when the earth quakes
Watching recent news with dismay, we have seen the grief of so many who have lost their lives and loved ones, their health and their homes. The worst may not be over yet.
Two years ago, on December 26th 2003 Bam in Iran was devastated by an earthquake, killing 43,000 people and leaving 60,000 homeless. Then again exactly one year later, on December 26th 2004, Indonesia was hit by another earthquake resulting in the Tsunami, which killed hundreds of thousands. If December 26th 2005 breaks with another natural disaster, then surely people would see God's hand at work?
No doubt, scientists would try to come up with some placating answer, but the reality is, that God has spoken of our troubled times in His Word. If these things did not happen, then He would be a liar and the Bible false. Truth is, the Bible also says that the root of all natural disasters can be traced back to a spiritual disaster - the entrance of sin into our world. Man rebelled against his Maker and was thus plunged into the meaningless life cycle of dust to dust. Now we are here, soon we are gone. We are passing, vanishing, our lives have become meaningless - and like a flower of the field, our lives, hopes, memory and glory withers, fades and is gone.
Inevitably, when such disasters strike, questions are asked about construction materials and shoddy workmanship. The reality is though, that every one of us inhabits a house (our body, our lives) which is ready to collapse. We all bear the marks of our sin, which results in wickedness, evil, disease, decay and ultimately death. The worst part though, is that the Bible says that death is not the end, but that we shall all give account to God in the afterlife too.
Therefore the only thing that can bring true meaning to our short lives is when we enter into a relationship with our Maker. Then and then alone can we know that, if we live, we live for God and His work. If we die, we go to Him and His presence. If we suffer, God can work it together for good. The only ground which cannot be shaken from under our feet is the solid rock of God Himself.
But since mankind rejected God and His truth in the garden, and decided to build our lives on shaky man-made foundations, what else could we expect than that God from time to time would remind us of our folly?
NOT that those who directly experience the disaster are necessarily any better or worse than the rest of us. Far from it, we are ALL fallen in sin. But as our Creator and Sustainer, He has every right to shake us from our ignorance, idols, apathy and more. For a life without God, as wise Solomon realised, is vanity, emptiness, grasping for the wind. A life lived without God could be compared to a life lived without ever experiencing the sun and denying its existence. Unthinkable!
And so God reminds us of our frail condition and strips away the outward things to reveal the inward need. Why? So that we might seek the lasting answers from Him.
The starting point is a realisation of our wrongness and God's rightness. Jesus pointed out the wise man and the fool. The wise man he said, heard His words and built his life upon them. He received the word as wisdom from God and they proved to be a sure foundation when the floods and troubles of life came. The fool, He said, ignored His words and then built his house upon the sand. When the same floods came, that house could not stand and collapsed. And great was its fall, Jesus said.
The problem is, that people think God is just like some giant fairy godmother in the sky, who winks at their sin and says "bless you my child." But the reality is, that though God loves the world, like a disciplining Father, He is angry with the world for their sin and wickedness. He commands all mankind everywhere to repent and turn to Him, lest they face His judgement.
But is God just angry, and not touched with our suffering? Far from it! He has intervened in the world by sending His Son, who came to bring God's grace to mankind. God suffered the greatest tragedy Himself, with the death of His own beloved Son at our wicked hands, and He has patiently worked and waited the last 2000 years to save people from their sins. The message He has sent us from heaven is Good News of peace with God, if we will receive it.
For what we could not know of the invisible God, was declared to us through His Son Jesus Christ. He came as a Man to reveal God, teach God's ways and finally give Himself as a ransom to set the captives free. He did this by suffering and becoming a sacrifice on the cross so that his blood might wash away our sins. And God His Father, accepted this great sacrifice, raised Him up from the dead, and now, from God's right hand, Jesus calls all to come, turn from their wickedness and believe on Him and be saved.
No doubt, God does have distinct purposes for bringing earthquakes in specific places, but at least one broad lesson it teaches all of us, is how frail our lives really are. Each of us are soberly warned to be ready for the day of accounting and get right with Him now. And the only way is through the Son whom He sent, the One who is the way, the truth and the life. For no one comes to the Father, but by Him.
Yes, we must reach out quickly with compassion and physical help to those afflicted and affected by every disaster. But we must also realise that we will suffer the same spiritual fate if we neglect to build our lives on His revealed truth too.
So, get right with God today through His Son, Jesus Christ. For tomorrow your own house will collapse - and who knows whether you will be buried with it?
November 2005