posted on Aug, 12 2016 @ 05:00 PM
What is the “Day of the Lord” in the Old Testament?
We see this phrase first in Amos, but Amos is quoting the expression as one that’s well-known already.
People are longing for the coming of the Day of the Lord, and he’s having to warn them that it won’t come quite in the form they’re expecting
(Amos ch5 vv18-20).
The most basic definition of the Day, one which covers all versions of the experience, can be found in Isaiah;
“For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up on high…
And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah ch2 vv12-17).
In other words, God runs out of patience.
He puts out his power to enforce his will against all self-centred human opposition.
The enemies and invaders of Israel form one category of the “proud and lofty”.
Thus there is a prophecy about the destruction of Egypt;
“That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance to avenge himself upon his foes” (Jeremiah ch46 v10).
The Philistines will be cut off by “the day that is coming” (Jeremiah ch47 v4).
The warning against the Babylonians is “Woe to them, for their day has come, the time of their punishment” (Jeremiah ch51 v27).
Isaiah offers three different versions of a warning which combines “day of vengeance” with “year of recompense, or redemption”.
Jesus chose to read one of them in the synagogue;
“To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah ch61 v2, Luke ch4 v19).
He left out the reference to “vengeance”, closing the book before he got there, and modern preachers like to find significance in that
But I think they may be missing the point that “redemption” and “vengeance” are the same thing, properly understood, or at least two sides of
the same coin.
It is not possible to save the people from oppression (“redemption” or “salvation”) without doing something about the cause of the oppression
(“vengeance” or “wrath”).
So the two things necessarily go together as part of the fulfilment of God’s purpose.
The “day of vengeance” marks the decisive event, the “year of redemption” is the long-term consequence.
(Daniel ch11 offers the same result, in the form of a judgement scene)
This was the kind of “day” which the people around Amos had in mind.
They were not wrong about the basic nature of the “Day of the Lord”.
But they were misreading an important detail.
They were ignoring the possibility that they themselves, even those who thought of themselves as God’s people, might find themselves listed among
the “proud and lofty”.
And THAT is the reason why they would experience that day as a day of “darkness and gloom, with no brightness in it”.
This is surely “that day” when the false prophet Zedekiah, son of Chenaanah, would be anxious to “go into an inner chamber” to hide himself (1
Kings ch22 v25).
The best account of that version of the “Day of the Lord” comes in Joel.
He describes the relentless invasion of a massive army of locusts, which lays waste to the land.
Them he equates this with “the Day of the Lord”, because it comes “as destruction from the Almighty” (Joel ch1 v15).
He calls it “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness”, just as Amos predicted (ch2 v2).
For this great swarm is to be understood as the Lord’s army;
“The Day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it?” (ch2 v11).
But the crisis in Joel is not meant to be a final destruction of the people.
It functions as a summons to repentance.
“Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather…to the house of the Lord your God and cry to the Lord” (ch1 v14).
Then this assembly should respond to the Lord’s appeal;
“Yet even now, say the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and with weeping and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (ch2 vv12-13).
The first chapter of Zephaniah gives warning of another “great day of the Lord” against the nation of Judah.
It will be “ a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick
darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements” (Zephaniah ch1 vv14-16).
This refers to an invasion of human armies, when blood will be “poured out like dust”.
It is particularly aimed at the disobedient and the unjust; against the idolaters (vv4-6), against the corrupt establishment (vv8-9), and against the
corrupt wealthy (vv10-13).
It is a little ominous that the corrupt establishment includes “the king’s sons”, three of whom became kings themselves, in turn, after the
death of Josiah.
This foreshadows, at least, the final Babylonian sieges.
God’s “days” against the sins of individual nations form part of, or may be extended to, a more universal “day” against the sins of the
world at large.
The heading of Isaiah ch13 calls it “an oracle against Babylon”.
Yet the chapter incorporates a warning that the Lord of Hosts is assembling an army “to destroy the whole earth”.
“Behold, the Day of the Lord comes… to make the earth a desolation, and to destroy its sinners from it…
I will punish the world for its sin, and the wicked for their iniquity” (vv9-11).
An oracle against Edom is introduced with the warning that the Lord “is enraged against all the nations” (Isaiah ch34 v2).
Even the prophecy against Judah in Zephaniah ch2 includes references to cutting off mankind from the face of the earth, and “all the earth shall be
In time, the prophecy of a “Day of the Lord” against the enemies of God’s people also develops a more universal and final version.
In the past, he has been tackling them one by one as they appeared.
But the time will come when he will collect all of them in one place, so that he can inflict a final and conclusive defeat upon all the enmity of the
“I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgement with them there, on account of my
people and my heritage Israel” (Joel ch3 v2).
“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision!
For the Day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (v14).
In Zechariah, the “Day of the Lord” will begin when all the nations of the world come up against and capture Jerusalem;
“Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations” (Zechariah ch14 v3).
In Revelation’s version of the same event, the armies of the world are summoned to Armageddon (that is, Megiddo, where King Josiah was killed), on
the “great day of God the Almighty” (ch16 vv12-16). The battle itself takes place three chapters later, when the armies of the world are instantly
defeated by the arrival of Jesus.
If the event is not a literal battle between physical armies, then the exact location is unimportant.
The point is that every power which has been setting itself against God’s will is finally overcome when Christ returns.
That is to be “the day of the Lord Jesus” (2 Corinthians ch1 v14). It is the New Testament interpretation of what is meant by “The Day of the