“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. 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.” – Malachi 4:1-2
Did I mention that I really love the book of Malachi?
Americans love justice. At least, we love the concept of justice; that there is a single standard to which all will be held, and there is no mark of privilege, no connection to a good-old-boys network, no bribe to an official that can override it. Of course, we often cringe (or worse, go into denial) when we think about what that standard will mean when applied to us. But, nonetheless, we do like the notion of justice. It is an unequivocal declaration of pure equality.
We sometimes fall into a cyclical pattern of viewing life through mini-judgment days against those who have committed atrocities in this life. Dictators rise to power, oppressing the masses, and we will both fight against the oppression and sit back in confidence declaring “your day is coming.” We’re not wrong, of course – the day is indeed coming.
For instance, Kim Jong Il is apparently in bad health. The day will come, perhaps soon, when he will either repent of the evils done in this life or face eternal judgment. There’s just no way around it. Every corrupt dictator before him has faced the same issue.
Sometimes “the day” takes on even smaller connotations. It may be a rematch of a game we lost, or a chance to finally shine in the face of former detractors. Whatever the case may be, it is woven in our narrative that there is a day coming when injustice will fall away and only truth will remain.
Of course, we’re not always right in our prognostications. In the political world, pundits are always declaring that “the American people are fed up with [the other guys] and are going to let their voices be heard.” Maybe they’re right, but surely it doesn’t happen every time that the electorate underwent a massive transformation to align with the views of the pundit in question.
In the light of all of these miniature days-of-reckoning, it is useful to remember that there is a day coming, burning like an oven as Malachi puts it. Then it will not be the voters, or the team, or my natural talents and abilities setting things right – it will be the Lord God Himself. As Amos put it: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
Whatever justice we’re working for, whatever freedom or rights we’re defending, whoever we’re seeking to rescue from oppression, we ought to always do so mindful of and confident in that day. The second verse above gives “those who fear [His] name” the hope to live in reckless abandon for the sake of the cause. When all is set aright in the world, we will “go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
It’s a vivid image. A newborn calf, translated from life in utero, to life in a dark stall, to life in an open green field. Taken from the starting point to the ending point, it is quite a dramatic transformation, and certainly reason enough to leap. Like us, the calf has no idea beforehand just what kind of wonderment will await on the other side. And, I suspect just like us, the calf is overwhelmed with the joy – never imagining it could have been this fantastic. The pains of the current struggle fade away and are remembered no more.
So wherever you find yourself today, whatever you’re up against, whatever battle is pitched against you – know that that day is somewhere down the road; and that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18)