Given for the Saints of the World, 1/24/10.
"For he gives us comfort in all our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in their troubles that we receive from God" (II Cor. 1:4, Phil.).
Like many of you, we've been following the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake which devastated Haiti on January 12. This week, CNN showed video of a 70 year old woman being pulled from the rubble alive and in reasonably good shape, one week after the quake. She survived being buried without food or water for 7 days, which to me is a miracle, since the human body usually cannot survive more than 4 days without water. Another amazing recovery was of a woman who had also been buried almost a week. Her husband never gave up hope that she was alive, and every time the crews moved another mound of debris, he would go to the cleared area and call her name. This time, they heard a sound and when they put a tiny camera and mike down where she was, she said to her husband, "Even if I don't survive, I want you to know I love you." When they pulled her out, she was praising God and singing a hymn of praise and thanksgiving.
It struck me then that this Haitian earthquake is a visual representation of Heb. 12:26-29 (Phillips' translation):
"Then his voice shook the earth, but now he promises: Yet once more will I make to tremble, not the earth only, but also the heaven. This means that in this final "shaking" all that is impermanent will be removed, that is, everything that is merely "made," and only the unshakable things will remain. Since then we have been given a kingdom that is "unshakable," let us serve God with thankfulness in the ways which please him, but always with reverence and holy fear. For it is perfectly true that our God is a burning (consuming) fire."
It is clear that the purpose of the trauma, the shaking and quaking and the fire, is so that which is impermanent and temporary will be removed, and only the unshakable will remain. The writer does not make us guess what the "unshakable" is, saying, "we have been given a kingdom that is "unshakable." Notice that the tense of the verb is present perfect (used when the time period has not finished). It speaks of an event that has already happened. We have it now! We don't have to wait for the kingdom to appear at some future date when Christ comes again. He's already here! How do we know? There cannot be a kingdom without a King to rule and reign over it, and who is the King? No mystery there: "On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16).
Haitians have continued to have faith in God no matter their pitiful circumstances. Thank God, the world has opened wide its arms in generous help for these, the least of our brethren. Many have contributed money and goods, and millions have prayed for them. Haitians had very little of life's temporary goods, but such as they had were removed so that all they have left is the kingdom.
There's a lot of fear and dread out there about the future. I read a Christian newsletter recently warning us that this year will be dreadful economically. I quit reading before I got to an instruction to repent, but those admonitions typically come swift on the heels of every sort of disaster warning from self proclaimed prophets.
The Hebrew writers makes it clear that GOD is the one in charge of the shaking and the results thereof. The passage also expresses our hope and conviction that the kingdom, which is unshakable, is our refuge in time of need. When I saw that old Haitian woman being carefully removed from her temporary crypt, singing and praising God, I knew that the only way she could have survived was that the kingdom of God had been her dwelling place for the previous seven days. He sustained her or she wouldn't have made it.
Big disasters get world wide attention, but Christians have been facing the shaking of God since Nero threw them to the lions and set them on fire as torches to light up his garden party. In case you're tempted to say, "But they didn't survive," the answer is, "Not in the flesh," but they are alive and well with God. Lenny and I went through the shaking of our "heaven and earth" in 1996-1997. In it, God shook our earthly kingdom to rubble. Thankfully, we knew it was He who was doing the shaking and we knew that He wasn't out to kill us, but to reveal His glory to us and in us. We arose from that rubble with our faces turned in a different direction. The Glory Road Ministry is the result of that earthquake.
He has shaken millions of Americans over the past few years in similar fashion, and my prayer is that all will see God through it as the author and finisher of their faith. He sounded the death knell, end of the ride, for the prosperity teachers and gurus who suggest that health and wealth are our due, inferring that if we're doing what we should be doing, we'll have all that. This is clearly a fallback to Law, where the Covenantal blessings accrued to those who obeyed, and the curses applied to those who didn't. About trying to live by law, Paul wrote, "Everyone, however, who is involved in trying to keep the Law's demands falls under a curse, for it is written: Cursed is everyone which continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law, To do them" (Gal. 3:10, Phil.). The aforementioned gurus apparently are unaware of Heb. 13:5: "Keep your lives free from the lust for money: be content with what you have. God has said: I will in no wise fail thee, Neither will I in any wise forsake thee."
