Isaiah 61:3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Tonight, Jewish people around the world will mourn Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the fifth month of the Hebrew calendar year. Some of you may know that a lot of bad things have happened to the Jewish people on this date, the first of which was when the spies returned with an evil report of Canaan, the Promised Land, recounted in Numbers 13 and 14. Both the first and the second Temple were destroyed on this exact date, hundreds of years apart. The Crusades began on this day in 1095. The Jews were expelled out of England on this day in 1290, and again were expelled from Spain and Portugal on Tisha B'Av in 1492. And there are many more examples of this infamous day in Jewish history!
The number "nine" is sometimes associated with "judgment" or "fruit" in scripture. Not taking this too far, yet we may still see repeated expressions of the Lord's judgment through this recurring historical pattern. Moses warned, especially in Deuteronomy, of the terrible things which would happen to the Jewish people throughout history were they to abandon the Lord, worship false gods, and forsake His covenants. And He often used idolatrous nations who hated or were jealous of Israel, to bring judgment upon their disobedience, though they often went way too far and angered the Lord bringing His judgment against them as well.
But God's judgments are almost always tempered with His mercy and grace, for one constant purpose -- and that is to bring people back to Himself! We see this in our own lives and in the history of nations throughout the world. But as the saying goes, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". And we have a powerful example of this in Tisha B'Av. Israel's idolatry brought God's judgment upon her. And as the Jewish people around the world are fasting in preparation for the observance of this "day of judgment", we may remind ourselves of our own past failures which we don't want to repeat!
Will we remember and learn from these past failures? We are not doomed to a fate of failure. If repentance is sincere and deep, we can avoid the judgments and consequences of past sins, and learn from history. If we seek the Lord to expose the roots of failure in our lives, and pray with faith for healing and deep repentance, trusting Him for the power to overcome the sinful nature...we really can avoid a pattern of judgment. Let's spend the time with Him now... so we don't need to return to Him through the terrible shame and sorrow of "Tisha B'Av."