giving those who truly know Him the priviledge to enter into His kingdom (Matt 25:34).  What a promise indeed!