Today is the 17th of Tammuz. It is a fast day that memorializes many calamities that have befallen the Jewish people over the centuries. It begins the three weeks of mourning leading of to Tisha B’Av or the 9th of Av, the culmination of these days of mourning.
This morning at Shacharit we were lead in prayers of confession and then in a loud refrain we chanted,
The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; and who cleanses. May you forgive our iniquities and our transgressions and make us your heritage. Forgive us our father for we have sinned; pardon us our king for we have willfully sinned; for you my lord are good and forgiving and abundantly kind to all who call upon you.
This fast day reminds us that we are accountable to God. As individuals and as a community we are not free to live apart from the instruction of God and assume that nothing will happen. As a messianic community we are sometimes under the false impression that because we have embraced the Messiah, we no longer must obey the commands of God. Even though we know that we are accountable, we sometimes think that because our sins have been atoned for by the death and resurrection of Yeshua nothing really will happen if I sin – after all I am forgiven.
While it is true that our sins are forgiven by the death and resurrection of the Messiah, we are still accountable and will still face a judgment for the way we have lived. We read this in 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” This is an uneasy truth. It should cause us to fear the Lord. By fearing the Lord I do not only mean to view God with awe – but to fear being in his presence because of our sins; to fear his chastisement. We read in the liturgy for the 17th of Tammuz: “we were exiled…our enemies tore down the sanctuary…we were scattered from city to city…” these are the consequences of sin. One might think that this should cause us to run away – to turn away from God.. Yet this fear does not cause us to run away but to draw near to God – to love God as we sing the refrain over and over again about the chesed or loving kindness and forgiveness of God. It reminds me of the famous line from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe about Aslan the Lion: ‘Course he isn’t safe; but he’s good. He’s the king I tell you! The Torah describes the Messiah as a lion. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? Gen. 49:9 this is a “scary” image. This should keep us from being complacent in our faith and practice. This image should motivate us to serve God and not take him for granted.
But like the description of Aslan, God is good. The Messiah is describes as a lamb as well as a lion, All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isaiah 53:6
The Judge is also the Savior. We are judged but we are also forgiven. The assurance of our salvation is that God is Good! How is he good? He provided the atonement for our sins in the person of Yeshua. He is our judge and our savior. Embracing Yeshua does not relieve us of our obligation to walk in righteousness. Embracing Yeshua assures us that our sins are forgiven. Embracing Yeshua empowers us via the Ruach Ha’Kodesh. This is a day for contemplation of our lives, confession of sins and thanksgiving for our salvation in Messiah.