Some thoughts on shaking

A destroyed house on the Mount of Olives due to an earthquake in 1927 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Shaking was on my mind this week as the news Monday morning was about a terrible earthquake just a few hundred kilometers north of Israel which killed thousands of people in Turkey and Syria and destroyed or damaged hundreds of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure. Even as I was beginning to write this blog, a news alert on my phone said that a second earthquake almost as big as the first one had hit and that more aftershocks are expected. It could even trigger other earthquakes in the region. 

It is never far from my mind that the geological record in this part of the world shows that there is a large-scale earthquake here every 100 years or so, and the last one was in 1927. That earthquake caused enormous damage to several towns in this country, including Jerusalem, and killed thousands of people. If a similar seismic were to happen today, with the country having a population several times larger than it was in 1927, the government estimates that as many as 10,000 people will be killed, at least five times that number will be injured, and as many as 80,000 buildings could be destroyed or damaged.

I hope that doesn’t happen before I’m done writing this blog, but just to be on the safe side, I’ll do my best to write it quickly.

Getting back to the earthquake this morning, it would never be a good time for a natural disaster like this to happen, but it’s especially bad for it to happen in the middle of winter. Many people (especially in war-ravaged Syria) are clinging to a precarious existence in flimsy structures in refugee camps that were heavily damaged by the earthquake and living day-to-day on humanitarian relief brought in over roads damaged by the earthquake. Now, as I sit here writing this, they have no shelter from the harsh winter weather and it will be difficult for aid organizations to bring food and medicine to them.

This, brothers and sisters, is a picture of the difficult conditions that weak, vulnerable people always face when a great shaking sweeps away the flimsy protection they had from the elements, both natural and man-made, which seldom show any pity.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there has been, as the song by Jerry Lee Lewis goes “a whole lot of shakin’ going on” all over the world in the last few years. It is not the first time in human history that conditions have been bad. In fact, in many ways, the season of history we’re living in right now is better than anything that has ever come before us. So any time someone like myself comes along and brings up the possibility that this really is “it” and we really are in the very last days that Jesus warned His followers to be watching out for in the 24th chapter of Matthew, were coming, there is always a chorus of reminders that Jesus also warned in the 36th verse of that chapter that “But about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

So why would Jesus tell His followers to “watch and be ready” for His Second Coming if even He didn’t know the day or the hour when it would happen?

I believe the answer to that question is given to us in Matthew 24:7-8 where Jesus tells His followers that as the time for His Second Advent approaches; For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pains.

This is only one of the places that the Bible compares the season of history just before Jesus’ Second Advent on this earth to the time just before a woman gives birth to her child. As anyone who has ever watched this process knows, the precise hour and even day when it’ll be “time” for the baby to be born can’t be known by anyone, even the doctor. But when the time before the birth MUST happen gets short, there are many signs that let the mother know that she needs to get ready, for the day and hour is sure to come very soon.

All of that having been said, the season of history we’re in right now has been characterized by an increase in shaking. This obviously includes physical shaking in the form of earthquakes and many other kinds of natural disasters, but it also includes political, social, cultural, economic, and technological shaking. All of these different shakings create problems that feed off of and into each other.

In my last blog, I spoke about the pillars that hold up the way of life most of us were born into and expected to pass on to our children, and how those pillars are shaking and will soon crumble. I know a lot of people don’t like the sound of that, but there’s no point in denying it.

Happily, you and I don’t have to feel bad about the fact that everything we were born into and have been used to all our lives is about to come crashing down around our ears because we’re looking forward to something better that won’t come until after the former things have passed away.

Hebrews 12: 25-29 tells us; See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Did you catch that brothers and sisters?

The Kingdom of the Lord God Jesus Christ can’t be shaken, but for that Kingdom to arrive, all the other Kingdoms that men have built, including the United States of America and every other secular nation-state on the map of the modern world, must be shaken and destroyed so that “the things that cannot be shaken may remain.”

If you’ve ever experienced a geological earthquake, you know how scary it can be to have the ground beneath your feet become unstable with no warning whatsoever and for the walls to shake and crack, possibly have things fall off the walls, etc. But you also know that the earth stops shaking as suddenly as it started, and what comes after is a tremendous feeling of relief and even joy that you’re still alive and it’s going to be okay (until the aftershocks start, but no metaphor is ever perfect.)

The point is brothers and sisters, the season of history we’re privileged to have been born into and are now living through will be scary, and it’s going to get worse going forward. Like the people who suffered through earthquakes this morning in Turkey and Syria, we’re going to see much that we thought we could count on for security and safety destroyed. We’re going to find ourselves exposed to dangers and perils we thought we were immune from.

But we MUST remember that all this is simply preparing the ground for the return of our King and the setting up of His Kingdom which will be infinitely better than anything we might be losing in this world. So what we need to be doing is building that Kingdom, sharing the Gospel with our neighbors, co-workers, families, and especially our precious children and grandchildren. This is the only logical response to shaking.

That’s what I’ve got for you this week brothers and sisters, I hope it blessed someone.