REJOICING AT TISHA B'AV?

Tisha B'Av means the ninth day of the month of Av. In 2000 Tisha B'Av falls on August 10. According to Jewish tradition, both the First and the Second Temples were destroyed on this day: Solomon's temple in 586 B.C. and the second temple, so embellished by Herod the Great, in 70 A.D.

And what a magnificent temple it was! Herod had greatly increased the size of the Temple in Jerusalem to make it one of the wonders of the ancient world. How beautiful the white marble and golden trim must have apeared to Jerusalem's many visitors! One of the gates, called the "Beautiful Gate," was made of polished brass. It was seventy-five feet tall and sixty feet wide! One of the carved stones (still visible to visitors today) is twenty-seven feet long and weighs 200 tons! Excavations in Jerusalem have recently uncovered luxurious homes for the priests which can now be toured by visitors. (Come to Israel with CHAIM and view it for yourself!)

The rabbis said if the world was an eye, Jerusalem would be the pupil, and the image in the pupil would be the Temple. Jewish liturgy includes prayers for the restoration of the Temple — indeed whenever the Temple is mentioned the words are added "May it be rebuilt speedily and in our days." The traditional song sung at Hanukkah contains the line "Tikkun Beit Tefillati," which means "rebuild the house of prayer." In Orthodox Judaism the Messianic Redemption includes Messiah's rebuilding of the Temple.

Tisha B'Av is one of the saddest days in the Jewish calendar. Tradition dictates that there is to be no cutting of hair or washing of clothes during the week of Tisha B'Av. As a sign of mourning, leather is not worn on the ninth of Av. Observant Jews fast from sunset to sunset on this day. There are only two twenty-four hour fasts in Judaism: Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Tisha B'Av. Before the fast begins (sundown on the eighth of Av or August 11 this year) a rather strange meal is eaten: bagels and eggs sprinkled with ashes, consumed while sitting on the floor!

The Talmud states: "Anyone who eats or drinks on the Ninth of Av is as if he ate and drank on the Day of Atonement....their iniquities are upon their heads." The synagogue is dimly lit and the Book of Lamentations is read during the evening service. Mournful dirges (kinot) are sung. What a gloomy day for religious Jews!

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship of the true God on Earth. It was the place where God met with His people. It was the appointed location for atonement to be made. The Temple was the most important place on earth during Old Testament times.

How should we see Tisha B'Av as New Covenant believers? Certainly we should mourn for all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, but, as followers of the Messiah, we have cause for great rejoicing at Tisha B'Av. Why? Because the destruction of the Temple was prophesied to be a part of the Messiah's first coming and necessary because he would bring final atonement :

24Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity....25Until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty two weeks....26Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary....27Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the miiddle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering...(Daniel 9:24-27).

These pages do not allow a full exposition of the complicated Hebrew of the Daniel 9 prophecy. There have been many and varied interpretations of this passage, so be patient with me if mine contradicts one you've heard! Certain things seem clear to me. In verse 25 "Messiah, the Prince" will come at the appointed time and will be "cut off." Then verse 26 says: "the people of the prince who is to come" will destroy the Temple. Who is the "prince who is to come" of verse 26? I suggest verse 25 has already told us: "Messiah, the Prince." The same Hebrew word, nagid, is used for prince in both verses. All the armies of the world are God's armies, whether they know it or not! Just as Jesus had predicted, in Matthew 24:1-2, the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. God made war against Jerusalem. Messiah, the King of Kings, sent the Roman armies to destroy the Temple. A new sacrifice had come through Jesus' death to atone for sin. The old Temple system had to be abolished. Messiah confirmed the New Covenant with us.

Today there is much speculation about the possible rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. I am often asked questions about this when I speak in churches from Tennessee, to Indiana, to New York. Some people ask me about the discovery of a red heifer, which was even mentioned on public radio recently. Others ask about a group called the "Temple Mount Faithful," led by Jewish scholar Gershon Salomon. This group intends to lay the cornerstone of a rebuilt Temple. (On the Internet see http://www.templemountfaithful.org). What should we make of all this?

