Despite the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and in some sense 9-11, the United States has lived in a security bubble, protected east and west by two vast oceans and north and south by two friendly nations. And despite the existence of modern weapons technology that has made such boundaries irrelevant, this nation, because of its economic strength and military power, has enjoyed a safety afforded few other nations throughout history. That reality has engendered a sense of superiority, complacency, and proud smugness that have recently been shattered—not by military might but by an invisible microorganism, followed swiftly on its heels by the demonstration of an anarchic spirit that threatens the foundation of our nation.
To view these phenomena as simply another pair in a long line of naturalistic events is a serious misapprehension of circumstances because accident and chance do not exist in this world, or for that matter, anywhere in the universe. God is the sovereign Being, presiding over all that happens (or fails to happen) with omniscience, omnipotence, and perfect justice. All that occurs, every event both large and small, occurs either because God has specifically ordained it or because He has consciously permitted it.
It is somewhat easy to attribute good and positive things to the favor of a gracious God. It may be harder to credit that same God with responsibility for unpleasant, even disastrous actions. But He is responsible for both, even though He is not the author of sin nor its direct consequences. And the hard fact is that God is in the shaking business. A short list of obvious historical examples makes that reality abundantly clear. God was in the shaking business when Israel fell into Egyptian bondage. God was in the shaking business when Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. He was in the shaking business when the Philistines harassed His people, when Assyria ravaged the Northern Kingdom, and when Judah went into Babylonian captivity for seventy years. And He was in the shaking business when Israel writhed under the iron first of Rome.
The writer of Hebrews observes that “His [God’s] voice shook the earth then [at the giving of the Law on Sinai], but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:26, 27). This verse refers to a final and ultimate shaking that is introduced with the rapture of the church, succeeded by a period of seven years of inconceivable tribulation, and culminating in the melting of every created heavenly body and the creation of new heavens and a new earth. What is occurring right now is not part of any of those final events, but it certainly portends them. For if God is Himself faithful and unchanging, He will shake those who are His before He inevitably shakes those who are not His.
And if there were nothing beyond time, if seventy years were all we had, if the grave were the end of human existence, and if He had not sacrificed His Son to redeem a people “zealous for good deeds” (Tit. 2:14), maybe we might expect God to just allow us to party as much as we’d like or to destroy things to our hearts’ content. But God is in the business of saving lost sinners and of building a family fit to inhabit heaven and to be called the children of God and the Bride of Jesus Christ. And so He is in the shaking business. Every false hope, every wrong motive, every sinful thought, word, and deed will be shaken until the life we live is for Christ alone, until He is our all and in all. That shaking, so far as the church is concerned, will be concluded at the rapture when we shed our flesh once and for all. Then will come the shaking upon the world mentioned in Hebrews, a shaking that will leave the lost bereft of any hope, comfort, peace, or help of any kind. All arrogance, pride, self-righteousness, wrath, and all the other sins that inhabit the unregenerate heart and mind will be exposed for their rottenness. The lake of fire will swallow them, and all shaking will cease—for the righteous there will remain eternal security, for the unrighteous a fixed eternal separation from God. Have you felt the shaking? How have you responded?
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