The Covenantal blessing of the New Covenant is Christ Himself, not wealth, health, or prestige! Since Christ, the only one without sin, learned obedience from what He suffered, can we expect anything less?
In Chapter 12, the Hebrew writer prefaces his remarks about shaking by explaining why it is necessary: "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Vs. 5-8, RSV). The King James version says any son who is not disciplined is a "bastard," plain speak for hard to endure events.
So, does this mean then that the Haitians are sinners being punished or sons being chastened? Possibly none of the above as a huge fault runs through the whole island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti on the East and the Dominican Republic on the West. The longest fault line in the world, the infamous San Andreas fault, runs almost the whole length of California. We watched a History Channel presentation last night about the dangers it poses for the City of Los Angeles where millions of people make their homes. For as much retrofitting and earthquake preparedness as California has, should "the big one" come, which most scientists agree is a matter of "when," not "if," there will be tremendous loss of life and destruction on a biblical scale.
Not to pick on California, but every year during fire season, the damage and devastation seem to increase. Part of the problem is that people continue to build homes in harm's way, be it on an earthquake fault or in a high burn area. Thus, when disaster strikes, is sin the problem, or poor planning? Is it divine retribution or failure to notice nature's cyclical purging and cleansing of the undergrowth? Is it disobedience, or earthquakes which happen periodically in the "ring of fire." The Pacific Plate is inexorably plunging beneath the North American plate, and eventually, inevitably, the pressure builds up and there is slippage on top, causing chaos and destruction. Everything that happens above and below is under God's sovereignty.
In 1994, brush fires swept through Carlisle Canyon, where we were living. It was a scene from Dante's Inferno. Everything but the homes burned. Smoldering ash and burned vegetation were everywhere, causing it to look like a moonscape. The homes were saved by God's grace and the fire truck stationed at each residence. When the spring rains came, the new growth came up, brilliant and beautiful, wild flowers everywhere, covering the blackened earth with new life, like the rainbow God sent Noah as a symbol of His love and care.
Kenneth Greatorex reminded us recently that the book of Hebrews was written BEFORE AD 70, when God most assuredly did once more shake the heavens (the spiritual) and the earth (the physical). (See link to his writing at end). Using the Roman General Titus, God completely destroyed the Jewish temple, including the records proving lineage (necessary for serving as a priest), and indeed, the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old Covenant suffered a death blow, but rising up from the rubble, the New Covenant was revealed. The gospel of the Kingdom, ratified by the blood of Christ, took wings and spread rapidly throughout the known world. It is possible, therefore, that the big quake promisedin Heb. 12:26, which so many fear, has already happened in AD 70.
There's always a rainbow, except on History channel presentations such as "The Nostradamus Effect." They've taken on the project of depicting how the end of the world will happen, what mega disaster will cause life to end on planet earth. Yes, there are scientists who step in later and say how unlikely this or that scenario really is, but most don't hear that. I'm sure you've heard that the Mayan Calendar, gives December 21, 2012, as the date when the world will end. This Folklore is making the rounds in movies, TV presentations, and blogs, all claiming that we now know for sure when the final curtain will come down.
Really? If Jesus doesn't know when it will happen (Matt. 24:36), why would God show the date to the godless Mayans who practiced human sacrifice and other unspeakable practices? The Old Prophets never threaten gloom and doom without revealing God's big plan over and above what we see with our physical eyes. This passage in Isaiah expresses the hope that is in many of us:
"For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer. To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you" (Isa. 54:7-8,10). Neither earthquakes, floods, fire, or financial ruin can separate us from the love of God and the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Selah!
"We thank you, Oh our Father, for giving us your son, and for leaving your Spirit here, 'til the work on earth is done." So say we all, amen. Jan Antonsson
Lenny and Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Which Intertestamental Period? by Kenneth B. Greatorex
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 01/21/10
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last updated on 01/24/10.