When God Shakes our World

[This is the final article that parallels the Prayer and Fasting Guide through Daniel: Wisdom, Courage, and Vision under God’s Eternal Kingdom.]

Throughout the book of Daniel, God communicates with shocking images: an imposing statue smashed to dust by a stone; a sprawling, fruitful tree chopped down to the stump of its roots; a floating goat with a conspicuous horn trampling a ram. These images are meant to activate our imagination and arrest our attention, like seeing Charlton Heston screaming before a beached Statue of Liberty at the close of The Planet of the Apes.

One of the most arresting multi-sensory experiences employed by both prophet and psalmist is that of an earthquake. This originated in Israel’s encounter with God at Mount Sinai. When Yahweh descended on Sinai, “the whole mountain trembled greatly” (Exodus 19:18). Along with the fire, smoke, thundering, and trumpet blast, the shaking of the earth struck intense fear into the people.

Think about how unnerving earthquakes are. They threaten one of the most basic assumptions we make every moment of our lives–that the ground on which we walk and sit and lie will be stable. Earthquakes momentarily call all of that into question. When the ground shakes, we falter and fall, the buildings we have constructed crack and crumble, and the solid ground opens up, creating pitfalls where solid land once stood. Nothing is safe, everything is vulnerable.

Such is the spiritual message of the prophets when they threaten a day of shaking. Isaiah’s most extended treatment on the Day of Yahweh includes the warning, “I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of Yahweh of hosts in the day of his fierce anger” (Isaiah 13:13). While this could mean a literal earthquake, the metaphorical possibility is actually more fearful. Nothing is safe, everything is vulnerable: our networks and unused favors, our social standing and power, our areas of expertise. In a moment it can all crack and crumble. The mighty presence of Yahweh exposes how unstable nearly everything in our life is.

Thus the songs of Israel identify only one hope of stability. “I have set Yahweh always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:2). The only thing in this life that cannot be shaken is God himself. As the writer to the Hebrews argues, “things that have been made” can be shaken. Only the kingdom of our God cannot (Hebrews 12:26–29).

Such a truth is meant to preemptively disavow us of false security before the earthquake comes. The power, prosperity, and pleasures of this age will all be reduced to rubble. Thus a life of sacrifice for or confidence in these pursuits is foolhardy. Only a life grounded in God alone will stand.

The Day of shaking will come. As you move through your world of work and family and leisure and news, allow the prophets’ vision to lead you to the psalmist’s resolve: make God your only assumption. Plant your feet firmly on the Rock that will never be shaken.

Pastor Chris

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