In the book of the prophet Zechariah, a delegation is sent to inquire of the prophet, "Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month as I have done for so many years?" (Zechariah 7:3) The prophet answers affirmatively but also promises that one day God will turn the fast days into days of rejoicing.
But what is the Fast of the Fifth month?
In Jewish observance, the fast of the Fifth month is known as the Tisha B'Av, which means the Ninth day of Av. It is the anniversary of several dire events from the history of the People of God. According to legend it was the 9th day of the month of Av (the 5th month) when the spies returned and gave the bad report on the land of Israel. Ever since then, the day has seen many tragedies. A few examples follow.
- Solomon's Temple (the First Temple) was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE, under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.
- The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, under the leadership of Titus.
- In 135 CE, the final destruction of Bar Kochbah's army after his last fortress, Bethar, fell.
- Following Bar Kochbah's defeat, Jerusalem was ploughed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and thus became a Roman city.
- In 1290 CE, King Edward 1st of England signed an edict expelling all Jews from England.
- In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain.
- World War I began on the 9th of Av.
- Himmler presented his plan to the Nazi Party on the "Final Solution" to the Jewish problem, July 31, 1940 - Tisha B'Av.
- One year later to the day, Himler's "Plan" was formerly implemented.
- The beginning of Nazi deportations of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, 1942.
As a result of the ugly history of this day, it is a perpetual fast day until Messiah returns. The fast is a total fast and is observed from sundown to sundown. Only the fast of the Day of Atonement is more solemn. During the Fast, the Book of Jeremiah's Lamentation over Jerusalem is read.
The first nine days of the month of Av are also considered days of semi-mourning. In some communities meat is avoided during these nine days.
For disciples of Yeshua, the Fast day of the 9th of Av is of special poignancy. We remember how the Master wept over Jerusalem when he prophetically saw the day that armies would surround her and tear her to the ground. We remember how he cried out over her impending destruction even as he warned us that it would surely come. We also remember that he said of his disciples, "The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them. In those days they will fast." (Luke 5:35).
As we fast and pray over the words of Lamentations this year, we will declare with Jeremiah, that despite all appearances, "His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD." (Lamentations 3:22-26)