The Day Of Visitation
hen Jesus Christ stood outside of the ancient city of Jerusalem, the Gospel of Luke tells us He wept, as He knew what would shortly transpire:
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets…the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” (Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:43,44)
I’ve been fascinated by this phrase “the time of thy visitation” (or the Old Testament variant “the day of visitation”), and found the term is almost always used as an expression of judgment. For instance, in the Torah, the word visitation is applied in the sense of the ultimate “visitation” of death – an event that has interrupted the life of every person in the history of the world.
The Visitation Of Death
Moses mentions this universal event when he was prophesying of the extraordinary judgment that was about to envelop the rebels Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. In that case, he made a vow:
“If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me.” (Numbers 16:29)
Jeremiah also equates a visitation with the time of reckoning for what we’ve done in this life – and even applies it to entire nations. For instance, Egypt is said to be scheduled for one of these destructive visitations:
“Declare ye in Egypt….and prepare thee; for the sword shall devour round about thee. Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh…they did not stand, beause the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.” (Jeremiah 46:14,21)
In another prophetic text, which describes the tumultuous war of Gog and Magog, we see Gog the aggressor will be visited, so the Lord will bring him and his bands to a horrendous confrontation with Israel:
“Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. After many days thou shalt be visited; and in the latter years thou shalt come into the land….that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say…I will go to them that are at rest…to take a spoil, and to take a prey….” (Ezekiel 38:9,8,10-12)
Intriguingly, although Gog is the aggressor in this massive battle, the net result is the Northern power will be decimated as the Lord will intervene – in effect, Gog and Magog will receive a “visitation” of death, and the results will be devastating.
Throughout the Scriptures, we see nations, cities, villages, and people groups will be visited in judgment. This is especially true of those who have received the Word of the LORD, but rejected His truth. Jeremiah tells us about the village of Anathoth, the hometown of Jeremiah, which vehemently rejected his prophecies. Based on the principal of to whom much is given, much is required, we see that God says of
“…the men of Anathoth…there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.” (Jeremiah 11:23)
We read that Moab, the Chaldeans, and all who follow idols will be judged severely:
“He that fleeth from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that getteth up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring upon it, even upon Moab, the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 48:44)
In a verse that is believed to apply to the fallen angels, we see a great and dreadful day, the Day of Visitation, will even be applied to the fallen ones:
“…the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.” (Isaiah 24:21,22)
However, none are judged more severely than Israel, because of her backsliding ways.
“…my people know not the judgment of the Lord….For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness…saying, peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:7; 10-12)
Looking across the centuries to the multiple destructions to come, Jeremiah repeatedly tells us that Jerusalem is a city that is destined to experience such a “visitation.” Recounting Israel’s vast iniquities, through Jeremiah the LORD says
“Shall I not visit for these things? Saith the Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? For thus hath the Lord of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited…” - Jeremiah 5:29,6:6
The prophet Hosea speaks of the Israelite corruption, and how God will ultimately recompense their iniquities
“Israel hath cast off the thing that is good…They have set up kings, but not by Me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols that they may be cut off. The have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore He will remember their iniquity, He will visit their sins. The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it….” - Hosea 8:3,4; 9:9,7
The Visitation Of Life
What is remarkable is how there is another kind of “visitation” from the LORD – and when God “visits” someone in this particular fashion, it always involves the giving of life. For instance, when Sarah was too old to bear a child,
“…Abraham prayed unto God…And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son….” - Genesis 20:17; 21:1
The same thing occurs with Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, who makes a vow before the Lord in the hope God will give her a son. The Scriptures tell us
“And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived....And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.” - I Samuel 2:21
The ultimate Visitation of Life occurs in the story of Mary, where the Angel of the Lord tells her
“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
This “overshadowing” of Mary is when the LORD visits Mary to bring about the birth of Jesus Christ.
The unusual word “overshadow” is also used in the book of Acts, where the miracles performed by the Apostle Peter were so impressive that people tried to position their sick and infirm, so that when Peter passed by an area, his shadow might pass over them.
“…they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” (Acts 5:15)
This could be called the Shadow of Life, and obviously, it’s the diametrical opposite of what Scripture calls the shadow of death:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalms 23:4)
This “overshadowing,” or Visitation of Life which the Lord brings, is strangely reminiscent of the Passover epic, in which the Angel of Death visited many in judgment. Simultaneously, while this overshadowing angel visited judgment upon the Egyptians, he also passed over those houses which were under the blood of the lamb. Thus, when the “Day of Visitation” came to Egypt, those who were standing in the faith that God would preserve them in the midst of the judgment were spiritually renewed – even as every other household experienced a bitter calamity.
Jesus Is The Seed Of Life
In the Scriptural citation I started with, we saw that Jesus was saddened because He foresaw the devastation which Jerusalem would exerience.
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem…which stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate…” (Luke 13:34,35)
It’s revealing to note that Christ had not been rejected at this point in His ministry, for two verses earlier he stated
“Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” (Luke 13:32)
This sequence of events tells us that Christ knew all along that Israel would refuse Him as her Saviour – even as the crowd cried Hosanna. Indeed, there is much more to be gleaned from this chronology. When Jesus lamented Jerusalem’s rejection, He also pinpointed it to a specific day:
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!” (Luke 19:41,42)
If you think this through, it means the Christ was referencing their “day of visitation” – a day in when Israel was “visited” by life, even as they refused to receive the Spiritual rebirth that Jesus offered. Even more ironically, by choosing to reject the Lord’s Visitation of Life, the Judaeans inadvertently guaranteed they would receive the Lord’s Visitation of Death:
“…the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall…. not leave thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” (Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:43,44
It’s clear that, since Jesus spoke in the past tense saying the Jews “knew not” that their “visitation” from God had occurred in the form of His Son, they would instead be subject to the Shadow of Death that would arrive with the Roman Legions a few years later.
The pattern is clear, for God always preserves His own through His Overshadowing Spirit, even as those who refuse His call will ultimately be taken away in judgment on the Day of Visitation.
-- James Lloyd