Tonight I am going to go see the Christian band Third Day in concert. I love their music! Having seen them in concert before, I know that what lies ahead is a wonderful evening of praise and worship of our Lord.
I’ve always assumed that the band name is based on the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead on the “third day” after His crucifixion. Since I have VIP tickets for a before-concert Q&A session with the band, maybe I will get a chance to ask whether that assumption is accurate. But in the meantime, I decided to do a search on www.biblegateway.com for the phrase “third day” to find the scriptures about this glorious event and write about Jesus’ resurrection. To my surprise, my search yielded more than a few Old Testament passages referring to something that occurred on the “third day.”
Genesis 22:1-19 is the story of when Abraham was tested by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Before he actually sacrificed Isaac, God provided a substitute sacrifice. This story is an example of Abraham’s complete trust in God. Verse 4 says, “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.” The place referred to is the mountain on which he would perform the sacrifice.
In Genesis 42 is the story of when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food. Joseph had put them all in jail because of a “stolen” chalice in their bags of grain.
On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do. Genesis 42:18-20.
In Exodus 19, we find part of the story of Moses and the Israelites in the desert. They have come to Mt. Sinai and Moses has spoken with God.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Exodus 19:10-11.
The book of Ezra is the story of the Israelites returning to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Their return and the rebuilding of the city and the temple were assisted greatly by King Darius who believed in the Lord, the God of Israel. It took a long time for the work to be completed, but finally it was.
The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. Ezra 6:15-16.
Hosea is one of the minor prophets. When we say he is a “minor” prophet, that does not mean his writings are less important than the major prophets. Rather, the book that bears his name is one of the shorter prophetic writings in the Old Testament. Chapter 6 of Hosea begins like this:
1 “Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea is the last Old Testament book to include the phrase “third day.” The next time we see this phrase, Jesus is predicting His own death and resurrection in Matthew 16:21.
As I read through these passages, I saw a common theme. The third day is a day of redemption, a day on which God is powerfully present. It is a day of celebration of the wonders of our God. It is a day to be in awe of God’s mercy, of His power and desire to restore us through the death and third-day resurrection of Jesus.
Now when I recite the Apostles’ Creed in church, when I say with my fellow believers “On the third day He rose again,” it will have more meaning.