Beginning at sundown on July 26, Jewish families around the world will commemorate the saddest day of the year on the Jewish calendar. Known as Tisha B’Av or the Ninth of Av, it is a day of mourning, fasting, and prayer. Many disastrous events are remembered on this day, including the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians in 423 BCE, the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, and the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492. Through all these events, God spoke to Israel in very natural ways as the Master of their circumstances (Leviticus 26:14–45). God uses our circumstances as the consequence for our sin and disobedience to say, “You are not pleasing Me. Now go into a time of repentance and seeking Me.”
In Zechariah 7:2–14, we see an account of this time of fasting. The town of Bethel sent representatives to ask the priests and prophets, “Should we continue fasting and mourning during this fifth month of the year?” So these messengers were referring directly to Tisha B’Av in this Scripture. They wanted to know, “Do we continue fasting and weeping before God during this day?” The Lord answered through His prophet Zechariah, saying, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?” (Zechariah 7:5).1 Then God responded with this command to all Israel, “Thus has the LORD of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother’” (Zechariah 7:9). God did not tell them to do some big religious act. He simply said, “Change your ways of relating to one another. Do nothing to oppress the poor or devise evil in your hearts against one another.” But they refused to pay attention to the Word of the Lord through His prophets. Therefore, God refused to listen to them, scattered His people among all the nations, and made the pleasant land a desolation.
As we approach this day of humbling our hearts, I want to focus on what we as believers in Yeshua (Jesus) should do in recognizing the significance of this date for us. When we find things like this in the Hebrew Scriptures, knowing that we have been grafted into the great covenant promises of Abraham, we see that Tisha B’Av has a participation and a fulfillment for us as well. This day of mourning is about looking at our circumstances: “Is our land being made desolate? Are we listening to the voice of the Lord and being obedient to His ways?” In our rebellion and lack of responding to His voice, God Himself will not listen to our prayers. So I have this question in my heart: “Is God hearing the Church as we pray?”
God will turn the negative events and circumstances in our lives to good if we love Him and seek Him with honest repentance. He promises to turn these times of fasting and mourning into times of great joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for Israel and the house of Judah (Zechariah 8:19). Then many peoples and mighty nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, not to destroy or persecute him, but to say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23). We humble our hearts in faith knowing that God promises to hear us and heal our land if we turn our hearts to Him (Isaiah 58:8–12; 2 Chronicles 7:14).
1 All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB1995).