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Tuesday
Apr052011

Yet Once More

Experiencing an earthquake is an amazing and frightening thing. All of a sudden, everything you depended upon for stability and took for granted as immovable begins to shake and slide under your feet and all around you. It is for that reason that God often shook the earth to demonstrate his authority in the affairs of men, to signal a change he was making, and to remind his people of the certainty of judgment.

I. Demonstration of Force

    A. Demonstrating Power

        1. most earthquake are simply stunning demonstrations of seismic, volcanic, or gaseous forces, but even when they are merely incidental and seemingly random, they still demonstrate the power of our Creator to fashion a planet that can adjust itself to internal forces (Job 9:1-6, 11-12)

        2. when God is angry, however, he is capable of making the Earth rock and reel and the mountains tremble and quake as people watch from the valleys in awestruck horror (see Psalm 18:7)

        3. to the Jew first and the Christian today, such demonstrations of power bring confidence through the fear in a God who controls it all (Psalm 104:31-35)

 

    B. Demonstrating Authority

        1. this was never more evident that on Mount Sinai, where God prepared to give the Law to Moses as Israel watched on, fresh from their escape from Egyptian captivity, but a long way from the Promised Land (Exodus 19:15-20, 20:18-21)

        2. God’s concern was that the people of Israel would be so curious about his power that they would scale the mountain to catch a glimpse, but it quickly became evident that they were more terrified than curious, and had no interest in getting closer

        3. that distinction between respectful fear and crippling terror kept them from ever getting as close to God as they needed to be that they might learn trust and hope

        4. it is what keeps some unbelievers and Christians alike from ever enjoying a healthy relationship with God today – through prayer, willful worship, sacrifice, trust and hope – even as a child approaches his father with respect, petitions, admiration, obedience and trust (Psalm 46:1-3)

        5. we require the reminder that God gave Elijah, although sometimes it has about as little effect on us as it did on him

            a. Elijah felt ostracized and outnumbered as he complained that Ahab and Jezebel were trying to kill him; he wished for death and clearly doubted God’s power in preserving his life any further, despite the provision of food and water (First Kings 19:9-13)

            b. he didn’t have an answer this time that indicated an inability to hear the still, small voice sufficiently to alter his outlook; can it get our attention or do we need an earthquake?

 

II. The Earth Moves

    A. The Cross

        1. on a certain fine spring day, the son of God was stripped and beaten while his father watched; Jesus was led to a cross and nailed upon it while his father watched

        2. to some, he was just another criminal among a trio of convicts dying for his iniquity, but to God, he was his innocent son, perishing for the sins of everyone else (Matthew 27:45-54)

        3. like any other corpse, his was buried, but his immortal spirit enjoyed a brief stay in Paradise, before the sun rose on Sunday (Matthew 28:1-6)

        4. the earth trembled beneath the cross and at the empty tomb, indicating God’s anguish and exaltation

 

    B. Prison

        1. it also quaked, however, in a practical fashion as the disciples struggled to preach the gospel in the face of intense persecution

        2. figuratively, the order of things in Jerusalem and throughout the world was subject to a seismic shift because of the ministry and atonement of Jesus Christ

        3. literally, God was working wonders to further that cause, even as Paul and Silas sat in a Philippian prison (Acts 16:25-34)

        4. at the least, the jailer’s life was changed forever by the force of that earthquake that shook him to his moral foundation and moved him to address his prisoners as saviors

 

    C. Jerusalem

        1. the most wonderful earthquake prophecies in the Bible are found in the Old Testament Major Prophets, the book of Revelation, and in one of the final sermons of Jesus

        2. just before his arrest, he upset the pride of Jerusalem by predicting its fall (Matthew 24:1-8)

            a. there were other signs as well, but they all would serve to indicate the imminent arrival of the Roman army of Titus, coming to punish Jerusalem for rebelling against imperial rule in A.D. 68-70

            b. the decade leading up to that invasion was marked by every sign’s fulfillment, especially as the gospel established a foothold independent of Jerusalem

        3. when God allowed Jerusalem to be sacked, its genealogical records to be destroyed, its earthly temple to be raided and felled, he put an end to Judaism and any hope for a better Messiah than his son

 

    D. Judgment

        1. all that remains is that we operate our lives with respect for the lessons learned through millennia of earthquakes, some natural, but others purposeful (Hebrews 12:18-29)

        2. we are not overshadowed by a terrifying mountain scene with thunder and lightning, but instead a beautiful hill, complete with angelic chorus and redeemed brethren

        3. God’s hope that his people will not be crippled by terror, but impressed by his loving power is renewed at the foot of the cross, and yet our respect must lead to obedience, not license (First John 4:16-19)

        4. once more he will shake the Earth in a final cataclysm of punishment and devastation, toppling every earthly authority and melting the very elements that compose the planet, and then the faithful will enter into eternity (see Second Peter 3:1-9)

 

Conclusion

Yet once more, God says. What kind of relationship do we have with God – is it one defined by trust or by terror?

 

Questions For Review

  1. What causes earthquakes?
  2. How does an earthquake give confidence in God?
  3. How did the Israelites react the Sinai quaking?
  4. What did Elijah learn from his earthquake?
  5. Why did the earth quake at the cross and tomb?
  6. What happened after a Philippi earthquake?
  7. What happens after the last big one?

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