The role of discipleship is the greatest honor and purpose a human being can accept. Discipleship means living a life dedicated to God, carrying out his purpose and will on earth as it is in heaven.
This path of discipleship has existed since Adam walked with God but has been enhanced and enlightened as God has revealed himself more and more intimately. This culminated in the coming of Yeshua as the Messiah of God. Thus, when we decide to partake in this incredible journey and follow after our Master, we take part in an incredibly difficult but rewarding life.
Why start this blog describing discipleship? Because we will soon commemorate a very somber and sorrowful day. That day is Tisha B’Av, a day that has been associated with every great tragedy that has befallen the Jewish people. What does Tisha B’Av have to say for disciples of Yeshua, and what can we learn from the three main events that occurred on this tragic day?
Many tragic events happened to the Jewish people on this day throughout history. Still, three stand out as the worst: the rejection of entering the land after the return of the twelve spies, the destruction of the First Temple, and the destruction of the Second Temple. Each one has an important lesson to teach, so let’s take a closer look.
The first tragedy followed after the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. These amazing events displayed God’s incredible power and his grace and mercy in choosing the Jewish people and faithfully carrying out his promise to the Patriarchs. He brought them all the way from Egypt to the border of Israel, kept them safe, and delivered them to the edge of his great promise of giving the land of Israel to the offspring of Abraham.
The people had taken on the Torah and chosen to do all that God had said, but then in this final moment, when they were called to carry out his purpose and will, they failed to choose God. At that moment, they displayed a failure of faith and a blindness to the divine. Instead of placing their strength and hope in God to destroy their enemies, they trusted only in the physical.
However, let us not forget those who chose to trust in God. Joshua and Caleb displayed a different spirit and knew that God was more than capable of carrying out his promise. God did not create us to be robots. He can display his power and might, but he cannot force us to act. He requires effort from us to rise above and be the vessels of light he knows we can be. Every person of faith faces constant choices. There are always times in one’s life when doubts become overwhelming, and we must make a choice. We can choose to place our faith either in God or in man, in spiritual or physical.
Tisha B’Av represents this choice. It is a day that represents times when a majority of the Israelites failed to place their trust in God and turned toward the ways of the world. The destruction of both Temples also represents this choice. Reading through 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings displays the complete ups and downs of the Jewish people and their constant rejection of God and repentance. This is mostly influenced by the kings at the time, and we all know of the rampant idolatry and sinfulness that culminated in the destruction. There were times when destruction was postponed when a righteous king would rise up and lead Israel back to faith in God, but even that was only temporary.
Even during that period, there were still those who placed their faith in God and lived the path of discipleship. They were willing to risk everything to carry out the will of God in the world and display him in their lives. These individuals maintained faith despite exile and eventually returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Holy Temple.
That brings us to our final tragedy of historical Tisha B’Av. The destruction of the Second Temple is one of the most important and tragic events as it marks the beginning of the current exile in which we are still languishing. The Talmud records that the signs of the destruction actually began forty years prior (b.Yoma 39b).
Forty years prior was the death of our Master Yeshua and another important moment for the Jewish people. However, it is critical to note that these rejections of God do not mean God has rejected the Jewish people. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11: 29). In fact, exile and punishment are actually confirming signs that God is still very much in a covenantal relationship with them (Deuteronomy 28: 15).
Yeshua came into this world to offer the coming Messianic Kingdom and called the people to repentance. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Although many accepted and heeded his call, a majority of the religious leaders rejected it. Many of them even believed they were doing God’s will by fighting against Yeshua and his followers: “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). Although they were still practicing the Torah, which is right and good, they had lost sight of proper shepherding of the people, as Yeshua pointed out (Matthew 23:1-36).
The people did not accept Yeshua as the Messiah and did not repent. As a result, Yeshua was put to death, and the kingdom did not come. The next forty years were filled with the growth of the assembly of believers in Yeshua, and many Jewish and Gentile people turned to God and his Messiah. They had taken up the ultimate calling in life and lived for God, but this was not enough. The main body of the Jewish people did not take on the call, and after forty years, the Temple was destroyed.
Now, 2,000 years later, we arrive at our own world. Today on this day, we have an opportunity to reflect and evaluate our own lives. Simply calling ourselves disciples is not enough; we are just as susceptible to failure as the generations before us. We must strive to resemble those faithful few who overcame their own doubts and pressure and rose up to fulfill God’s will in this world and to be the lights in the darkness.
We as disciples are people of a “different spirit” who choose God and not man. We set our sights on preparing this world for Yeshua’s return and doing our part to present God to the world through the light of our Master Yeshua. Tisha B’Av is the perfect day to sorrowfully reflect on the tragedies of the past and refocus our lives on what matters most. Even when the majority chooses to abandon God’s will, almost always, some remain faithfully dedicated to his purpose.
We are those few. We are disciples who strive for God’s will despite the consequences. We must truly reflect on this day in sorrow and mourning and stir our hearts, souls, and minds to influence the world for good. We are all called to take on the mantle of discipleship and live purposeful lives. May everyone have an easy and meaningful fast, and may our Master’s return be soon and speedily in our days.