As part of my studies into Old Testament prophecy, I have been looking at the whole concept of the Day of the Lord. Much scholarly ink has been spilt trying to work out where the phrase comes from. The short answer is, we don’t know. It suddenly turns up in the book of Amos in the middle of the 8th century, for example chapter 5:
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
A similar description of the day of the Lord is found in prophets such as Joel and Zephaniah, and in Isaiah 13:
9 See, the day of the LORD is coming
—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
Clearly the people were expecting the day of the Lord to be a time when the enemies of Israel would be vanquished, when they would be vindicated, and their kingdom would be set up strong and secure forever. But the message of the prophets was that this would be a terrible day, a day when the Lord would appear in all His holiness and awe, and that all those who opposed His rule would be punished. Not just those outside the people of Israel, but also those inside who worshipped other gods, or doubted the Lord’s power to work in might and majesty.
Wind forward a few centuries to a stone quarry just outside Jerusalem where three men are being crucified in sight of the city walls. Imagine the darkness coming over the land. Think what it must have been like to see the sun being extinguished above the temple.
Did this mean that the long-prophesied day of the Lord was being realised? Well, with hindsight we can see that answer to this question is both yes and no. Yes, because the first Good Friday was a terrible day of judgement against sin and evil. It was about the Lord coming to deal once and for all with the pride and arrogance of human nature. But no, it was not the day that this judgement visibly fell upon those who oppose His rule – that day is yet to come. Instead that judgement fell on the man being crucified between thieves, who as the darkness thickened cried out, “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?”.
It’s when you consider just what this day means that you begin to realise the full force of Isaiah’s words in chapter 53:
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Why not spend some time today reflecting on these verses and considering the enormity of the love that led Jesus to bear the judgement that should have been yours?