I was catching up with a friend one afternoon when I noticed people taking bunches of flowers from outside a closed florist. “They leave the old flowers out for people to take,” my friend explained. We went over to take a look, and the woman scavenging through the flower bunches gave us some advice. “You have to take two bunches,” she said. “Then, you can sort through them and pick out the nicer stems.” We chose two bunches with still-closed lilies and I put them in my car. It was a busy evening and I had work the next day, so I left the flowers in their wrapping, without any water, on a chair at home. A day later, I took the weary flowers outside to sort, and trim them down. When I removed the plastic wrapping from the first bouquet, a flurry of petals rained into the bin and the majority of the lilies disappeared. The same thing happened with the second bouquet, but as the lady outside the store had predicted, there were enough surviving blooms to dress a vase.
As the first petals stormed to the ground, I remembered the passage in Hebrews 12:26 –
“…Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”
All I did was unwrap their plastic covering and the pretense of living flowers dissipated, leaving only a few viable stems. Matthew 24:12-13 says that in the last days, “…because lawlessness with abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” I began to think again about what it means when God shakes the heavens and the earth.
SHAKEN BY THE VOICE OF GOD
The voice of God is powerful and majestic. Psalm 29 describes the strength and power of God’s voice clearly, usually a variety of descriptions to emphasise its qualities. The voice of the Lord:
- Is over the waters (v.3)
- Is powerful (v.4)
- Is full of majesty (v.4)
- Breaks the cedars of Lebanon (v.5)
- Shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh (v.8)
- Makes the deer give birth (v.9)
The Psalm concludes that in the temple of God, all cry ,”Glory!” (v.9) for “The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, and the Lord sits as King forever.” (v.10) Hebrews 12 speaks about “Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth,” and who will once again shake heaven and earth. So then, what is this voice like? Psalm 29 gives us some awesome visual representations of God’s voice and its effect on the earth. Let’s look a little closer at some of these.
- ENTHRONED OVER THE FLOOD
- The description of God’s voice over the waters, makes me think of two things – (1) Creation (2) The Great Flood. God was there before the world began. Genesis 1:2 describes how “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” This gives a sense of God’s omnipotence – before the word was made, God was there. This same God was God over the flood that destroyed most of the earth. Noah lived in a time when “all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” [Genesis 6:12] The situation was so dire that God judged the earth with a flood that destroyed everything except Noah, his family, and the animals upon the ark he had built in obedience to God’s word. God has authority to judge, and to bring judgment. Just as He was enthroned at the Flood, He will be enthroned as King and Judge forever. His word, and His voice will be the truth and it will stand for eternity.
- STRONGER THAN THE CEDARS OF LEBANON
- The cedars of Lebanon were always described as the highest quality wood. It was a prized source of wood for building temples and ships. Exports went to countries such as Egypt, Israel and Greece. The wood was said to have a good hardness, pleasant smell, high resistance to rot and minimal shrinkage. Yet, Psalm describes the voice of God being powerful enough to break these fine, and highly sought after trees. This description conveys the power of God, as well as God’s authority once again. Even the cedars of Lebanon, the finest and most prized trees in the world bow before the glory and majesty of God.
- THE WILDERNESS OF KADESH
- The Israelites wandered the wilderness of Kadesh for many years between their exodus from Egypt, and their victory in the Promised Land. Kadesh was located on Sinai Peninsula, between the Wilderness of Shur, the Wilderness of Paran and the Wilderness of Zin. It was a vast desert! The voice of God is powerful enough to shake the whole vastness of this great desert. I imagine not a grain of sand or soil would be left untouched by the authority and power of God’s voice.
- LIFE THROUGH GRACE
- Deer are often used as symbols of grace and gentleness. In the context of the passage – the lord of the lord making the deer give birth and stripping the forests bare – there is a sense of God’s power. Yet, when I read this verse, I also think of how God created life just by speaking [Genesis 1]. Furthermore, He has given us life in Christ through His grace [Ephesians 2:7-8]. When God shakes the earth which His voice, it produces life.
