Did you feel it on Tuesday; that strange and unfamiliar groaning of the ground, the rumbling of the floors and the rattling of the windows? I sure did. It was kind of eerie if you ask me.
I’ve always considered my chances of feeling an earthquake in Virginia to be pretty slim. Before Tuesday I would have thought it was more likely for me to see Lynchburg drivers actually learn how to merge in traffic than to feel an earthquake. (It’s called an ACCELERATION LANE FOR A REASON! It is not called a “stop-and-look-over-your-shoulder-to-make-sure-there-is-no-one-coming-before-you-pull-out lane.” Sorry. That’s kind of my pet peeve.) Lots of meteorological happenings have been on my Virginia radar: like snow, humidity, and heat; but earthquakes were certainly not one of them.
As you may know, dozens (sometimes hundreds) of earthquakes and tremors jostle our globe every week. Many of them are quite small and happen in the middle of the ocean or in uninhabited areas covered with ice or sand. However, seismologists have told us that Tuesday’s 5.8 magnitude quake was one of the largest recorded east coast quakes in history.
Within moments of the shimmying and shaking, I noticed that people flooded Facebook and Twitter with reactions. The comments ranged from hysteria to indifference. Now, I don’t know how you felt about the quake; if it scared you or delighted you. Regardless, this unusual event gives us the opportunity to consider what biblical lessons an earthquake might hold.
While it is unlikely that tremors will become a regular part of Lynchburg living, there are some valuable reminders that we should take from Tuesday’s quake.
1. Earthquakes are another reminder of the fall and coming recreation of the earth.
It seems safe to say that there were no earthquakes in the Garden of Eden. God’s analysis of the planet was that, “it was very good.” (Gen 1:31) This would seem to imply that the earth had a calm and stable environment. Since the fall and rebellion of man, however, these unnatural, natural disasters have been taking place. Adam’s sin affected more than just the human race.
The introduction of sin into the world disrupted our world’s tides, electromagnetic field, water cycle, and tectonic plates. Romans 8:22 says it this way,
“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
Like a woman in labor, the earth is moaning, shaking, and sweating through great pains until its rebirth. Nevertheless, we know that these will not last forever.
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope.” (8:20)
The earth is longing, waiting, and hoping for the day in which this broken world will be restored into its Edenic beauty through the coming of King Jesus. Until that day, however, Jesus warned us that
earthquakes (along with war, famine, and pestilence) will multiply in frequency and severity. Why is this? Because the earth is growing more and more desperate for the new creation. Every single quake, storm, and tidal wave is the earth’s way of saying, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
2. Earthquakes are another reminder of God’s power, presence, and judgment.
When the Old Testament prophets spoke about God’s looming omnipotence and omnipresence, they often used earthy metaphors intended to dwarf the listener. In reference to God and His work, Jeremiah spoke of lightning (10:13), Isaiah spoke of thunder (29:6), and Ezekiel spoke of an eclipse of the sun and stars (32:7). One of their favorite pictures for God’s unstoppable power, however, was the earthquake.
Speaking of God’s power, Job rhetorically asked, “Who shakes the earth out of its place?” (9:6) In verse 5 he plainly states, “It is God.” In reference to God’s presence during Israel’s wilderness wanderings, the Psalmist declared, “The earth quaked…at the presence of God.” (Psalm 68:8) We tremble at just how big the mountains are. The mountains, however, tremble at just how big our God is. Couldn’t we learn a lesson from them?
3. Earthquakes are another reminder that believers have nothing to fear.
Not all earthquakes in Scripture were used as a fearful sign of final judgment. Paul and Silas were miraculously delivered from prison after “a great earthquake.” (Acts 16:26) God jostled the earth with such precision that He used the quake to unlock both doors and handcuffs. The gospel also record that earthquakes accompanied Jesus’ death (Matt 27:51-54) and resurrection (28:2).
Whether it produces destruction or deliverance, believers have nothing to fear of earthquakes. Now I know that someone will inevitable ask, “Nothing to fear??!! You must be crazy saying that. Of course we have something to fear. I might lose my house, my health, or my life.” Sure, all of that is very possible. Let me be clear. When I say that we have nothing to fear, I am not saying that Christians don’t die in earthquakes. Certainly they can and do. So, what do I mean?
Do you remember when the disciples experienced their own little natural disaster? They were out at sea, with a sleeping Jesus on board, when a violent storm arose. Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, after which, he rebuked the panicking disciples saying, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Jesus was not saying that believers don’t perish in natural disasters. He was saying that even if we do die, we are still completely safe in the eternal arms of God.
About thirty minutes after the earthquake on Tuesday, my wife picked up her Bible and had her scheduled quiet time. Her reading was from Psalm 46.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should quake…though the mountains shake.” (vs. 2-3)
More than anything, Tuesday’s earthquake was a 5.8 magnitude reminder of God’s immeasurable magnitude. We serve a big, powerful, and strong God.
Don’t wait for the next earthquake to remind you of that. Stand in awe of Him today!