The 9th of Av which will be observed this year (2023) on July 27th is a day that calls Israel to fasting, prayer, and repentance. There are four such days that were cited by Zechariah 8:19: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore, love truth and peace.” The first of these four is the 17th of Tammuz when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Babylonians 2 Kings 25:3 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Jeremiah described it in Jer. 39:2 “in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the city wall was breached.
Later in Israel’s history, on the same day, the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem as Yeshua prophesied in Luke 21:20–23:
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.
The second is in the fifth month on the 9th of Av. It was on that day both the first and second Temple were destroyed. That fast was considered and still is considered the most serious and disastrous among the orthodox Jewish community because it is the day that sacrifices could no longer be offered. This year (2023) the 9th of Av is July 27. Jeremiah describes this in 52:12-14:
Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard of King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem with his army and carried away valuables that were in the Temple, burned the Temple and the city, and took away many captives.
The fast of the Seventh month commemorates the tragedy of Gedaliah and those with him at Mizpah who were slain by Ishmael and his band of murderers. Gedaliah had been appointed governor by the Babylonians in the wake of the captivity to oversee those left behind to manage the land. This account is recorded in Jeremiah 41:1-3
Ishmael also struck down all the Jews who were with him, that is with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans who were found there, the men of war.
The fast of the tenth month remembers the siege of the city that began 2 Kings 25:1-2:
“Now in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it and built a siege wall all around it. So the city was under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.
Ezekiel spoke of it as well in Ezek. 24:1–2:
And the word of the LORD came to me in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth of the month, saying, “Son of man, write the name of the day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.
The 9th of Av or T’sh B’Av is also the day when God decreed judgment on Israel for her rebellion and idolatry in failing to enter the land because of the bad report of the 12 spies. The Rabbis in commenting on the first tragedy, the failure to enter the Promised Land, taught why this decree was made. When Israel approached the Promised Land Moses sent spies to survey the land so they could give a report to the people. When the spies returned, instead of telling the people the praises of the land (such as the larger-than-normal produce) they gave a totally slanted and negative report. Their negative report and horrifying predictions caused many to become grief-stricken and lose their faith in God. The Gemara tells us that when God heard their bitter weeping over what they believed was to be their certain demise, He responded “You wept a weeping without cause. Therefore, I shall establish for you a weeping (on this day) for generations to come.” Their weeping was without cause because God had promised to take the nation into the land. While the report of the spies may have been disheartening, the people should have trusted that God would keep His promise. The decree that God issued was that the nation would wander for 40 years in the desert until all adult males of that generation died. Only then would their children enter the land. This decree was issued on the 9th of Av. We would do well to remember this day and consider that God is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever, and the standards he gave Israel have not changed for we who have come to faith in Yeshua as Messiah. The Shema (“hear”) is a focal point for our worship: Deut. 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. It calls us to the wonder of the Mystery that is our God. The Hebrew word for “one” (ECHAD) is a plural one not a singular, which points to the tri-unity. Yeshua quoted the Shema to a Rabbi, who was earnestly seeking to draw closer to God. This Rabbi asked Him what the most important command is. Yeshua said that the key to seeking and understanding God is knowing His love as Mark 12:29 relates: “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. God is to be loved, not merely ‘studied’ or ‘talked about’ with disinterest. And Yeshua quickly added that we need to love our neighbor as well. Our neighbors included the hated Samaritans. Israel’s failure was to forget His love as they were about to enter the Land. The result was the first 9th of Av. We should always have this understanding that God loves us, and trust and obey Him in every circumstance we face. As we reflect on this 9th of Av consider the truths contained in the Shema and Deut 4. Deuteronomy is a Greek word meaning a 2nd Law. In Hebrew, the 5th book is called Devarim (Words). This book is written in the form of a Ketubah or marriage covenant. God in Scripture is described as our Husband and Israel as God’s Wife.If we want to avoid the mistakes that Israel remembers on the 9th of Av we need to remember that God is the God of heaven and earth. There is only One GOD– a God for all of life and living. The nations that occupied the land as Israel did not acknowledge this truth. As Paul later related to the Greeks about the God of Israel in Acts 17:24-28 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands… for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children. They had gods who they had invented. There was a strong temptation to take the gods of the Canaanites seriously. Their God had done miracles in Egypt and in the desert; But what did HE know about agriculture and living in Canaan? So Moses reminded them that there is only One God– for all of life! But before we condemn those idol-makers did you ever consider that we pick and choose bits and pieces of scripture