Friday, April 10, 2009

Darkness at Noon.

Are you afraid of the dark? It is a natural fear. Psalm 91:5 tells us that we will not fear the terror of the night, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, if we dwell in the shelter of the most high God.

But what are we to make of the darkness that came over the whole land from the sixth hour to the ninth hour of the day of Christ's crucifixion? Some say it was an eclipse of the sun, but Passover is held at the time of the full moon when the moon is in the wrong position to eclipse the sun. Some say it was a merely local phenomenon due to heavy storm clouds, but the Bible says "the sun stopped shining."

The lyrics of the old Spiritual, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" go on to ask "Were you there when the sun refused to shine?" and they have been pinched by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Richard Hawley as pop song words. Even so this wasn't a darkness caused by simply a withdrawing of the sun's light in appropriate homage to what was happening on the cross. This was not a passive darkness; it was active and terrifying.

Darkness was one of the Mosaic plagues brought upon Egypt, the last plague before the death of the firstborn. "Stretch out your hand towards the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt - darkness that can be felt." This is the plague that made Pharaoh declare to Moses, "Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again!" as the Egyptian ruler despised his last chance of salvation.

We look forward to the day of the Lord, when Christ shall return bringing with him the glorious dead, when we shall rise and meet him in the air, when the trumpets shall sound and the angels shall sing; but wait! For some it will be terrifying.

Hear what Amos says, "In that day," declares the Sovereign LORD, "I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight."

Joel chapter 2 pictures this day as a day of wrath with the Lord at the head of a mighty army of destruction drawn up for battle. "For the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand; a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness."

"Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine." "The day of the LORD is great. It is dreadful. Who can endure it?"

Zephaniah 1:15 describes it as "That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness."

I am a fantasy and science fiction fan, partly because I see in many religious overtones - in Tolkien and CS Lewis they are very obvious. Another writer, whose name is more associated with horror, but often writes in much the same genre is Stephen King. The film, "The Green Mile" starring Tom Hanks is adapted from King's book of the same name. In it a huge black man, John Coffey (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) who is unjustly on death row for rapes and murders committed by someone else. Apart from being afraid of the dark, Coffey has a supernatural gift of healing, in which he seems to suck the badness out of the victim. It makes him suffer when he does this and he eventually discharges the evil as a swarm of black flies.

This is of course a picture of Christ, signalled by Coffey's initials, JC.

The darkness at the cross is a picture of the wrath of God being heaped on the tortured Jesus. We are the beneficiaries of this sacrifice. It is not our physical healing, but our spiritual health that is being rectified. We receive his righteousness as he receives our punishment.

When I was teaching Sunday school I used to do a small science experiment. I put an iron nail in a flask of copper sulphate. When you do this, the iron replaces the copper in the solution, forming ferrous sulphate and the red copper is deposited in the surface of the nail. I used to say that this was a picture of substitutionary atonement; the blue sin was removed from the solution by the red 'blood' on the nail.

The equation for the reaction being:
Fe + CuSO4 = Cu + FeSO4

II Corinthians 5:21 puts it better: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

1 comment:

Jan said...

This was a keeper, Dr. Hamblin. I've printed "Darkness at Noon" for my husband who is presently on the road. He enjoys your writing so. Thank you so very much for sharing.