Lift Up Your Heads
Tisha B’Av & The Messiah
Today is Tisha B’Av. The 9th day of the month of Av. A day on the Hebrew calendar that has come to be regarded and observed as a most solemn time of fasting and prayer. It was on this day that Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. It was on this day that the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. It is on this day that the Jewish community remembers and reflects upon these and many other calamities that have beset God’s chosen people over the years.
As I’ve sought to plug into the ebb and flow of God’s calendar through the Messiah, I have found that Tisha B’Av is probably the one day that I try to fight against the most. The reason for this is that there is often very little hope that is associated with it. Do I remember the destruction of the Temples on this day? Yes. Do I fast in unison with the Jewish people worldwide? Yes. Do I seek to honor those who have lost their lives on this day? Yes. In doing all of this I’ve always found myself asking where is the Messiah in all of it? Where is the hope? If there is any time at which the Messiah should be found, wouldn’t Tisha B’Av be it? As so many souls collectively mourn the loss and devastation commemorated on this day, from our darkness and hunger shouldn’t we turn to the source of light and sustenance?
And here is where I’ve found him. Here is where I am able to recognize that the heart of Tisha B’Av draws me to realize the depths to which the Messiah descended in order to ascertain freedom and life for his people. In the wake of destruction that has been caused by sin, the Messiah lifts his people from the rubble and sets us in a new place.
That both Temples were destroyed on this day has always astounded me. The Temple was intended to be the meeting place between God and man. The one place on earth where God’s presence would dwell among His people. God chose to place His name in Jerusalem, and as a diadem the Temple was set in this city. While not downplaying the significance of this fact, it’s important to also point out that the Temple reflected a heavenly reality. Based on Psalm 78 and Exodus 25, G.K. Beale points out how the Temple was made up of three main parts that all symbolized a major part of the cosmos:
(1) the outer court represented the habitable world where humanity dwelt; (2) the holy place was emblematic of the visible heavens and its light sources; (3) the holy of holies symbolized the invisible dimension of the cosmos, where God and his heavenly hosts dwelt.
With this in mind we can point out how both the cosmos/creation and the Temples in Jerusalem both experienced destruction because of the sins of mankind. Looking back to the Garden of Eden we see that sin enters the world through Adam and mankind no longer enjoys the same access to God that was experienced before sin. Similarly it is because of the sins of the nation of Israel that both Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Thus, as we remember the destruction of both Temples on Tisha B’Av, our minds and hearts are also lead to remember the effects that sin has had on the cosmos as well. It is this great sin problem that has plagued us since Adam, and it is this great sin problem that saw the Messiah humbly empty himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Again, this is where the Messiah is found on Tisha B’Av—in the midst of our mourning and searching for answers about the effects of sin. In the midst of our longing to once again know and experience a clear access to God.
A very important tradition that is observed on Tisha B’Av is the reading of Lamentations. This emotion-filled, heart-wrenching lament attributed to the weeping prophet Jeremiah who watched as Jerusalem was ransacked and leveled by the invading Babylonians captures the essence of Tisha B’Av. In Lamentations 2:9 we find a verse that describes Jerusalem and the severity of the invasion.
“Her gates have sunk into the ground, he has destroyed and broken her bars. Her king and her princes are among the nations; The Torah is no more. Also, her prophets find no vision from the LORD.” (Lamentations 2:9)
The situation is bleak. “Her gates have sunk into the ground” is a very telling description of how the invaders destroyed and buried the gates and walls that surrounded the city and the Temple of Solomon. It is from this condition, a place left desolate because of sin, that we are left looking for hope. And again, it is here where we find the Messiah.
One of the most glorious descriptions of the coming of the King of Israel is found in Psalm 24, and in many ways it describes the prophetic reversal of Lamentations 2:9. It states:
“Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!” (Psalm 24:7)
The gates which were once sunken because of sin, the city which was once left desolate, and the King who was once exiled will one day be gloriously lifted up, reestablished, and restored fully. It is my contention that this points to the second coming of the Messiah Yeshua. The coming of the glorious King who has already joined us in our darkness and destruction, who has put on human flesh and been tempted as we are, who has met us in our sin and desolation, and who has joined us and tasted the effects of sin by enduring death. He has risen from the rubble, lifted up the gates so that we may enter with him and experience an access to God that has been lost for so long. Where is the Messiah on Tisha B’Av? He is with us…rebuilding.
 G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2004), 32-33.
 The Garden of Eden is considered the archetypal Temple with Adam set as the High Priest, but this is a topic for another blog post.
 Idolatry and the ignorance of the Sabbatical year for the Land lead to the destruction of the FirstTemple. Rejection of the Messiah, or traditionally “hatred without a cause” lead to the destruction of the SecondTemple (compare Psalm 69:4 and John 15:25…this will probably be another blog post in the future as well).