TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 4-8
In yesterday’s post, That Day Sin Was Taken Away, I wrote about the phrase “that day” and its connection with the crucifixion of Jesus, which put an end to man’s pride and haughtiness, destroyed idolatry, and took away sin.
But, the phrase “that day” continues to show up in today’s reading. A casual reading of the verses containing “that day” shows that they virtually everyone of them somehow refers to the crucifixion of Jesus and the effect of what happened on that day.
In today’s reading, the most obvious reference of “that day” to Jesus is found in Isaiah 4:2, which says, “In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.” Jeremiah 23:15, 33:15 and Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12 all allude to Jesus as the branch. In John 15:1-11, Jesus stated that he was the true vine, or the branch, that all other branches get life from. Jesus spoke the words “I am the true vine” the night before his crucifixion, revealing to his disciples that they would receive life from his death and their joy would be full
In fact, the phrase “that day” occurs 45 times in the book of Isaiah. “That day” occurs 44 times in the first 39 chapters and only once from chapters 40 to 66.
What is the significance of these numbers?
The chapter divisions of the Bible are not original. Therefore, they should not be used in interpretation. But, even without the chapter divisions, one can notice a shift in the tone, style, and theme of Isaiah between the 39th and 40th chapters. Some scholars call these two sections first and second Isaiah. Others think of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah as relating to the Old Testament (coincidentally our Bibles have 39 books in the Old Testament) while the last 27 chapters relate to the New Testament (coincidentally our Bibles have 27 books in the New Testament).
So, in a sense, we have 44 uses of “that day” in the “Old Testament” of Isaiah. The number 44 could be thought of as 4 x 11. The number four symbolizes creation. The number 11 symbolizes disorder and chaos. Therefore, the first 44 uses of “that day” could be seen as the creation falling into complete disorder and chaos.
Paul speaks to the disorder and chaos that creation is suffering from in Romans 8:20-22. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
But, “that day” is meant to deal with, to undo, and to restore creation from the disorder and chaos it is suffering under.
And, it is the 45th use of “that day” in Isaiah that reveals exactly what happens on “that day” that will restore all of creation to its original very goodness. For “that day,” used for the 45th time, occurs just once in the “second” part of Isaiah that reminds one of the New Testament, a new exodus, and Jesus.
Where is the 45th appearance of “that day” in Isaiah?
Isaiah 52:6 says, “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that is I who speak; here I am.” Then, in verse 7 Isaiah launches into a song. And, in verse 13, we have the beginning of what has been deemed the song of the suffering servant. This song spills into chapter 53 (see why the chapter divisions are not really important?) where we find one of the most dramatic and striking prophecies of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Why is the number 45 significant?
It explicitly occurs three times in the Bible, but I will mention just two.
The first is found in Genesis 18:28. The context is that Abraham is having a discussion with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is asking if God will destroy the righteous with the wicked. Abraham starts by asking God if he will spare the city if he finds 50 righteous. God says yes. Then Abraham says, “‘Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ And he [God] said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.'” So, here we have the number 45 linked with the preservation of life.
The second occurrence of the number 45 is in Joshua 14:10, which says, “And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness.” These are the words of Caleb. Notice how the number 45 is linked with the preservation of Caleb’s life by God.
But, what was the word of Moses? It was regarding Caleb’s inheritance in the Lord. Therefore, verses 13-14 say, “Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.” So, in addition to the preservation of life, the number 45 has to do with inheritance.
So, “that day,” the day of Jesus’ crucifixion is about the preservation of life and inheritance. And, “that day” is for all of creation, not a limited group of people who happen to believe the right thing. This is why John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Here we see the preservation and inheritance of eternal life (look through the New Testament uses of inheritance and you will see it is connected with eternal life) for the whole world.
Ephesians 1:11-14 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
The Holy Spirit was given after “that day” Christ was crucified. The Holy Spirit seals us, which is to say he preserves our life. And, the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of inheritance. He is the guarantee that we will receive eternal life.
Some will say, “But there are those that will be burned up in the fire. Even the earth and the heavens will be burned up.”
But, does the burning, God’s fire, imply destruction? Or, is God’s fire cleansing, purging out evil, and restoring life?
Go back to Isaiah 4:2. I quoted this passage above as one about “that day” Jesus was crucified. Notice what verses 3 and 4 say.
“And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.”
First, the word burning there also means purging. Second, what is the spirit of judgment and purging for? Is it for destroying people? No, the spirit of judgment and burning is for washing away filth, the removing of sin, and the cleansing of bloodstains, the removing of violence from our ways. It’s sin that is judged, burned, and purged. It’s not people that are destroyed by fire.
Because “that day” is about the preservation of life for the world, all of God’s creation. This is why he gave his son, Jesus. To save the world, not condemn it.