–By Elizabeth Ahlman
The readings from this past Sunday contain a lot of frightening words from or about Yahweh Himself:
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1 ESV).
The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest (Psalm 50:1-3 ESV).
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26 ESV).
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36 ESV).
These vivid descriptions of Yahweh and His Day are full of fire and smoke, ashes and upheaval, warning and rebuke. Yahweh is described as a devouring fire and a mighty tempest. Fear is a natural response to what people will see and hear on the Day of Yahweh, when He will come to judge His people, and the wicked (Psalm 50). Even when God “shines forth” in Psalm 50, He does so not as a light to behold, but as a fire to consume. The wicked should fear, but so also should Yahweh’s own people. We may not be like “those people,” but we too are warned: watch out, the day might come suddenly like a trap. Stop throwing the time away with other concerns of the world, don’t be entrapped by the cares of this life. Keep awake. Pray to have the strength to withstand! Even we, God’s very own people, seemingly fall under threat of judgement, fire, wrath. Will we stand? How can we stand before the one Who comes in fire and tempest? Deep down, we are all “those people.” We all commit horrible sins, break every Law, fail to watch and to keep awake.
There has already, however, been such a Day. A Day when Yahweh judged His people in wrath and in anger. A Day when He was a devouring fire and a horrible tempest. There was a Day when all the sins of all the world were devoured by Him as they were carried by one Man, Who, hanging upon that cross, was Israel — was all of God’s people — reduced to one Man. There was a Day when Jesus took on the fire and wrath of God the Father for us and was devoured by it. The heavens and the earth shook with the fierceness of that day, and the God-Man with the perfectly-led life took on the wrath of God, the Day of Yahweh, for us all, and died there.
So, there is not just fear and horror and knowledge of sin, and repentance met by silence. There is hope for the next great Day of Yahweh, the Day when Christ comes again and the heavens and the earth fall away. There is forgiveness, there is life:
“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 ESV).
The next Day of Yahweh is a day, for believers, of hope, not of fear. A day when we can see that our redemption draws near. Why? Because our Savior has not just been devoured by the wrath of Yahweh, but He has also withstood it. His resurrection proves that He overcame, and He did it all for us, so that when He comes again to judge the world and bring that Last Day of Yahweh, He will judge those whom He calls by name not on our merits, but His own. He will say, “These belong to Me, Father, and for them I have taken on Your wrath and have overcome.” For we who are baptized into His death, into the wrath of that day and into His resurrection life, the Day of Yahweh is a day not of horror, but of hope. Not of fear, but of joy. Not of fire, but of light. Not of tempest, but of calm. Not of death, but of everlasting life. Until then, I say with Paul:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13 ESV).
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks to You for taking on the wrath and punishment we deserved for our sins; carry us through the trials of this life, and keep us firm in the faith so that we may ever have hope, stand at the Last Day and live with You for all eternity; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.