Muskets and short sabers glistened in the afternoon sun as the French Emperor walked the streets with his military escorts. As they rounded a corner, the entire company stopped in their tracks. What was that sound? Straight ahead, in the distance, was a beautifully-built building. Yes, the sound was coming from inside. A few men cautiously approached the door.
Peering in, they could see hundreds of people on their faces or sitting on very low stools. They looked on with astonishment as the entire gathering wept and groaned in utter despair. In an attempt to learn what great calamity had befallen them, they stepped inside and asked one of the mourners.
Looking up with a tear-stained face, the Jewish man explained between sobs that their holy Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. The soldiers asked when this had happened. They were part of the governing body of France and had not heard anything about any recent destruction in Jerusalem.
“On this day, the ninth of Av, one thousand, seven hundred, and forty-seven years ago” the Jewish man replied. Bewildered by what they had just seen and heard, the soldiers rejoined their comrades and relayed their findings. Upon understanding the scene and sounds before him, Napoleon Bonaparte exclaimed, “Anyone who holds something so dear that they will so bitterly mourn its destruction after almost two thousand years, will surely see it rebuilt!”
It is incredible to see the perseverance and longing hearts of the Jewish people over the past 2,000 years. Three times every day they have prayed for God to remember His covenants, to restore them to their land, and to restore His holy presence to Mt. Zion.
This past Sunday, June 27th was the 17th day of the fourth month (Tammuz), according to the Hebrew calendar. On this day, five biblical tragedies took place. Moses broke the first set of tablets from Mt. Sinai, the holy sacrifices in the Temple of God were stopped because of the Babylonian siege, King Mannaseh set up an idol in the Temple (2nd Kings 21:7), Apustemus (a Greek oppressor) burnt a Torah scroll, and Titus breached the city walls of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The tragedies on this date have continued into modern times. In 1239, Pope Gregory IX ordered the confiscation of all Jewish manuscripts. In 1391, more than 4,000 Spanish Jews were killed in Toledo and Jaen, Spain. In 1559, the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted. In 1944, the entire population of the Kovno ghetto was sent to the death camps. In 1970, Libya ordered the confiscation of all Jewish property.
The 17th of Tamuz begins a three-week period of mourning leading up to the ninth of Av (July 18th this year), which is the day that the first and second Temples were destroyed. Mourning customs during these three weeks include not having weddings or parties and not getting haircuts or shaving. Some people also refrain from going to concerts or listening to music.
On one of my first ninth of Avs here in Israel, I decided to go to a Synagogue and try to learn more about why the Jewish people do what they do on that day. I had a very Napoleon-like experience. I was inspired by how serious these people are. They were not just going through a ceremonial mourning ritual, they were weeping and shedding heartfelt tears because they were longing for God’s presence to return to Israel. They stayed in the synagogue all day, on the floor, crying, reading through Lamentations, and retelling the tragic stories of the past.
Was Napoleon right? Will the Jewish people see the Temple rebuilt and God’s holy presence restored to Mt. Zion? Should we, as Christians, mourn with them and support them in rebuilding the Temple? Many Christian theologians have said absolutely not. But, what does the Bible have to say?
Isaiah 56:6-8: “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants – everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant – even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Many Christians would say that the Temple is now spiritual and we should not be concerned about a physical place. Let’s see what Yeshua (Jesus) had to say.
Mark 11:15-17 ‘So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
Our Messiah and Savior actually stood in the physical place and quoted the verse from Isaiah. Yeshua believed that the literal, physical Temple Mount would be a place where people from all nations would come and pray to the God of Israel. This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.
The Jewish people are crying out to God, begging Him to restore His presence to Zion, and to make Jeruslaem a house of prayer for all nations. Will you join them?
I realize that, in my zeal, I may have just turned over a bunch of theological tables. If what I have said is something you have never heard before, I would encourage you to read “Jesus Loves the Temple” by Benjamin Hilton. Ben does a great job of re-examining the scriptural idea of a Temple in Jerusalem from a Christian perspective.
If you would like to join with other Christians who have decided to mourn with the Jewish people during these three weeks, visit: www.9-av.com