Sorrow, grief, lamentation, mourning, depression; these are all human emotions. Hey, even Yeshua wept!1 We all deal with grief; it is a part of our experience.
The Bible has many expressions of sorrow and the Psalms are a prime example. You may be surprised to discover that 57 of the 150 Psalms are laments; that's 38%! Yet, how many worship services today contain even one song that is a lament style? Very few.
As the fourth month of the biblical calendar approaches, we are reminded of sorrow in the name "Tammuz." The name Tammuz is not named in Scripture for this month, but it does appear in another context, Ezekiel 8:14-15.
"Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the LORD, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then he said to me, "Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these."
Tammuz was a Babylonian idol. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting we are sorrowful for a false god. But why in the world would Israel continue to call this month Tammuz? Is this leftover pagan syncretism? No, it is not.
Historically, the fourth month was the month that God began to bring judgment on Israel for the sin of idolatry. This is remembered with the fast on the 17 Tammuz.2 It commemorates five different tragedies: the breaking of the tablets at the golden calf, the suspension of the daily sacrifice before the destruction of the First Temple, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before destruction of the Second Temple, and the burning of a Torah scroll and the erecting of an idol in the Second Temple by the Roman official Apostomos.
This fast begins the Three Weeks, sometimes called "Between the Straits."3 This is a three-week period of mourning that concludes with the fast of the ninth of Av. During this time, the sins of our forefathers are remembered and Israel examines their own sins.
The name Tammuz serves as a reminder of our dark past as a people. We do not weep over idols, but we do weep over our sins and the present exile. Yet we do not weep as those without hope. Tammuz is also a reminder of God's wonderful grace. By the sacrifice of our Lord Yeshua, we have the hope of redemption. We live in the paradox of hopeful sorrow. We've been redeemed by Yeshua, yet we still wait for the restoration of all things.
"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness."4
1. John 11:35
2. This is the fast of the fourth month mentioned in Zechariah 8:19
3. Taken from Lamentations 1:3
4. Psalm 30:11