The CHAIM ministry does not engage in end-times prophetic speculation. If you're looking for an organization that focuses on this, we'll disappoint you. Sorry, but we have far more exciting news!

As New Covenant believers we have something much more thrilling to talk about than what is going on with the "Temple Mount Faithful" in Jerusalem. We look to a greater Jerusalem and a more glorious Temple than mere men can build:

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Judeans then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he spoke of the temple of his body (John 2:19-212).

Jesus describes his death and resurrection as the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple. How confused they were! How can he do it? It took 46 years to build it? But Jesus is the true Temple. In Him the fullness of the deity dwells bodily. The Temple was the place of God's presence among the people. Jesus is the ultimate Emmanuel, God present with his people. It is in Jesus that there is a true meeting place between God and man. He made the final atonement. His resurrection began the rebuilding of the Temple:

Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame."

To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe,

"The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner," and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall";

for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:4-10).

Sorry, Mr. Saloman, the cornerstone for the new Temple has already been laid! Jesus is that cornerstone, and, since we are in him, we also become part of the new Temple and the new priesthood:

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

There is a very strange tale found in the Talmud regarding the building of the first Temple. It is recorded that "no hammer, chisel, or any other iron tool was heard at the Temple site while it was being built" (1 Kg. 6:7). There was a holy hush as the Temple was constructed. The Talmud records a very interesting tale:

Our Rabbis taught: The Shamir is a creature about the size of a barley-corn, and was created during the six days of Creation. No hard substance can withstand it. How is it kept? They wrap it in tufts of wool and place it in a leaden tube full of barley-bran (Gittim 68b).

[Solomon said]: "What I want is to build the Temple and I require the shamir...." [He was told]: "It is in the hands of the Prince of the Sea who gives it only to the woodpecker, to whom he trusts it on oath. What does the bird do with it? He takes it to a mountain where there is no cultivation and puts it on the edge of the rock which thereupon splits, and he then takes seeds from trees and brings them and throws them into the opening and things grow there....So they found a woodpecker's nest with young in it, and covered it over with white glass. When the bird came it wanted to get in but could not, so it went and brought the shamir and placed it on the glass. Benaiahu thereupon gave a shout, and it dropped [the shamir] and he took it, and the bird went and committed suicide on account of its oath" (Sotah 48b).

What a fanciful tale! We know the real story. No "shamir" is needed! Jesus is the divine Temple-builder. He is silently working to bring together living stones to build God's house.

The New Covenant Temple is based on Messiah's saving work and is built with people like us. Because Jesus came as God's High Priest, because he came as the sacrifice to pay for our sins, because he washes us through his blood, we are acceptable to God to make up the Temple and the priesthood. Now we offer ourselves as living sacrifices. The Temple is no longer located only in Jerusalem. The sun never sets on God's Temple!

What implications do these verses have for us when we consider Tisha B'Av? We don't need to put ashes on our bagels and eggs and dine on the broadloom on the eve of August 12! We can rejoice!

Does the reality of being the New Temple in the Messiah affect your everyday life? Does it effect the way you live? It should. Do you see yourself as a holy dwelling of God's Spirit? Does it effect your relationships with other believers? Do you recognize all true fellow believers are part of God's Temple? (See Rev. 3:12.) Does it effect your affections, your hopes, and your longings? Do you see yourself as part of something beautiful that God is doing? Do you have hope for and long for the building to be completed and the beauty of what God is making to be revealed to the nations?

In Revelation 21:22 there is a vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem. There is no Temple there. God and the Lamb are the Temple. Through the Lamb true worship is restored, atonement is accomplished, and we meet with God. "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18). We will see God face to face for all eternity. The veil of the Temple was torn in two when Jesus made the final atonement. Messiah made a new and living way to the Father through his blood. He is the only High Priest we need.

During Tisha B'Av we can rejoice greatly. God himself destroyed the old temple! We need no red heifer — we have the Lamb of God! A more glorious temple has already come and we are part of it through the chief cornerstone, Messiah Jesus.

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