Our ‘Nervous’ Earth
(Twelve instances from the Bible illustrate God’s purpose of earthquakes.)
by. S. A. Austin
|Picture Credit: planets.sciencedaily.com|
Earthquakes are among the most terrifying natural events we can experience. Not only does the ground vibrate, but on rare occasions the earth can split, or land can actually be displaced over the earth’s surface. All these effects of earthquakes were known to Bible writers.
The Hebrew and Greek language of the Bible has rich terminology that describes the effects of earthquakes. The earth can shake (Hebrew ra ash and ragaz; Greek seio), the earth can split open (Hebrew baqa) and be moved or slip (Hebrew mot; Greek kineo). Even seismology, the scientific study of earthquakes, has its roots in seismos, the common Greek word for earthquake.
Bible writers often saw these fearsome displays of God’s limitless power in the context of the Lord’s coming in judgment on the wicked, His redemption of the righteous or His speaking to His prophets. Twelve instances from the Bible illustrate God’s purpose of earthquakes.
Day Three of Creation Week
On the third day of creation, the earth’s waters were collected into the oceanic basins as continents appeared (see Gen. 1:9,10). Evidently, the continents were uplifted as the ocean floor was depressed during a great faulting process that “established” the foundations of the earth. We are told that angels saw and praised the omnipotent God as this earth shaking process occurred (see Job 38: 4-7; Ps. 148: 1-6; possibly 104:5,6).
One of the primary physical causes of God’s great judgment in Noah’s Flood was the “breaking up” (Hebrew baqa’) of all the fountains of the great deep (see Gen. 7:11). Enormous earth upheavals on the see floor occurred as springs were faulted open, unleashing a universal flood on our planet. God’s purpose was to begin the human race again from the family of Noah.
Crossing the Red Sea
Although the historical record of Israel’s crossing the Read Sea (see Ex. 14) has no reference to earthquakes, the poetically heightened account in Psalm 77:18 speaks of God’s voice expressed as earthquakes accompanying this extraordinary deliverance.
Moses on Sinai
Before God spoke to Moses and gave the Ten Commandments, there was a great shaking of the mountain (see Ex. 19:18). No doubt the earthquake prepared both Moses and Israel for the important things the Lord was going to communicate.
Korah’s Rebellion in the Wilderness
Korah and all his men were killed, and all of their possessions taken, as the land on which they were camped split apart and closed back upon them (see. Num. 16: 31-33). The 250 men were devoured by God because they were in rebellion against the Lord.
The Fall of Jericho
Many Bible readers have supposed that an earthquake toppled the walls of Jericho, but the account of Israel’s conquering the city of Jericho (see Josh.6) contains no reference to earth quakes. There is no doubt that the fall of the city’s great wall would have caused the earth to shake. God delivered the city, by whatever means, into Israel’s hand.
Philistine Camp near Geba
Israel conquered the Philistines near Geba after an earthquake occurred in their camp (see I Sam. 14:15). Jonathan and his armour bearer were separated from their army and might otherwise have been killed by the Philistines.
Elijah on Mount Horeb
God spoke to Elijah, as to Moses before, at Mount Sinai (Horeb) after an earthquake (see I Kings 19:11). Elijah, who had been hiding in a cave, realized that the Lord does not need to use a mighty earthquake to speak but can, in His meekness, reveal Himself simply in a still, small voice.
Uzziah’s Earthquake at Jerusalem
Uzziah, the longest reigning King of Judah, did right in the Lord’s sight early in his life. Later, however, he became proud of his great buildings and the strength of his army (see II Chron. 26). The Lord afflicted Uzziah’s kingdom and buildings with a great earthquake (see Amos 1:1; Zech. 14:5) as well as Uzziah personally with incurable leprosy.
The Crucifixion in Jerusalem
When our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, there was a great earthquake and many dead saints were resurrected from their tombs (see Matt.27: 51-54). God used the earthquake to show that salvation had been accomplished on the cross. Because of the earthquake, the centurion and those with him at the cross recognized that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.
The Resurrection in Jerusalem
No human agency rolled away the stone blocking the opening of our Lord’s tomb. It was the angel who did so after an earthquake (see Matt. 28:2).
The Prison at Philippi
An earthquake not only released Paul and Silas from prison (see Acts 16:26), but it authenticated their testimony. The jailer who witnessed the even recognized the Lord’s hand, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and received salvation.
Earthquakes have been used of God at special times, with special people, for special purposes. Biblical earthquakes were employed infrequently when no other human or physical agency would do to accomplish judgment, deliverance or communication. Earthquakes of the future mentioned in the Bible prophecy will have similar purposes. Those of who have not experienced earthquakes in these extraordinary ways should have our faith strengthened. We have these historic reports illustrating our Lord’s holiness, grace and sovereignty. “God is our refuge and strength,” Even if mountains shake and are cast into the sea (Ps. 46:1-3).
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