It’s easy to share good times with someone, but much more difficult to help them through sickness, financial hardship, relational challenges, and all those times when we simply wish we had someone to talk to who might understand how we feel. They may not be able to solve our problems, but at least we know we don’t have to navigate them alone.
That is the test of a true friend, a true brother, and a true sister.
With that in mind, how can we be true friends to our Jewish brothers and sisters? We support Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and we stand against antisemitism whenever we can. We do that because we have learned that our Jewish Messiah wants us to care for His brothers and sisters. We also do it because we have a growing understanding of our identification with Israel. Whether we regard ourselves as grafted-in Gentiles, returning Ephraimites, or Christian lovers of Israel, we know our spiritual destiny is bound up with the Jewish people. They are the visible remnant of God’s Covenant Nation, and the greatest evidence that there is a God Who is willing and able to keep His promises. That’s why we travel to Israel to see the Beautiful Land and meet the Chosen People, why we study the Jewish sages to deepen our understanding of God’s Word, and why we celebrate the Feasts of the Lord to meet with Him at His Appointed Times.
But if we really care about connecting with this Covenant family, then maybe we should go beyond the good times and find out what has grieved the hearts of our Jewish kin. We know why they feast, but do we know when they fast, and why?
Zechariah mentions the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months. All four fast days are connected to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Those are days the Jewish people mourn not only the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, but the loss of Israel’s intimate connection with the Almighty, and the nation’s exile from the Promised Land. Jewish mourning on these fast days acknowledges their identity as part of the nation that incited and suffered the Creator’s judgmental wrath, but also expresses their faith and hope in the Creator’s promises to regather and restore all Israel. That’s particularly true about the events surrounding the Fast of the Fifth Month, known as Tisha b’Av (9th of Av). Both Temples were destroyed on that day, and many other disasters fell on the Jewish people on or near the 9th of Av – including expulsion from Spain in 1492 and the onset of the Shoa (Holocaust) in 1941. These continuous disasters make the 9th of Av the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.
Why is this important to Christians?
Because for the last two millennia, much of the suffering of the Jewish people has come through people acting in the name of Jesus Christ. Whether done in ignorance or intentionally, the wounds are with us all to this day – wounds that separate people who should be lifting each other up because of our mutual adoration of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
There is a way we can begin to heal these wounds: we can learn about these fast days and join our Jewish brethren in observing them. There is already an initiative underway to do just that with the 9th of Av.
The Nations’ 9th of Av has pioneered this effort, in partnership with Jewish Israeli friends who see this Christian outreach as a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy that the fast days will become days of feasting and rejoicing for the House of Judah. Zechariah says in those days ten from the nations will take hold of the garment of a Jew and say, “Let us go with you [to Jerusalem to seek the Lord of hosts], for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zechariah 8:18-23)
This year, Nations’ 9th of Av, in conjunction with the Altar of Prayer, is hosting an online prayer event on August 6-7 to observe the Fast of the Fifth Month. The event begins at 6 pm in Jerusalem (11 am EDT) on August 6 and continues through 9 pm August 7 in Jerusalem (2 pm EDT).
We will pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for reconciliation of the fragmented family of God, and for the final redemption of His people. We will also be blessed with presentations from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, teachings about the 9th of Av and its place in the history of the church, and uplifting worship music.
Join in for an hour, two hours, or more in this solemn observance with our extended family. We will grieve and mourn, but we will look forward to the day our mourning is turned to joy.
To learn more, and to sign up for email updates, visit: https://9-av.com/online-prayer-event/
Two resources are available to help prepare for this solemn event:
- The LIST: Persecution of Jews by Christians Throughout History
- 40 Days of Repentance: A Companion Guide to The LIST
Both are available here: https://9-av.com/9th-of-av-store/