Tisha B’av, the fast day commemorating the various disasters throughout Jewish history was observed yesterday. This fast is generally associated with the destruction of the two temples. The first, Solomon’s temple, by the Babylonians, and the second, Herod’s, by the Romans. Over time it has also included other incidents like the 10 Roman Martyrs, the Spanish Inquisition, various pogroms, and the Nazi Holocaust. So perhaps the Jewish people can be forgiven for using victimization as an excuse for personal, cultural, and national solidarity. But when we look at the root of the fast, it comes from Numbers 13, when the spies come back from the Promised Land and (ironically) cause the people to doubt God’s promises.
And so, historically, Tisha B’av begins with rebellion and disbelief. So soon after having been saved from Egypt, and being instructed in their service to God in the tabernacle, God tells Moses to send twelve men into Canaan. After forty days the spies come back and on the advice of ten of them (all except Caleb and Joshua), the people became so scared they rebel and pick up stones to kill Moses and Aaron for leading them into a dangerous land. As a result, God decides to destroy them and raise up another people that Moses would lead. But Moses pleads with God, and God decides instead to cause them to wander in the wilderness for another 40 years, until the complaining generation dies off because of their complaining and rebellion and disbelief.
So how do so many (but not all) Jews respond to Tisha B’av? To announce their solidarity under their suffering. To somehow take pride in their victim status. And this is where they miss the point. Where we all miss the point. Being a victim is not a time to take pride in our victim status. To gather with other victims and declare how special and unique we are. This is a kind of perverse response that comes from the Evil One alone.
1 Peter 4:12 and 4:19 remind us,
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”
Persecution, suffering, illness, and the impact of civil authority that ranges from mild frustration to public martyrdom are all opportunities to repent and thank God for His mercy, to trust Him with the outcome of our situations, and to do good. To take our eyes off our circumstances, put them on God, and walk in obedience. How are we to do this? Micah 6:8 says,
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; what the LORD requires of you. To be just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Trials and tribulations — whether in the form of curtailed civil liberties or the wholesale slaughter of a community — is not the time to stand up and make bold statements about our solidarity in the face of a crisis (whichever one is facing us today), but to humble ourselves, repent, and praise God for His grace in the face of a sinful, fallen world. Perhaps, most importantly, to meditate on the following words of our savior, Jesus Christ, from Luke 6:22,23 and 6:29,30:
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you,
and revile [you], and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward [is] great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22,23
“To him who strikes you on the [one] cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold [your] tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask [them] back.” Luke 6:29,30
Pray for people of faith (Jewish and Christian) everywhere, that their faith in the Lord of Creation and His Word may not waver but be strengthened regardless of the level of hardship. For though our hearts may waver, God never does.