By Billy Doolittle
The day of the Lord appears as a thick darkness that covers the whole land with no sun and no moon (Amos 5:18), as famine and thirst (Amos 8:9), as the Lord splitting the earth and melting the hills (Hab 3:16), and the day will be bitter and mighty men will cry, a unique day in which the sun will not shine nor will it be dark, and it will not be cold or hot, but it will only be known to the Lord (Zech 14:6). The day will be filled with anguish, distress, ruin, devastation, gloom, and then the trumpets will blast, and a battle with presume (Zeph 1:14-15). The day will be full of devastation and a day will contain punishment against all those who did evil in the land and those oppressed Israel. The people who will be punished on this day are the nations of Judah and Israel for their sins until they acknowledge that their guilt and seek the face if the Lord (Hos 5:15). The sins which they are guilty of are trading their own people for personal possessions (Amos 2:4-6), disregarding the Lord like a child forgetting his father who taught him how to walk (Hos 11:3-4), suppressing their prophets from keeping them from prophesying in the name of God, forcing the Nazarites to drink wine (Amos 2:11-12; 7:12), and creating idols and serving them (Hosea 4:17; 8:4; 11:2; 13:2; Zech 2:18). Thus, the Lord is just in his anger towards Israel and they are due the Lord’s judgement.
The Lord will also have judgement on the surrounding nations which oppressed the nation of Israel. The depictions of the punishment God will hold on the nations display the power of the Lord which Israel earned by their sin. Amos appeals to the Lord as the creator when he brings threats to Israel’s surrounding neighbors who bring oppression on the house of God (Amos 5:8-9). At first glance, the destruction which the surrounding nations bring to Israel goes unpunished, thus Habakkuk pleads to the Lord on behalf of the people to do justice on these wicked people (Hab 1:2-4). The Lord assures Habakkuk that he will cast down the Chaldeans (Hab 2:6-8). These events will also take place on the day of the Lord. Specifically, with the judgement on foreign nations, the Lord will gather them all together in a valley and destroy them. The sins which they are guilty of include dividing Israel’s land, “casts lots” for the Lord’s people, trading Israelite children to receive prostitutes, and selling little girls for wine to get drunk (Joel 3:1-3). The Lord will strike the nations with a plague and their bodies will rot while they are standing straight up (Zech 14:12). There will be no mercy or grace shown to the nations which oppressed Israel. So, the day of the Lord is described as a wicked and awful day in which both the nation of Israel and all foreign oppressors will bear due to their negligence of keeping God’s law and abandoning God’s covenant that He made with them.
The day of the Lord also bears a restorative element. In the day that the Lord will judge the nations as noted above. However, he will also restore Jerusalem and their possessions, and they will never be uprooted from it again (Amos 9:11-15). The Lord will pour out His Spirit over all flesh and the people will be taken home to Jerusalem once the day finds completion (Joel 2:30-32). On this day, the people will be taken saved from the foreign oppressors and will have their blessings restored to them (Joel 3:1) and the people of the Lord will have atonement for their sin (Zeph 1:7-18). Thus, the day of the Lord will be the destruction of the unfaithful and the restoration of those that turn back to the Lord. The restoration which will take place happens after the Lord pours out his wrath on the nations and on Israel only to raise them back up in hope and joy in their inheritance. Only the faithful will remain to experience this grace of God.
The remnant who will remain after the Lord’s punishment displays the grace of God in clear light. The Lord redeems and preserves a remnant in Israel throughout the book of the twelve and the book of Daniel. The remnant of Israel lies in the context of Israel’s overall redemption from their sin and salvation from the Lord’s impending doom on the inhabitants of the Earth (Amos 5:15; 9:12, Mic 2:12; 4:7; 5:7-8). The nations who oppressed Israel will be destroyed by the remnant whom the Lord creates into a powerful force (Hab 2:8), will accept the inheritance of which the Lord will give them (Mic 7:18), and the land in which they will battle and destroy said oppressors (Zeph 2:5-7). The sacrifices Israel offered were not accepted nor honorable to the Lord (Hos 9:4; Hab 1:16). Israel was sacrificing to other deities (Hos 4:14, 12:11;), they were eating the sacrifices they offered to the Lord (Hos 8:13), and offered polluted sacrifices (Mal 1:8, 13-14). Thus the Lord desires the people to have steadfast love and because he does not delight in their sacrifices (Hos 6:6).
The grace which is shown to the remnant includes the pardoning of their sin (Mic 7:18-20) through a sacrifice which the Lord will provide to consecrate his people (Zeph 1:7-9). This sacrifice will be done on the same “day of the Lord” which the Lord will bring destruction on all the inhabitants of the land (Joel 1:15; 2:11) and all the iniquity will be removed from the land (Zech 3:9). The Lord in his faithfulness only wishes for Israel to return to him (Joel 2:12-14). Daniel pleaded with the Lord to forgive the people (Dan 9:9, 19) and surely the Lord will have mercy on them (Hos 2:16-20; Zech 1:16). Likewise, The Lord tells Israel to have mercy on one another because the Lord has shown them mercy (Zech 7:9). He will call them out from all the nations and they will return to Jerusalem and the Lord will be faithful towards them (Zech 8:7-8). Amos pictures this as the Lord as a shepherd herding his sheep in from Samaria (Amos 1:2). The prosperity of Israel will be restored “at the end of days” and receive rest (Dan 12:13; Hos 3:5; Micah 4:1). Then the nation of Israel will have their allotted inheritance given to them. In sum, nation of Israel will be dwindled down to a faithful few whom the Lord will know and preserve for His future blessings in the land that he will make for them. The people of God will have their prosperity restored and there will be no more sin or hardship.
Included in the remnant of Israel is another theme of inclusion of the Gentiles. This theme begins in the covenant God made with Abraham, God said that Abraham would be the “father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17:4-5). The prophets prophesied of nations joining with Israel in the day of the Lord (Amos 9:12). Evidence for inclusion of the Gentiles lies partly in the book of Jonah when the sailors fear the Lord and offer sacrifice to God and made vows (Jonah 1:16). Chapter 3 shows Jonah obeying the voice of the Lord and going to Nineveh to deliver the message which the Lord will give him, which he originally fled from. Jonah fulfills the task after being swallowed by a fish and tells Nineveh that they will be overthrown if they do not repent, and the people repented and believed God (Jonah 3:5). They fasted and put on sackcloth (3:5) and the king sat in ashes (3:6). These are the elements which were missing from the sailor’s repentance in chapter one to complete the true repentance which is given in Isaiah 58. God relented from his destruction because of their repentance, just as he explained in the prophets before them. The Lord asked these same elements of Judah and Ephraim, that they would repent and seek the Lord, so they would no longer suffer punishment (Amos 5:4-5, 14-15). Also, the prophet Zephaniah speaks of the nations repenting and having the proud ones removed from them and no longer be put to shame (Zeph 3:11) so that the humble will remain and have the Lord as their refuge (3:12). In sum, inclusion of the gentile people into the people of God is reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham and will be fulfilled “at the end of days.”
Billy Doolittle is currently a student of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a graduate and former Garrett Fellow at Boyce College. He is married to Brittany Doolittle and a member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can follow Billy Doolittle on twitter @BillyDoolittle