July 20: 17 Tammuz
In Judaism, this day is considered a fast day and a day of semi-mourning for the destruction of both Temples. It’s also the believed to be the day that Moses, returning from the top of Mt. Sinai, found the people worshipping the Golden Calf, provoking him to break the tablets of the Law. Considering the ominous history associated with this day, it’s not surprising that today initiates a three-week period that, in Hebrew, is called bein ha’metzarim, which means, “between the straits.”
Rabbinical Judaism believes that, on this day, all of Israel enters into a very precarious time, a time of being squeezed “between the straits.” Imagine being in a boat and having to navigate between two pieces of land that jut out into the water. As you pass between them, you must be aware of the possibility that the water is shallow here and many hazards may lurk just beneath the surface. Passing “between the straits” is potentially dangerous and all measures must be taken to ensure safe passage. That is how Judaism looks at this three weeks of squeezing that culminates on the 9th of Av, another very ominous day in Jewish history.
Here is another fascinating fact about this day: in the year 1776, 17 Tammuz fell on July 4th. In other words, on the very day that Israel commemorates the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem – both times initiating the dispersion of God’s people throughout the earth – in 1776, the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. In the Declaration of Independence they said:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
The 56 men who signed the Declaration did so with the belief that liberty was granted to people by God, and not by men. Furthermore, history affirms that those men based this Declaration on another declaration made centuries before. The one I refer to was represented by the words written on tablets that Moses broke, centuries before, on the 17th day of Tammuz. Sadly however, like Israel, America has distanced herself from those founding principles and has forgotten the mighty deeds God has done on our behalf, including deliverance from the hand of tyranny. We continually turn away from Him while embracing strange gods and the lawlessness of false liberty. In reality, in our quest to be “free,” we are racing down a path that brings us back under tyranny.
As a nation, we are being squeezed and, consequently, there are dangers all around. As His people, we must be sober and guarded as we enter this time “between the straits.” But as His people, we also need to recognize that we are answering a higher calling; one that goes beyond being an American or British, German or any other nationality. We are called to be citizens of another Kingdom because, one day, all kingdoms and all nations will become the kingdoms of our God and of His Messiah. All knees will bow and recognize Him as LORD.
The Messiah instructed about this commitment and service to the Kingdom as well as telling us something about what liberty truly is:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)
Here’s what He was saying to His people:“If you want to be free, you must be willing to give up your freedom.” As His servants, we must be willing to surrender ourselves completely to Him. We must sever the ties to any bondage, any dominion, kingdom or king and submit to His authority. We must declare our independence from our will, and confess our dependence upon Him. We must pledge our lives, our fortune and our sacred honor to His service. May His Will be performed in our lives and through our lives, today and every day until He returns.