The Bible uses earthquakes as symbols of God’s power [i], displays of His presence [ii], to accompany revelation [iii], and to execute judgments [iv].
A biblical fear of God involves more than the dread of God’s judgment. It includes awe, reverence, respect, and adoration in response to God’s majesty and holiness.
The purpose of all of God’s earthquakes is to make Himself known in all His greatness and holiness to those who can come to know Him in no other way.
Exodus 19:18: The Advent of God on Sinai.
Context: Exodus 19:9-20. Israel is about to meet God Almighty. It was a physical assault on the senses—a sound and sight overload. This was a divine manifestation by storm and fire.
In my humble opinion, this is the most theologically significant earthquake known in the Bible. It is notable because it is the topic of discussion and remembrance many times throughout Holy Scripture.
Along with the earthquake there were thunder, lightning, trumpet blasts, and fire. These were designed to strike awe upon the people and to raise and engage their attention. It directs us to take notice of the power of God and his terror.
Purpose: The earthquake’s purpose is to inspire awe and to prepare ourselves for worship of God.
Application: When we are to meet God for worship, we should to sanctify ourselves, and to get ready beforehand. Wandering thoughts must be gathered in, impure affections abandoned, disquieting passions suppressed. All cares about secular business, for the present, dismissed and laid aside, that our hearts may be engaged to approach our holy and powerful God.
Job 9:6: Job describes God’s awesome powers.
Context: Job 8:1-6; 9:1-8
Job starts with a discourse on God’s power and wisdom, but shifts to questioning His justice. As it happens to many who suffer greatly over a long period, Job is tempted to be fatalistic. He wavers between hope and doubt, and he even accuses God. Job intended to prove to his friends that his problems were not due to his gross ignorance of the ways of God. Job believed he was innocent of any sin that warranted the kind of punishment he was enduring. He was frustrated in his attempt to vindicate himself because God’s wisdom and power was too profound and great to be argued. It is fruitless to debate God or question His motives- He can overturn mountains!
God can alter the course of nature. The earth is said to be fixed and cannot be removed [v]. The sun so-called “rises” in its daily routine, but when God wishes he can not only send stars off their orbits, but invert the order and change the law of nature. From our humanly point of view, there is nothing more firm than the mountains. When we speak of God removing mountains we mean He can do the impossible. He can level them and overturn them in his anger. He can spread the mountains as easily as the gardener spreads the molehills.
God made Mount Sinai shake [vi]. The hills skipped [vii]. The everlasting mountains were scattered [viii]. There is nothing more fixed than the earth on its axis; yet God can, whenever He pleases, shake the earth out of its place, heave it off its centre, and make even its pillars to tremble. What seemed to support itself need the support of God when He gives it a shock.
We are indebted to God’s patience. God has power enough to shake the earth from under the sinful and therefore guilty race of man. The earth groans under the burden of our sin, and so to shake the wicked out of it [ix]. Yet God continues to sustain the earth, and man upon it, and does not make it shake every time man rebels against Him.
So long as God desires He preserves the settled course and order of nature. He Himself alone, by his own power, and without the assistance of any other. He Spreads out the heaven (v. 8), not only did spread them out at first, but still spreads them out (that is, keeps them spread out), for otherwise they would of themselves roll together like a scroll of parchment.
Purpose: Assessment God’s complete control over nature.
Application: It is fruitless to debate God or question His motives- He can overturn mountains!
Numbers 26:10: Korah’s Rebellion
Context: Numbers 26:9-10
Also see Deuteronomy 11:6, Numbers 16:1-25; Psalm 106: 16-18. Two separate movements combined forces to oppose Moses and Aaron. One group, led by Dathan, Abiram, and On from the tribe of Reuben, was jealous of the leadership that God had established, and propagandized against Moses and Aaron. The other disaffected group consisted of Kohathites (Levites), the very group to which Moses and Aaron belonged.
In order to serve as a warning to other dissenters, the earth swallowed up a rebellious splinter group of the Reubenite tribe led by the confederation of Korah, a Levite. Apparently these men had become contentious against Moses and Aaron, thus agitating God Himself. They died suddenly when an earthquake dramatically consumed the disgruntled troublemakers. The words the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up suggest a sudden action, like that of a sinkhole that opens with great speed.
Purpose: The mutineers are monument of divine justice. The earthquake’s purpose is to serve as a punishment to ringleaders who conspire against God-ordained leadership; it also serves as a warning to others
Application: Take heed of treading in the steps of Korah’s pride and rebellion. Do not challenge or be jealous of the church leadership.
Context: Judges 5:1-5
Comparing God’s deliverance on this occasion with his appearances to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. We should sing and praise God for His earthquakes. All things sent by God are good, including earthquakes. Deborah looks back upon God’s former appearances, and compares this with them, in order to magnify the glorious author of our great salvation. Or it notes the glorious displays of the divine majesty; and the surprising effects of the divine power, enough to make the earth tremble.
Purpose: Praise and remembrance. God is pictured as a warrior who fights by means of the created elements.
Application: God is praised by songs of remembrance of God’s power and deliverance, which is a very natural expression of rejoicing.
