“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. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
As I write this blog it is a very hot summers day. The skies are blue and the sun is scorching. We have to be very careful with the sun; over exposure can be excruciatingly painful and may result in various skin infections, even causing cancer. What is often true in the natural order of things can also be true in the supernatural. The sun can be a haven of warmth and brightness, accentuating the beauty of plants and water and whatever reflects its light. Or it can be an arid landscape, a furnace of heat causing pain and misery.
This contrast can also be true of Jesus. We can sometimes have a very ‘safe’ viewpoint of Jesus. We can think of Him as gentle Jesus, meek and mild, wearing hippy sandals, smelling flowers by the roadside, not capable of hurting a fly. We must be very careful of this over familiarity because the bible shows a much wider viewpoint than this narrow one. The apostle John was one of Jesus’ closest friends and followers when He walked the earth, even reclining with Him at the last supper (John 13:23). This same Jesus who John was so familiar with appeared to him a few years later on the Island of Patmos. It says in Revelation 1:17 that this appearing was so scary that John fell at His feet as though dead.
The image of Jesus as the ‘sun of righteousness’ is much more in keeping with the vision John had than the sanitised version we sometimes imagine. The Lord is called “the LORD your righteousness” in Jeremiah 33:16. And the coming of the Messiah is pictured as a sunrise in several passages:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
“...He dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” (2 Samuel 23:4)
“His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.” (Habakkuk 3:4);
In our passage today, the day that is coming is that great and glorious day, the day when Jesus will judge the living and the dead. It will be an ‘awesome’ day in the truest sense of the word. Jesus has always divided opinion; how much more so on that final day. It says the arrogant and evildoers will be stubble (meaning they will be burned up); they will have nothing left, root and branch gone. It will be a terrible day for them. But look at the contrast for those who fear the name of Jesus. The image is of Jesus rising like the sun. He will rise and like heliotrope flowers which lift their petals towards the sun, those who love Jesus will lift their gaze to look on His glorious face. Like the sun’s rays, His arms will be outstretched like wings, bringing healing. And not just for sickness and disease but also healing from the effects of sin. His righteousness will wipe out the effects of sin for all eternity.
“Sun of righteousness” can also be translated “son of vindication.” The Day of the Lord will be a time when God vindicates His people and judges sin. This vindication will be clear to all, like the bright light of the sunrise.
The question to ask is this: do we leap excitedly like calves from a stall, anticipating the warm embrace of our saviour and our final vindication? Or do we cower in fear in expectation of His judgement?