These descriptions of God’s voice fills me with awe and wonder. We have a mighty God, one whose voice is majestic, strong, powerful, moving and life-giving.
A GREAT FALLING AWAY
When the Lord shakes the earth, there will be a great falling away. Matthew 24 explains the reason for this, describing the deceit, offense, hate and lawlessness that will be seen.
(v.5) “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”
(v.10-12) “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
When God shakes the heavens and the earth with His voice, He reveals who He is. We often develop preconceived ideas, and the truth of who God really is can be hidden in the philosophy of these ideas. When Jesus came to earth, people expected a “Lion”, a King who would powerfully defeat their enemies and rescue them from Roman occupation. Instead, the Son of God came as a “Lamb”, letting His blood flow to redeem us from sin once and for all eternity [Hebrews 9:12]. Nowadays, many people see Jesus as meek and mild, gentle and full of love. Do we also recognise the power and authority of His love? People are offended that God, who is all powerful, yet allows injustice, wars and suffering to occur on earth. What is the real reason we get angry or offended at God? Perhaps it is because we look at things from our own perspective, rather than trusting God’s judgment. When wars ravage the earth, nature is destroyed and the temple of desolation is set up on earth, who will we call “God”? In whose judgment will we trust? The Bible says that many will be deceived in that day. They will forget God’s love, and forget His character. In the face of God’s judgments, Revelation records that men will “blaspheme… the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they [will] not repent and give Him glory.” Are His judgments unfair? The book of Job discusses the topic of suffering, and God’s character in the midst of such trials (https://lostnowfoundk.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/job-p2-who-is-to-blame-for-suffering/). Revelation 19:11 describes God’s justice –
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.”
God’s judgment is that of the King of Kings, and Lord or Lords. His judgment is righteous and true. Numbers 23:19 speaks about the enduring faithfulness and truth of God –
“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
From the very beginning, God has planned that His dwelling be with man – that we would be brought to union with Him in His love. No power of hell, or sin, or darkness can thwart this plan. He will crush the head of the serpent and His city will be established. In accordance with God’s holiness, “…there shall by no means enter [His city] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” [Revelation 21:27]
THAT WHICH REMAINS
Hebrews 12:27 explains that there will be a “removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.” What will be removed, and what will remain? From the passages we have previously looked at, we know that anything that defiles, causes abomination or causes lies will be removed. Revelation also names those who are dogs, sorcerers, sexually immoral, and those who love and practice lies as being unable to enter the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 3 speaks about fire testing each one’s work and burning anything that is not grounded in Christ’s foundation. Verse 17 says that “if anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” We are the temple of God, made for His Spirit to dwell within us. When God shakes the heavens and the earth, He will destroy what is not holy – anything within mankind that defiles His temple.
What then will remain? Hebrews 12:28 says we receive “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Other passages in the Bible refer to treasures in heaven that cannot be destroyed [Matthew 6:19-21, Colossians 3:2] Still more passages speak about a reward [Matthew 5:12, Matthew 25:21, James 1:12, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 22:12] The kingdom that cannot be shaken is God’s kingdom – the throne of His glory, the authority of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. 1 Corinthians 13 says that many things will vanish – prophecy tongues, knowledge. Yet, faith, hope and love will abide with us, the greatest of which is love. It is God’s love that causes us to endure, and causes us to live with Him for eternity. It is His love which restores the brokenness of sin, and will ultimately restore the heavens and the earth.
We can allow God to shake us even now- to recognise and reject what is not holy, and what is not of Him.
“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man which his deeds, and put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” – [Colossians 3:5-10]
Lord, search me and know me. Speak to me and show me anything which is not of you. I want to be wholly and completely yours. Let your Spirit renew my heart and my mind so that I would walk in holiness just as You are holy. Shake everything that can be shaken. Test me and refine me so that my faith, my hope, and my love would be all Yours. Give me strength to persevere to the end, and let Your kingdom come!