I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” You came near when I called you. Lamentations 3:56-57
On the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, 5773 - the most tragic day on the Jewish calendar - thousands of religious Jews approached Jerusalem’s Kotel (Western Wall), the holiest site for Jews and Christians, to commemorate the destruction of the holy temples, Jerusalem and the Jewish commonwealth. This year marks 1943 years since the Second Temple’s destruction in the year 70 CE.
Tisha B’Av is the lowest point of a three week period of mourning. During this time all celebratory occasions are forbidden. It is a time of solemn reflection and mourning for Israel and the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.
Traditions associated with this day include sitting on the floor reciting prayers, walking without leather shoes, refraining from washing and fasting for 25 hours. Many Jews spend the night next to the Kotel, the last remaining remnant of the Second Temple, and pray for its rebuilding and reestablishment. Today the Temple Mount is in Islamic hands, with mosques now occupying the place where once stood the Holy of Holies.
Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) see him as the true Temple of God that dwelt among us. The Tabernacle was a temporary dwelling place, as was the physical Temple, for, as it is written (2 Chronicles 6:18), God could never be contained in a house made of stone, cedar and gold. Furthermore, Yeshua told the Pharisees that he was greater than the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 12:6). Yeshua himself is the divine presence of God, which tabernacles among us (Colossians 2:9).
To those, however, who still mourn the destruction of the Temple, Yeshua remains ‘the stone that causes them to stumble.’ They stumble because they do not believe that Yeshua is the sanctuary for His people. While the Temple stood it signified that the way into God’s holy presence had not yet been disclosed (Hebrew 9:8). It presented an obstacle to those who would worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) and a barrier to the Gentiles coming to faith in the one true God.
Yeshua himself was not only the Holy of Holies, but also the Lamb of God, the one and only perfect sin offering. When his flesh was destroyed the curtain in the Temple was also destroyed, thus releasing His presence to all who would approach and draw near to Him in faith.
But what of the promises regarding the Temple in Jerusalem?
God’s promises that one day the Temple will be restored and the children of Israel will be re-gathered from the nations are far from null and void. It is evident today that the promise of return is rapidly being fulfilled. And, interestingly, the day of mourning for the Temple is already, even before it has been rebuilt, starting to become a time of renewed hope, faith and restoration.
A new short film by the Temple Institute is just one example of how Tisha B’Av is gradually reframing itself and rising up from the sackcloth and ashes. Titled The Children are Ready II, the video depicts an emotional journey starting in the synagogue where the traditional lamentations are read. But, the focus is not on the adult’s recitation; rather, it is on the children in the next room playing with their building blocks. It is the children whom are awakened to the fact that the time of mourning has ended. The film ends with the children leading the adults out of the door of the synagogue into a bright white light with the words: ‘The children are ready’.
This image of the next generation pioneering change by replacing mourning with building and strengthening the destiny that lies ahead for Israel and her people is insightful; for while it focuses on the promised physical rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, it is also very much representative of the promises spiritual awakening of Israel that will lead them to their Messiah.
Tisha B’Av must become for us a time to rejoice that the Temple’s foretold destruction signifies that the way into God’s presence has been opened through Yeshua, and we must earnestly pray that the people’s hearts continue to be softened so that they see in Him their hope and the embodiment of the Temple they so yearn to see reestablished.