In these difficult days I have found my need to hear God speak through our devotional readings has been great. Barbara and I usually read a selection from Reflections at the breakfast table. The April 1 devotional, written by Sharlande Sledge, really spoke to me. The text came from Mark 13, the chapter in that gospel known as “The Little Apocalypse” for its predictions of awful things that are to come. That may seem an unusual text in which to find comfort, but God really encouraged me in my reading that day.
Jesus speaks of this awful day that is coming with talk of wars and rumors of wars, of earthquakes and famines, of persecution and division. It will be an awful time, “an abomination of desolation”, as bad a time as any have seen before.
In my evangelical upbringing I was taught Jesus was talking about the end of time and the great tribulations to be endured before Christ’s triumphant return. But, that is not an accurate interpretation. The text begins with the disciples marveling at the beauty of the Temple and Jesus telling them a day will come when the Temple is destroyed. They want to know about that coming day, a day that was realized in 70 AD when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, a day that many of Jesus’ disciples would live to see. This is the awful day of the Lord Jesus was describing.
The Old Testament is where the term for an awful day of judgment as “the day of the Lord” was coined. The days of Noah were just such a day. The mistreatment of the Hebrews in Egypt was just such a day. For the Northern Kingdom of Israel their defeat at the hands of the Assyrians was their day of the Lord. It came later for Judah when they fell to Babylon and were taken into captivity.
In history there have been times of great persecution, calamity, judgment and distress for God’s people. But even so, in the worst of times, it is still the day of the Lord. A world that seems to be careening out of control is still firmly in God’s providence. Our hope lies in the Lord, and we look to God in the belief that in the awful day our redemption will come. God will save. The text says, “God is near, right at the door.”
The disciples wanted details of when and how and how long. Jesus said that as to the days and hours, “No one knows”. Somehow I was greatly comforted by hearing Jesus say that “no one knows”.
In spite of all the people telling us their predictions and backing them up with wildly conflicting “science” we face our own “day of the Lord” in the form of a global pandemic and “no one knows”. We don’t understand all about this new and deadly and contagious virus. We don’t know how long it will be with us and how long this will play out. We don’t know how well our efforts will protect us.
And so I live with two profound truths in these unprecedented days – 1. No one knows, and, 2. It is the day of the Lord. This in no way means God has sent COVID-19 to judge any particular people or nation. But, it does mean a hurting and fearful world is living through an awful day that is still God’s day – the day of the Lord. No one knows exactly how this difficult day will play out. No one knows how long it will last. No one knows how many will become ill nor do they know how many lives will be lost. But, it is still the day of the Lord. Look to God. God is near. Our redemption will come. We can live as persons of faith, through an awful day when no one knows.