to make a composite sketch of a “God” of the Bible who meets our will and needs? We all are theologians and most of claim to be an “expert” on the subject of God. We hear people say, “God wouldn’t do that.” or “God doesn’t care about that.” And amazingly, God usually agrees with the person talking, at least that’s what they think. If we select those scripturally true statements about God that appeal to us and refuse to meet face-to-face with the God who Is, we are no better than the enemies of Israel, and our God is not the God of the Bible: 2 Tim 2:15: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. We want a “heavenly God” that we can meet (and leave) on Shabbat; a God to whom we dedicate our babies, and before Whom we take our wedding vows. We want a God to explain our fears of death away. But when we leave the congregation and after Shabbat, we have a variety of earthly influences that demand that we listen to them. They want to set our values that motivate what we esteem. Our idols may be as concrete and real as a fine car, or as abstract as “financial security”– they can be the pursuit of “eternal youth,” or as subtle as the intellectual pride of proving we are keeping up with the academic cutting edge. But we need to recognize them for what they are: the idols of our day. But God is the One that we must set our hearts and minds on and it His Word which brings and sustains real life – not the illusion that world philosophies and religions cling to. Tish B’Av teaches us that God is a jealous God in fact Deut. 4:24 is the portion of Scripture that is read on Tish’B’av: For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. And in Deut. 4:31 we read something that seems to contradict this: For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy or forget the covenant with your fathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. This is a difficult truth but truth nonetheless. When we wonder at the trials we and our people have experienced it is a reminder that God is Holy and Just and so He must punish sin. Sometimes justice, righteousness, and holiness seem to be incompatible with forgiveness, tenderness and mercy. A God of both justice and great compassion seems to us a paradox: At times we all wonder Is God demanding, just, and aloof? Or is He condescending and merciful, a sort of cosmic grandfather? Is He a God fit for heaven? Or is He a God for our daily life? Some think if only this God would stay in heaven– and sort of shout down from time to time when he wanted a sacrifice, but just leave the day-to-day living to us, so that we don’t have to miss our favorite TV show or whatever we want to do. Then we could get along fine. We could call on Him if our children got a high fever or there was a tornado watch, but for the most part He can just stay in heaven where He belongs. But we do not have just one simple statement that God is Holy or Just or that He is unconditional love. We have what appear to be conflicting statements: In Deut. 4:24 on Tish B’Av we are told “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God”. Some Christians believe that there is a difference between the God of the Older Covenant and the God of the New Covenant. That the God of the Old Covenant is an angry and judgmental God while in the New we have God in forgiveness and love. “Jealousy” is usually thought of as being mean and ungracious. But as we study both Old and New Covenants, we come to understand that there is an appropriate jealousy. In a marriage relationship petty jealousy can stifle and crush trust and love; but a marriage relationship must be based on the fidelity of both partners to their covenant vows. If the solemn vows of marriage are taken lightly the relationship is in serious trouble. God cares about us so much that He does not take our covenant vows with Him lightly. God is always ready to hear our cry; He is merciful and loving. Again ins Deut 4:31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. God has not changed. The God who brought our people into the Promised Land who fought their battles for them and cares for them is the same God today. God cares about His people. He listens when they cry to Him. He is not anxious to find fault, to abandon His own. The conviction by His Spirit that comes to us through His Word is for the purpose of restoration and communion. God loves us. But can we live with this paradox? If we take the one, That God is loving and gracious, we can and must also take the other view That God is just and must punish sin. The 9th of Av is a call to worship. We’re never told about God simply for the purpose of information. What we think we know about God is probably not as important as how we walk and abide in Him.
God has promised that every effort to draw near to Him will be met with a divine response: As God spoke to King Asa through His prophet: (2 Chr 15:2) The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
TWO important facts we need to understand from Deut. 4. 1. God will always hear our cry to know Him! Deut 4:29 “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. God wants a people who are absolutely devoted to Him. He wants a family who know who He is; wonderful, gracious, kind powerful, forgiving. He delights in our love—in some small way reflecting the great and tender kindness with which He already loves us. 2. God does not exist for us; we exist for Him! Our love for Him demands that we make Him Lord of heaven and earth the only One and that we serve Him as Lord and master of our lives. This is one of the key reasons we recite the Shema every week, Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and strength. God is to be God of all of our life. Nothing is to be beyond Hisjealous care: Deut. 4:39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. In summation on this 9th of Av we are called to acknowledge the mystery of God. To affirm in our hearts that He is a GOOD God, and to not try to make Him into our image. The 9th of Av is a call and reminder that our lives are not our own. Just as Israel was purchased or redeemed from slavery by the Lord, so that they might serve Him so too have we been redeemed to serve Him.