The Sun of Righteousness Rises

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

We often think of Judgment Day as the last day. As literal “days” go, this is true. But it is not just the end of things. It is also the dawn of a new day for us. In many ways, our real life is just beginning. For the first time we will begin to experience life as God originally intended.

That is because the sun which appears in the sky to begin this day is the “Sun of Righteousness.” Isn’t that a fitting picture of our Savior? Through the eyes of prophecy Malachi could see him 400 years before he was born, thousands of years before his final return. Like the sun, Jesus is the light of the world. He makes it possible for us to see–to see the truth about our sin and God’s forgiveness. He brings the warmth and the life of God’s love to all upon whom he shines.

Jesus shines this way because he is the Sun of Righteousness. Jesus is not just righteous in himself. He is our righteousness, too. On that last day, God will see us differently than he does the arrogant and the evil doers. It’s not because we have avoided all mischief. God will declare us righteous, not guilty, because of the righteousness which we have borrowed. Jesus’ own righteousness shines down on us. It casts a new light on our lives. With his innocent death Jesus canceled the guilt of our sins. With his perfect life he achieved a record of flawless love he now lends to us. His righteousness will spare us from God’s fire on the last day.

And so, when the Sun of Righteousness rises at the dawn of this new day, he brings healing in his wings. This day will finally set things right. It will make our lives the way they were meant to be. Now we struggle with sin. “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am,” Paul says in Romans 7. We all know the struggle. But the Sun of Righteousness will erase every last trace of sin. That struggle will be over. Our souls will be healed.

Now creation is subjected to frustration. Nothing works the way it is supposed to. But then it “will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8). No longer will the home in which we live work against us at every turn.

Now we see but a poor reflection. Our understanding of God and his ways is dim and filled with questions. Then we shall see him face to face. We shall know fully, even as we are fully known.

No wonder this day will fill us with unbridled joy! “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” Having worked most of my summers in high school and college on a farm, this is a scene I have witnessed too many times. It is great fun for the calf to run around half crazy, its legs kicking in the air, its tail flopping up and down, its whole back end hopping back and forth. It’s nothing but extra work for the farmer who has to chase him down.

But what a fitting picture for the joy of our salvation. In the Old Testament, the picture behind salvation was not only one of God removing his people from danger. It also suggested the safe place to which he takes them–a wide open space, where they are no longer cornered or caged. Danger is so far away it can’t even be seen. Those delivered are free to stretch out and move around in safety.

After spending our whole lives caged up in this world, constantly enduring attacks, hemmed in by sin, cornered by pain and trouble, at long last God will pick us up and set us back down where we are safe and free. Our joy will be a little like those calves who have escaped from their cages, except that our escape will never end.

I have known several people who became entangled in our nation’s legal system. For a time, their day in court became the focus of their lives. Now you and I are waiting for our day in God’s court. It is the day on which the Lord will finish his great project in this world’s history. For us the verdict is already in–not guilty. For us this will be a day of joy and healing. An eternity of freedom is waiting when that day finally comes.

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