Last Monday at Sundown began Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. It is a day of mourning for the Jewish people. Prophetically it speaks of a glorious day to come.
Tisha b’Av will become a day of joy and gladness as foretold in Zechariah 8:19:
These were days of mourning over historical judgments that happened to Israel.
The Mishnah declares: “Five misfortunes befell our fathers … on the ninth of Av:
The 12 spies sent by Moses to observe the Promised Land returned from their mission.
Only two, Joshua and Caleb brought a good report. The others sowed doubt in God’s people. The majority report caused the people to cry panic and despair of entering the Land.
The Second Misfortune – The Temple built by Solomon was destroyed on the 9th of Av.
The Temple when dedicated was filled with God’s presence and was the place where Israel might find atonement for their sin. So it became the official start of the 70 years of captivity in Bablyon. Judgment for Israel’s sin and rebellion against God and His Word.
The 2nd Temple Zerubbabaal – Was completed in 516 BC , 70 years after the temple ’s original destruction (Ezra 6:15). People who remembered the first temple wept at the comparison (Ezra 3:12). God brought His people back
Zerubbabel’s Temple • Herod’s Temple – 4th & 5th events on the 9th of Av
The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba’s revolt and destroyed the city of Betar. Over 100,000 Jews were killed on July 8 132 AD – Rome plowed the site of the Temple and surrounding area. Then the city of Jerusalem was destroyed on the ninth of Av in 136 AD.
Other events on the 9th of Av – The First Crusade officially started on Aug. 15, 1096 killing 10,000 Jews in the first month. The Jewish communities of Franceland and Rhineland were destroyed. The Jews were expelled from England on July 25, 1290 the 9th of Av.
The Jews were expelled from France on July 21, 1306.
Other events on the 9th of Av – The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492, the 9th of Av. On August 2, 1941, SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval for “The Final Solution”. Almost 50% of the Jews on the face of the earth were captured and killed at that time. On the 9th of Av, July 23, 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblenka.
Other events on the 9th of Av – The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492, the 9th of Av. On August 2, 1941, SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval for “The Final Solution”. Almost 50% of the Jews on the face of the earth were captured and killed at that time.
On the 9th of Av, July 23, 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblenka. We all live in days when various disasters happen to us personally and nationally. This morning I want to consider the question: Why did this happen?
What did Israel do to deserve this? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Remember what some of our religious leaders said when 9-11 happened: “God is judging America. God is punishing America. Many of us think it is God’s judgment when disasters fall. This is not new. Bad things happened 2000 years ago when Yeshua was ministering.
We read of two tragedies in Luke 13:1-8. The slaughter of innocent Jews while they were offering their sacrifices in Jerusalem, and the deaths that occurred when the tower of Siloam came crashing down. Nothing has changed as it is today, so it was back then.
People speculate why such things happen. As Believers in God we too tend to embrace the idea that these people were being punished for their sins.
The Wrong Explanation -Punishment for their sin? That is always the classical religious answer; isn’t it? Yeshua had to deal with this presumptuous attitude in His day too.
We see this in John 9:1. As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind“ Who is responsible for this man’s disease? Is he responsible or are his parents responsible?”
Yeshua set them all straight on that occasion, and he does it again in the narrative of Luke 13:1-3. He begins with a reasonable observation. The sin of these victims is not greater than your sin. Listen to His logic: If these victims died because of their sin, certainly you would be among them and you wouldn’t be standing here talking about how sinful they were. There is another possible explanation for this tragedy. These people died because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Bad luck. That is a weak and certainly not a satisfactory one for most of us. But it’s the best from a human perspective.
And, while not a complete explanation, it does provide us a backdrop to which Yeshua uses to convey an important message to us. Actually we are left without any explanation for why these tragedies happened. And perhaps the reason for that is because we have asked the wrong question. When we ask the wrong questions, we are going to naturally come up with the wrong answers. To ask why innocent Jews were slaughtered by Pilate and innocent bystanders crushed when the Tower of Siloam fell is the wrong question.
To ask why 3000+ Americans died in New York on 911, and why the events remembered by the 9th of Av happened is also to ask the wrong question.
Let’s consider these questions in the light of Yeshua’s response. Yeshua instead of answering why takes to expose a wrong explanation but then raises another more important question. In the wake of tragedy it is not so important that we know why.
It is more important that we ask “What now”. In the wake of tragedy the real question is: “What are we going to do?” How is the tragedy going to change our lives. There may be any number of ways that tragedy might change our lives. Tragedy might make us bitter.
Tragedy might fill us with fear. Tragedy might immobilize us. But Yeshua wants tragedy to have a different kind of affect on us. He wants it to bring about a positive change in our lives; or as stated in verse 5; repentance. (Luke 13:5)
Why does Yeshua want us to repent? Verse 5 gives us the answer: In its positive form. “Repent so that you will not die after the same manner as those victims.
Yeshua is not highlighting the fact of death in these two tragedies but the manner of death.
How did these people die? Suddenly and un-expectantly. In the first case they were in the process of offering sacrifices at the temple. Before they could complete their offering, their lives were ended. They died with unfinished business. That is why Yeshua is calling us to repent. He doesn’t want us to die with unfinished business hanging over our heads. He calls us to repent while there is time. He is echoing the call that came through Ezekiel 33.
There are basically two kinds of repentance. Repenting from unbelief. This is the kind of repentance that takes place when we come to faith in God through Messiah Yeshua.
Then there is the kind of repentance in which we repent for being unfruitful Believers.
I believe that the repentance which Yeshua is calling for in this section of Scripture is the second. He is calling them to repent of their unfruitfulness. How do we know that? Because of the parable that follows. That parable is about fruitfulness in the case of the fig tree. This parable clarifies the kind of repentance that Yeshua is challenging Israel to bring forth. The orchard owner plants a fig tree and nurtures it aggressively.
After three years the tree has failed to produce. So the farmer tells his caretaker to cut it down. The caretaker pleads for one more year, and one more year is granted. In much the same way God is looking for fruit from us.
Every time the Owner came to the tree there was no fruit. This tree had great advantages so that it would produce fruit. It had location – planted in a vineyard it was protected by a hedge or a fence.
As Believers we too are protected with a hedge about us. Secondly the tree was planted.
It was not a product of chance or coincidence! The owner kept coming to find fruit for three years –And the owner found nothing. The owner said, “Cut it down!
I planted it, I protected it and I cared for it, yet it has produced no fruit; Cut it down!
But the keeper of the Vineyard said – spare it for another year. We need to ask ourselves what God is trying to say to us as we consider the 9th of Av and all the other tragedies that we have faced and by God’s grace have so far escaped.
All of us are called to bear some fruit. In the light of all the tragedies that have befallen us as a people individually in our families, as a nation, and as the Jewish people. Look at them as tragic events in which people are in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up dying suddenly and un-expectantly with unfinished work still hanging over their heads.
And see these events as events in which we may be the victims but for the grace of God.
And instead of asking the question “why”, ask this question: “What am I going to do?
What am I going to do with the realization that it was not me who was in that tower.
That it was not me in that destruction of Jerusalem? That I am still alive, still healthy? That I have one more year?
What am I going to do about the unfinished business that is hanging over my head?
What am I going to do with the gracious grace offered to me?
By the great God who walks amongst the vineyard of our life and says;
One more year what am I going to do?