Thursday, August 25, 2011
The Vision (8/25/11): Earthquake
“What were you doing when the earthquake hit?” No doubt that question has been asked a lot since last Tuesday’s tremor that put nearby Mineral, Virginia on the map as the epicenter of the 5.9 quake.
This got me thinking about earthquakes in the Scriptures. According to my Bible search program, the English word “earthquake” appears 16 times in 13 verses in the KJV Bible. The plural “earthquakes” appears 3 times in 3 verses. Elijah experienced an earthquake, along with wind and fire, but he found God in none of them. Instead God spoke to his prophet through “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12). The message appears to be that we should not seek God in extraordinary events but in less glamorous, ordinary ones. When Amos describes his public ministry he notes that it began “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). Apparently, a terrible earthquake struck the land of Israel during the days of King Uzziah and Amos’ original readers would have known precisely the event to which he made reference (see Zechariah 14:5 which makes reference to the same cataclysmic event).
In the New Testament the Greek word for “earthquake” is seismos, the root for the English words “seismic” and “seismology.” Matthew records that the earth shook both when Jesus died on the cross and when the angels rolled away the stone from the tomb (see Matthew 27:54; 28:2). When Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God at midnight in the jail at Philippi, Luke records there was “a great earthquake (seismos … megas), so that the foundations of the prison were shaken” (Acts 16:26).
One of the most impressive descriptions of earthquakes in the Bible does not even explicitly mention the name. Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
No. We don’t want to make some corny spiritual point about every event that transpires in life. The earthquake, however, does have some valuable lessons:
• It reminds us that everything we think is certain in life can be changed in a moment.
• It reminds us that every moment of peace and security we and our loved ones enjoy is a gift from God.
• It reminds us of God’s sovereign and awesome power.
• It reminds us that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
So, this week, we can let the earthquake be our teacher.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle