At the mere word of God the earth will tremble and shake:
One need not be up on the 1957 version of the song by Jerry Lee Lewis mentioned in my title to appreciate what follows. If you were in Melbourne and surrounds last night, you were most certainly aware of some shaking going on. A brief but quite noticeable earth tremor hit at about 11:41pm.
Sometimes you wonder what you just experienced, but today with the social media you can mention it online and instantly others can either confirm that it was indeed the real deal or that you were just dreaming. And sure ‘nuf, it was real, as so many others immediately testified. It was the second recent quake felt here in the past two years. One news report puts it this way:
The magnitude-3.8 earthquake that shook Melbourne on Sunday night was the largest tremor to occur within the city in more than 120 years, a seismologist says. Geoscience Australia reported the quake hit at 11.41pm near Sunbury on Melbourne’s north-west fringe, at an estimated depth of three kilometres.
More than 22,000 people contacted the agency to report the tremor, which lasted for five to 10 seconds and was also experienced as far afield as Hobart in Tasmania. While Sunday’s seismic activity was smaller than the magnitude-5.9 tremor that shook Victoria in 2021, it occurred within metropolitan Melbourne. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/melbourne-quake-the-largest-in-more-than-120-years-seismologist-20230529-p5dbyp.html
I can tell you when that earlier tremor took place, since I wrote it up at the time: September 22, 2021. There I offered some spiritual lessons, including listing a number of biblical passages that speak about earthquakes: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/09/22/quake/
Here I also want to present some spiritual commentary on this. I begin by noting that one of my immediate reactions last night -after hoping my family was all OK – was to think to myself: “Good!”. Why good? Well, I thought right away of the overwhelming power and majesty of God.
I thought of so many mere humans who think they are so powerful and so mighty and so able to control history. No, they are really just puny nobodies. They may think they can do such big things, or get away with things, but they are all but a drop in the bucket and they all will quake before the one true living God one day, if not sooner. He only needs to snap his finger or say the word, and the earth shakes, rattles and rolls.
If such a shaking is part of God’s judgment on a rebellious and sinful world, so be it. If it is God’s way of shaking his people up out of their lethargy and deep sleep, so be it. Bring it on Lord. I for one look forward to God revealing himself in great power and great glory. I so tire of the pretensions and delusions of mankind who think they can stand in the place of God.
Since I pray regularly for the Lord to return and put an end to all the evil and wickedness and ugliness of man in revolt against God, I do not mind a bit of shaking going on. As I say, bring it on Lord. I and so many of God’s people are so ready for you to move and show yourself strong to an arrogant, mocking and ridiculing world.
Two texts I mentioned in my previous piece are worth looking at further here. One is from the Old Testament: “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth” (Haggai 2:21). The other is from the book of Hebrews (12:26-28):
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.
The author of Hebrews is quoting from the text in Haggai, so both can be covered simultaneously. As R. Kent Hughes explains:
The initial historical event where God’s voice shook the earth was at Mt Sinai when he verbally spelled out the Ten Commandments with a thunderous voice. Imagine how terrifying it was to have the ground under one’s feet tremble in response to God’s audible word. There were no sleepers in the congregation at Sinai!
But there is an infinitely greater shaking coming, an eschatological cosmic shaking of the whole universe, and it too will be triggered by God’s word. Here the writer has quoted God’s promise from Haggai 2:6 – “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (v. 26b) – indicating that every created thing will be shaken to utter disintegration. This is in accord with what the Scriptures teach us about the power of God’s Word. Genesis says that he created everything by his Word as He spoke the universe into existence. Therefore, one “little word” from him can and will fell creation!
The Psalmist tells us that creation is transitory. “Of old you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment” (Psalm 102:25, 26; cf. Hebrews 1:10-12). Isaiah says of the future, “Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger” (Isaiah 13:13). And Peter identifies it with the day of the Lord: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will disappear with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10). Think of it! All one hundred thousand million galaxies—each containing at least that many stars—each galaxy one hundred light-years across—will hear the word and shake out of existence! Just a little word from God, and it is done.
The reason for this is clearly spelled out: “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain” (v. 27b). The people of God, as a part of the order of things which are unshakable, will survive. But everything else in the universe will be shaken and therefore purged. Everything that is wrong will be eradicated. No sin, no imperfection will remain. Then there will be a blessed reconstruction — “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1).
To those who are obedient this is good news. And the preacher means it to be a powerful encouragement to the beleaguered little church to which he writes, in which some feel as though their lives are being shaken to pieces by Rome. “Stand firm amidst the Roman tremors,” he seems to be saying, “because the ultimate shaking is coming when Rome and indeed the entire present evil order, will shake to oblivion. And you, as part of the new order, will survive. Take heart!” On the other hand, to those who are ignoring God’s Word and drifting further away, this was a disquieting revelation and challenge to obedience.
Good words indeed for all God’s people everywhere, including us who live in Dan Andrews’ Victoria. How often have I prayed for this evil ruler that he is either improved or removed. He may still be in power, but his day of reckoning is certainly coming. He may treat God – and the people of God – with contempt today, but unless he repents, he will go through the shaking, and he will stand trembling before his creator and judge.
Let me appeal to one more commentator in this regard. Richard Phillips notes how almost all of the New Testament writers speak of how this world will come to an end, leaving behind only that which is eternal. He says this about the passage:
Perhaps the greatest example of the folly of placing worldly priorities ahead of spiritual ones is provided by the Roman Empire. Rome’s dominating power controlled the entire known world when this letter was written. This epistle was probably written to Jewish Christians living in Rome; the threat to them came from the Roman government with the help of the Jewish synagogue. What could have been more important in that day, more stable, or more lasting that the Roman Empire? If one had asked, “Which is going to last? The Roman Empire or Christianity?” people would have laughed! They would have cried, “Rome will last forever!” They would have pointed to its pomp and pageantry as mere symbols of its eternal power and glory.
But from our perspective things look quite different. In time, Rome would pit all its strength against the gospel and the followers of Jesus Christ. But in the end it was Rome that capitulated. Before long, the “eternal city” was overrun by barbarians, its statues crashed to the ground, and its buildings were looted and burned and crumbled. But the gospel of Jesus Christ, that voice that comes from heaven, has endured to this day and it shall endure forever. It endures because it is built on truth, not on worldly pretensions—because it is truth. It endures because it is the Word of God. The prophet Isaiah put it well: “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field…. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:6–8).
Today Rome’s great power, which the Christian readers of this letter understandably feared, is but a memory. Meanwhile the kingdom of Christ is with us still, its strength unabated. The impact of the two kingdoms has been described quite cleverly by comparing Nero, the emperor who probably was involved with this persecution, and the apostle Paul, whom he had put to death. “Today people name their dogs after Nero,” it is said, “but they name their sons after Paul.”
So the next time you are startled by a heavy-duty earth tremor or earthquake, say what I said: “Good.” Understand that God is still on the throne and his mere word can shake the heavens and the earth. All these pipsqueak dictators and thugs now ruling over us – be they Andrews or Trudeau or Albanese or Macron or Biden – will one day shake in fear and terror as they experience what real power and glory is like.
Just last night I was watching part of a television doco on Prince Andrew and his close association with convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein. The Prince also seems to be up to his ears in underage sexual debauchery. Right now he is SO very rich and powerful and seemingly invincible. Such people can literally get away with murder – in this life a least. But soon enough their time will come to an end.
Pray that all these rulers and leaders and rich and powerful types who seem to do whatever they want will repent now before it is too late – before the final shaking takes place.