1 Samuel 14:15 Jonathan’s Victory
Context: 1 Samuel 14:6-15
Jonathan, the son of King Saul, snatched victory over the Philistines in a secret mission at Michmash by staging a bold commando attack. His heroic encounter shocked and frightened the Philistines and they retreated. The scene is called a trembling of God, signifying not only a very great quivering confusion in the hearts of the Philistine troops, but perhaps even the earth supernaturally quaked which added to the panic and turmoil. We cannot be sure on this: The earth quaked may refer to an actual earthquake or it may be a way of saying that the Philistines were shaking from fear.
Purpose: Cause fear and confusion among the enemies of God’s people.
Application (lesson): Those that will not fear God, he can make afraid of a shadow. He that made the heart knows how to make it shiver.
Psalm 18:7 The LORD is praised for giving deliverance.
Context: Read Psalm 18:1-8
When David cried for help against his enemies, the Lord intervened in way that is described as sheer and terrifying power. When God reveals Himself as a warrior, nature shudders. God made the earth shake and tremble, and moved even the foundations of the hills. When the men of the earth were struck with fear, then the whole earth might be said to tremble. When the great men of the earth were put into confusion, then the hills are moved. God shows his anger and displeasure against the enemies and persecutors of his people couched in hyperbolic language. This quake is an expression of His anger. Underlying these poetic words is the understanding that the Almighty will turn the universe inside out, if necessary, to deliver His servant.
Purpose: The object of the Psalm is to show that the God causes the world to fear and tremble Him by display of his dreadful power and fierce wrath.
Application: We should look back, with thankfulness, upon the great things which God had done for us (like David did).
Psalm 68:8 David prays that God would appear in his glory.
Context: Psalm 68:4-8
God previously manifested his glorious presence to His people at Mount Sinai. Awesome was His coming. Never before did any people see the glory of God in such a dramatic way, nor hear his voice, as Israel did [x]. Never had any people been given such an excellent law, so expounded, so enforced. The earth shook: Sinai itself, a vast mountain with long ridges, was moved at the very presence of God. This solemn appearance of His Majesty would possess people with holy fear and respect. A reminder of this historic earthquake will encourage the people in their faith in God Almighty and increase their dependence upon Him in times of difficulty or oppression. The Lord can shift mountains!
Purpose: Whatever mountains of difficulty lay in the way of His people, we are reminded that God can move Mount Sinai itself.
Application: Give God thanks for the great things he had done for him and his people of late, takes occasion thence to praise him for what he had done for their fathers in the days of old.
1 Kings 19:11 God does not always reveal Himself in spectacular events.
Context: 1 Kings 19:9-18
Here Elijah is housed in a cave at Mount Horeb (a.k.a. Sinai), which is called the mount of God, because on it God had formerly manifested his glory [xi]. Perhaps this was the same cave in which Moses hid when the Lord passed by [xii]. What Elijah proposed to himself in coming to lodge here, we cannot say with certainty, unless it was to assist his faith and devotion in a famous place where the law was given and where so many great things were done before. Perhaps he was hoping to meet with God there himself, where Moses met with Him. Elijah shall find that God will not fail to give him a meeting. He heard a strong wind, and saw the terrible effects of it: slashing the mountains and splitting the rocks. He felt the shock of an earthquake and other frightening things. These were to usher in the manifestation of the divine glory, just as we’d seen in Exodus 19. These phenomena were indications of God’s presence on Mount Sinai [xiii], but God does not answer Elijah’s concerns through them. The Lord responded to Elijah in this particular instance in an unexpected way: God is present in a gentle blowing wind, almost a near silence.
Contrary to the notions of Elijah, silence does not always mean divine inactivity. Elijah learned that God is not always a God of the spectacular. At times, the work of God is experienced in “the sound of a gentle stillness.” Elijah had called for lightning, thunder, earthquakes, action, and he had called for fire and national revival. What Elijah did not see was that God was at work in the lives of many people.
Purpose: God does not ALWAYS reveal Himself in spectacular events.
Application: We should be struck with awe even when God “speaks” in a soft way.
A notable earthquake occurred during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah (792–740 b.c.), and Jeroboam II, king of Israel (793–753 b.c.). Amos dates his prophecy “two years before the earthquake” and Zechariah writes about “the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah” [xiv].
Purpose: While earthquakes are not uncommon in Palestine, the one to which Amos refers must have been unusually severe; for it is mentioned again by Zechariah in his prophecy more than two hundred years later [xv]. It stands as a reminder of God’s great power in nature and is a warning of His judgment that is about to overtake Israel.
Ripe for judgment. I will not forget their evil works!
Context: Amos 8:4-11
Some commentators think this refers to a literal earthquake. That is possible, and I certainly wouldn’t want to rule that out. However, I think it is the fact that God is coming down hard upon them in judgment that makes the land (people) tremble.
The Nile rises and falls several feet in its annual flood. Amos may have intended to portray a severe earthquake in which the land’s rise and fall would be as dramatic as the rise and fall of the Nile.
