by: William Higgins (LMC Staff)
A number of weeks ago I saw an article entitled, “The coronavirus pandemic is making earth vibrate less.” (CNN April 2013, by Harmeet Kaur). It talked about how since people were staying home and not using cars, trains, and buses, that seismologists were noticing that the earth’s upper crust was actually moving less. I thought that it was very interesting that human activity can have this kind of effect on the earth, that we make it shake! But I also thought that in a way the earth is moving and shaking much more than I have ever seen it shake before. This is the kind of –
– that Psalm 46:1-3 speaks of when it says, “1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
This kind of shaking has to do with events that happen that leave us stunned or even traumatized. When life changes in ways that we never imagined. When things happen that we thought never would. And that’s exactly what has happened because of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the stay at home order, almost everything has come to a screeching halt.
• Large cities seem deserted. I work in an isolated office closed to the public and even around here, as I drove to work in mid-March through April there was hardly any traffic on the streets. It’s like something from a post-apocalyptic movie.
• Businesses are closed.
• Schools have closed during the school year.
• Sporting events are shut down.
• Churches have stopped meeting.
And life has changed. We have to social distance. We have to wear masks. When I drove down to Georgia in April to care for my father, I actually had to check to see if there were curfews or mandatory quarantines that would stop me from getting there.
Life has changed. Many have lost jobs. And for those who have jobs things are very different with many working from home. Many are lonely now, not being able to be with friends and family. Some are experiencing mental health issues that are heightened by the stresses of this situation. Something as simple as getting groceries is a far different experience than it was just a few months ago, as is also getting food from a restaurant.
The world economy has been devastated. And, of course, underlying all of this many have become sick or have lost their lives.
Such unprecedented change. And it came on us so quickly. It can leave us feeling dazed. It seems like the very earth under our feet has crumbled and our stability and equilibrium are gone. And the deep waters are raging all around us, as Psalm 46 pictures.
The question I’m asking is –
Let’s turn to Hebrews 12:26-29. This is a passage that talks about God shaking things and so let’s see what we can learn about God’s purpose in shaking things.
“26At that time his (the Lord’s) voice shook the earth, but now he has promised,
“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”
The writer begins with a reference to the giving of the Law in Exodus 19:18. This verse says, “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.” So, when God gave the ten
commandments, God shook the earth.
Next, he refers to Haggai 2:6 with the phrase that begins, “yet once more . ..” This passage is taken to refer to the final judgment. And in this case, God will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. Hebrews 12:27 is the writer’s exposition of Haggai 2:6 –
27This 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
So, on the final day God will shake all of creation; all that God has made; heaven and earth. And this shaking will be a kind of sorting process whereby anything that can be shaken – the old creation – will be removed. It will be no more. And only those things that cannot be shaken will remain –
a reference to the new creation.
Scripture talks about this coming event in several places. For instance, in Isaiah 65:17 the Lord says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” And Isaiah 66:22 seems to be in the writer’s mind, because it says, “the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me.” The same keyword and idea.
28Therefore 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, 29for our God is a
So yes, anything in this old creation, the world that we currently live in, can be shaken. But God and God’s kingdom (or new creation) cannot be shaken. God and his new creation will remain forever.
I wanted us to look at these verses because we learn here what God is up to when he allows us to be shaken. God uses shaking to show us what is ultimate and eternal – and what is not. To rephrase the last part of Hebrews 12:27, God uses shaking “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may” – it says “remain.” But since we’re not yet at the final judgment we can insert “be seen” or “revealed to us.” When things are shaken we are enabled to see the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal. We are enabled to see the difference between what has to do with this earthly life and what has to do with God’s kingdom.
Now in the examples in Hebrews God is the one doing the shaking – in the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai and on the final day. With regard to the pandemic, I cannot say that God is directly causing it. But I can say that God has allowed it because it’s happening. God has allowed us to be shaken as individuals
and as a people. And, as we know, whatever God allows God will use for God’s own purposes and even for our good, as Romans 8:28 teaches us.
So since this is so, let me end with what I see as –
– in all of this. Because of the pandemic, we are reminded in a big way that 1. Anything in this world can be shaken. Things do not always stay the same; there are no guarantees.
• our daily routines of life
• our jobs and career path
• our health
• our earthly relationships
• our life goals and plans for the future
All the things that we take for granted and so often give us a sense of comfort and stability – all these can change so quickly and even disappear. So this shaking shows us that they are not ultimate or eternal. This is the sorting or revealing process I’ve been talking about. The pandemic makes this clear to us.
2. We shouldn’t be overly focused on or attached to these earthly things. All of the things I’ve mentioned – jobs, plans, earthly relationships, comfortable routines, health – they are all good things, even blessings of God.
But like with all created things we can turn them into idols that we put in place of God. We become overly devoted to them; excessively absorbed with them. We orient our lives around them. We live our lives for these things and not for God. We can get so caught up in these things that 20 years pass by without a thought. It’s like where did my life go?
What I’m saying is that we can love them more than God, or instead of God. And the shaking that’s going on can reveal this to us. It can be a wakeup call. It can give us an opportunity to make some hard choices to rightly order our lives once again – or maybe for the first time.
So let’s not just rush ahead to try to get through the pain and suffering of this shaking. There is pain and suffering. But in the midst of the shaking:
• Let God challenge you.
• Let God sort through some things in your heart and life.
• Let God reveal some things to you about where your true loves are.
And then finally, 3. We should supremely be focused on and love what cannot be shaken. As Christians, we know God. And in the words of Hebrews 12:28, “we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” We have this now! The world doesn’t have this. But we do. And this should be the foundation and center of our lives.
And that, we have what is unshakeable in our lives should lead us to praise God. As Hebrews 12:28 also says, “thus (since this is so) let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”