“But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you … The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.”Deuteronomy 28:15, 25
Today marks the 9th Day of the eleventh month of Av on the Jewish calendar, also known as Tishah B’Av. Apart from the Day of Atonement, Tishah B’Av is the most solemn day of the year for the Jewish people. It is a day that is associated with immense suffering and historical tragedy.
Therefore, it is a day to remember. To reflect. To mourn. To Repent.
Many can argue that historically no other people group has ever collectively suffered more than the people of Israel. Although persecution and tragedy is no respecter of persons and affects us all, the history of the Jewish people tells a unique story that is unequalled among the nations.
Tishah B’Av is a significant day in that story.
For example, both the first and second temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on the 9th of Av. In 586. B.C., the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem, breached her walls and destroyed the city and the holy Temple on this fateful day.
Fast forward to Tishah B’Av in 70 A.D. Roman legions from the Middle East did the very same thing to the 2nd Temple, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews. The likelihood of both temples being destroyed by Gentile invaders on the exact same day some 650 years apart is beyond probability. It sounds more like divine conspiracy to me.
But it only gets more interesting from there. The 9th of Av is also connected to some of the most tragic events in Jewish history. Here are some of the most notable.
- The 9th of Av is associated with the bad report of the 10 spies sent in to the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses [see Numbers 13-14]. Because of the lack of faith of these spies, the entire generation of Israelites were punished by God and ultimately died in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua.
- 586. B.C. — the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar, resulting in the first Jewish exile.
- 70 A.D. — the destruction of the 2nd Jewish Temple by Roman General Titus, leaving an estimated 1 million dead.
- 135 A.D. — The Bar Kokhbah Revolt was crushed again by the Romans, resulting in another 600,000 deaths in Judah.
- 1099 A.D. — The pogroms of the First Crusade (1096-1099) massacred tens of thousands of Jews in Germany, France, Italy and Britain.
- 1290 A.D. — The Jewish expulsion from Britain.
- 1492 A.D. — The Jewish expulsion from Spain.
- 1914 — The eruption of the First World War
- 1942 — The beginning of the Nazi deportation of Warsaw Ghetto Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp, resulting in the death of over 6 million Jews.
All of these tragedies are connected to one day on the Jewish calendar — the 9th of Av.
Clearly this is more than a strange coincidence, but the question remains … why? What is God’s purpose in allowing His chosen people to suffer perpetually in such tragic ways?
Disobedience Brings Cursing
The covenant that the LORD established with the children of Israel at Sinai was a conditional covenant that depended upon obedience to His commandments. The LORD told Israel through Moses that their relationship would be established upon love and faithfulness — much like a marriage covenant. God promised to remain forever faithful to Israel, and at the same time He expected His people to love and obey Him.
As long as Israel obeyed in faith, God would bless, protect and provide for them, but also He warned them about the severe consequences and curses that would come for spiritual adultery (idolatry) and disobedience. Unfortunately, the historical pattern of Israel has been one of overwhelming disobedience and spiritual apostasy, resulting in the tragic consequences for their sin. Moses, Joshua, and all the prophets referred back to the covenant at Sinai when warning the people of the dangers of disobedience.
“Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. 24For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. 25When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. 28And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.”Deuteronomy 4:23-28
But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” 22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem.Joshua 24:19-25
The 9th of Av is in many ways a validation of the covenant that the LORD made with Israel at Sinai, and more specifically God’s promise to keep His word. Every generation of the people of Israel that has forgotten and forsaken the LORD has also been held accountable to the conditions of the covenant that defines their relationship with the LORD.
The Jews historically have been a stubborn and rebellious people, forsaking the LORD God for other gods and even denying belief in God altogether, as many atheistic Jews do to this day. For this reason, the perpetual suffering and persecution of the Jewish people has been a result of unbelief in the One True God and in His Son Jesus Christ.
The spirit of Antichrist
“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”1 John 2:18
From a spiritual perspective, the Jewish people also have suffered immensely because God’s people always have been the direct object of satanic hatred and hostility. Whether it was Pharaoh murdering the Hebrew children in Egypt, or Haman convincing King Xerxes to exterminate the Jews, or Hitler’s holocaust, or the everlasting hatred that has existed among Israel’s Muslim enemies, the spirit of antichrist has been working relentlessly to eliminate God’s people from the face of the earth.
It’s bad enough when God’s people forsake Him and leave themselves exposed and vulnerable to their enemies, but it’s even worse that there have always been demonically-charged enemies who are looking for the opportunity to destroy the Jews. A thorough investigation to the events of Tishah B’Av will lead to the supernatural forces behind them. We must see everything through spiritual lenses to understand the entire picture.
We know that this spirit of antichrist remains strong in the world today and will only grow stronger as the appointed time of the end draws near.
“Thus says the LORD:Jeremiah 30:5-7
We have heard a cry of panic,
of terror, and no peace.
6Ask now, and see,
can a man bear a child?
Why then do I see every man
with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor?
Why has every face turned pale?
7Alas! That day is so great
there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob;
yet he shall be saved out of it.
In the same way that the 9th of Av has been a day of tragedy for the Jewish people, there is one more day appointed for Israel that will top them all — the day of Jacob’s trouble. The bad news is that this will be the time of unprecedented tribulation for all of God’s people — both Jews and Christians — prior to the return of Jesus Christ. If I had to guess, I believe the 9th of Av will have at least one more significant, yet tragic, event associated with it.
The good news, however, is that God has promised to deliver His people out of the Great Tribulation, preserving for Himself a remnant of faithful believers who will not forsake Him during this time of Great Tribulation. Along with this promise, the LORD has promised to turn the hearts of the Jewish people back to Him in the last days and pour out His Spirit of grace upon the children of Israel.
Even Moses prophesied about this turning back to the LORD in the last days.
“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. 30When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.“Deuteronomy 4:29-31
This is the good news of the gospel! God is faithful. God is merciful. Come to Jesus and believe in Him, and you will be saved. That is message for the Jewish people and all the nations of the earth.
My prayer is that on this 9th of Av, all of God’s people will turn their hearts back to God and believe the promises of God. There is hope for all people in the Messiah — Yeshua. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, we are awaiting our Deliverer — our Blessed Hope — the appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,Romans 11:25-27
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”