The Blazing Furnace!

Every year, at this time, I dread the Florida heat. It is so hot that it feels like you’re in a furnace, and the only place of refuge is any place that has air conditioning. Whatever you do, don’t walk on the sidewalk without your shoes! During the hottest period of the summer, in Florida and Israel, when the heat can be compared to a furnace something interesting is going on. The clue is in Lamentations 2:3: “In blazing anger He has cut down all the might of Israel; He has withdrawn His right hand in the presence of the foe; He has ravaged Jacob like flaming fire, consuming on all sides.” We enter during this extreme heat a period of time called “Between the Straits” or “The Dark Time”.  The name used of “between the straits” is based on the verse from Lamentation 1:3: “Judah has gone into exile because of suffering and harsh toil. She dwelt among the nations, but found no rest; all her pursuers overtook her in narrow straits.” This period of time consists of a three week period between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. The Jewish sages explained that “within the straits” or “the dark time” refers to the days of affliction between the two straits, the 17th of Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and on the Ninth of Av, when the Temples were destroyed.

God seems to always do things in patterns, and The Dark Time seems to follow a pattern of intense sorrow. In Jewish history, there has been a pattern of death and destruction that has come during this period. On the 17th of Tammuz, the walls of both Temples were breached and both Temples were destroyed three weeks later on the 9th of Av. But, also on the 17th of Tammuz, Moses broke the tablets of the Law when he saw the idolatry of the golden calf, when he descended from Mount Sinai. On this same date in 586-7 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian Empire attacked Jerusalem and the army broke through the walls of Jerusalem and caused the daily sacrifice to end. The Roman armies attacked Jerusalem on this date and the Temple Mount and forced the priest to stop the daily sacrifice.

The sorrow continues as we look at the 9th of Av and the events that occurred on that date:

  1. The twelve spies return with their report on the 9th of Av. 
  2. The destruction of Solomon’s temple by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.
  3. The destruction of the second temple, by the Romans, in A.D. 70
  4. The Roman army plowed Jerusalem with salt in A.D. 71
  5. The destruction of Simeon Bar Kochba’s army in 135 A.D.
  6. England expelled all of the Jews in 1290 A.D.
  7. Spain expelled all of the Jews in 1492. 
  8. World War I was declared on 9th of Av; in 1914. Russia mobilized for WWI and launched persecutions against the Jews in Eastern Russia.

The months of Tammuz and Av are extremely low points in our calendar but, Summer (even in Florida) will eventually give way to Fall. The breeze’s will pick up and cool our skin. The palm branches will sway in the wind and we will enjoy the relative coolness! That’s what happens as we leave the 9th of Av. God, in His goodness, provides seven weeks (Shabbats) of consolation from the 9th of Av to Rosh Hashana. The first of the consolations is Shabbat Nachamu, which is based on Isaiah 40:1: “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” The Lord desires to comfort His people! As we continue with the weeks of consolation’s, we approach the month of Elul. The theme of the month of Elul is repentance and renewal. Remember that the Hebrew letters for the word Elul are said to be an acronym for the phrase Ani le-dodi ve-dodi li, meaning, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” referring to God and Israel! 

Although the Jewish people have endured much in their history, God has not forgotten them. God still loves them and has a desire to draw them near, to restore them to Him. He is still a loving Father to His people. In Isaiah 51:3 it says, ”For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.”