Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Stones Cry Out

Tuesday I used the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile as a metaphor for building on the solid ground of Jesus. Truth is, I didn’t have to use those examples; there have been plenty to choose from. This year alone, there have been eight earthquakes of Magnitude 6 or higher, claiming almost a quarter of a million lives. In 2009 there were 52, killing over 1700 (the difference in casualties was that many of these were deep ocean and 90% of this year’s fatalities were from the Haiti quake alone). These numbers have led many to believe that the End is nigh, that Christ’s return is imminent.

There’s good Biblical reason for such fears. A search in BibleGateway for earthquake yields 17 results in the NIV, and all but the exceptions of the LORD’s appearance to Elijah, Jesus’ death and resurrection, and Peter’s escape from prison involve God’s coming wrath. Some examples:

"The LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire." (Isaiah 29:6)

"Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake."(Revelation 16:18)

However, before Jesus warned us that “[n]ation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven," he also cautioned us "do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away." (Luke 21:9-11) While it is in our nature to speculate, Jesus also reminds us that “No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 25:36)

The access to instant information afforded us by the Internet brings events to our attention that might otherwise go unnoticed. For example, this week it was reported that an April earthquake in Baja California moved the city of Calexico two and a half feet. I was in Boston last week and arrived right after an earthquake hit in Ottawa. The 5.0 earthquake was felt throughout New England. I come from earthquake country and when I think of the Northeast, the last thing I think about is an earthquake. Yet Ottawa experiences earthquakes of similar magnitude every “four or five years” and several hundred small earthquakes along the Logan faultline in Quebec strike every year.

Maybe we’re too sensitive to the news that’s reported. There’s no shortage of “wars and rumors of wars” that’s for sure. And with Hurricane Katrina still fresh in our minds, we’re aware of every hurricane predicted and tracked. In fact, as I type this ‘Alex’ has been downgraded from a hurricane to just a tropical storm even though three lives have already been lost and thousands evacuated. Is any of this unusual though?

Of the 15 largest earthquakes in the last century, four have been this decade. Yet with the exception of the 1920s and 1980s, there have been roughly 10 earthquakes 8.0 or larger each decade since the turn of the last century. Yes, the first decade of the 21st Century saw more than most with 13, but it’s not necessarily out of the norm. (The earthquake data at is a lot of fun to pour through if you’re a data nerd like me)

So I’m not concerned. Yes, I live in earthquake country and am looking forward to my ocean-front property when the Big One hits, but other than earthquake drills and keeping a disaster kit handy, there’s not much else I can do. Spiritually, I need to keep oil in my lamp as Jesus instructs and live as though he is returning today. But I find comfort in Elijah’s experience:

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

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