God warns He will bring utter ruin and confusion upon the Northern Kingdom (Israel) because of their perversions and oppression against the poor. The people were heartless, full of greed, and utterly corrupt. To settle that score, the Almighty will pour out judgment against the land; and it will be so severe that the land will shake, and those in it will mourn.
God swore He would not forget any of the evil things the Jews had done. Israel had no feelings of humanity and had violated all natural laws of equity. What is described here in a variety of forceful expressions, mainly that it was too late for them to be frightened into a sincere repentance and reformation. This nation was to be destroyed! There shall be a universal terror and consternation: Shall not the land tremble for this, this land, out of which you thought to drive the poor? Shall not everyone mourn that dwells therein? Those that will not tremble and mourn as they ought for their national sins shall be made to tremble and mourn under national judgments. Those that look without concern upon the sins of the oppressors, which should make them tremble, and upon the miseries of the oppressed, God will find out a way to make them tremble.
When all reason and equity is confused in a nation, how can the land do otherwise than tremble?
Purpose: It is a personification (figure of speech) when he says the earth must tremble. Since Israel’s way of living was turbulent, the land itself must do likewise.
Application: National sins bring national judgments.
Context: Psalm 104: 31-35. Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great.
Let the glory of the Lord endure forever; let the Lord be glad in His works!
We have a great God whose mere glance produces an earthquake, whose touch causes volcanic eruptions. As a God of almighty power, He looks on the earth, and it trembles. It is unable to bear even His fleeting look —it trembles, as Sinai did, at the presence of the Lord. The volcanoes are symbols of the power of God’s wrath fastened upon proud and un-humbled sinners. If an angry gaze and a touch have such effects, what will the weight of His heavy hand do to sinners? Who knows the power of his anger? Who dares to be at defiance with God?
Mount Sinai quaked and smoked at the presence of God and we too must stand in awe at the incredible power of God as evidenced through His creation.
Application: Praise to God, which is chiefly intended in the psalm. It calls upon all men to praise the Lord of creation, an act of devotion.
Psalm 46:3 A Psalm of Trust.
Context: Psalm 46:1-4
“The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us [xvi]“
The Lord is our refuge and our strength even in catastrophes. We will not fear!
Observe here how threatening the danger that is described. Suppose the earth to be removed, and thrown into the sea. If the sea is to roar and rage, and make a dreadful noise, and its foaming waves to attack our shore with so much violence as even to shake the mountains. Though kingdoms and states be in total confusion, embroiled in wars, tossed with turmoil, and the governments of the world remain in continual revolution. If the earthly powers attempt to destroy God’s people, and go very near to doing so—yet will not we fear!
“Be still, and know that I am God [xvii]” With the knowledge of this blessed truth we can be calm in time of trouble. There are storms blowing outside today. We are living in a mean old world, a wicked world. Tremendous changes are taking place. There are even convulsions in nature today. He tells us to be calm in the time of storm. Christ, you remember, was in a storm with His disciples, and He went to sleep. When they roused Him from His sleep, He had more trouble calming the disciples than He had calming the storm. Many of us are like those men.
Purpose: All calamities will end well for the people of God. God will be exalted. All the earth will bow before Him.
Application: Be calm in the time of turmoil.
Psalm 77:18 What god is so great as our God?
The six rhetorical questions of verses 7–9 reveal that the psalm was written at a time when God had apparently withheld His compassion from the entire community. The remedy for the situation is the same for both nation and individual: remembrance of God’s mighty deeds in the past.
Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. The psalmist here recovers from the great distress he was in, and silences his own fears of God’s casting off his people by the remembrance of the great things he had done for them formerly. The voice of Thy thunder was heard in the heaven with so much terror that the earth of the adjacent coast trembled and shook. Thus God’s way was to break open the Red Sea. This served for the obliteration of His enemies, but served as the salvation of his people.
Purpose: Key words in this psalm are “to remember” and “to meditate.”
Application: A good time to seek the Lord is in the day of trouble. God is able to deliver! What a great, loving Shepherd He is!
Joel 2:10 The Day of the Lord is Coming!
Context: Joel 2:1-12
Creation shakes before the coming of God as warrior against his enemies. The terror is described uses the expression: The earth shall quake and the heavens tremble. There is a day coming when the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll, and the earth, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up. Judgments in this life should make us think of the great judgment that is just ahead. Divine judgments are accompanied by a shaking and breakdown of the natural order. All creation is disturbed.
Prepare yourself for worse things! Call to a Repentance Unto Life (WC 15.2): By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God.
Purpose: Call to repentance
Application: Repent! Return to the Lord your God.
Joel 3:16 The nations will be judged.
Context: Joel 3:12-17
Joel prophesies the coming of that specific day of the Lord in which God will with finality judge Zion’s enemies and make Zion a source of everlasting blessing.
The Day of the Lord: This term occurs frequently in the Old Testament. It can refer to any specific time when the Divine Warrior, the Lord of Hosts, is glorious in victory: against Babylon through the Medes [xviii], against Egypt through Babylon [xix], or against Israel through Assyria [xx]. This day of the Lord’s vengeance against the wicked is also depicted as the time of Israel’s deliverance [xxi], when the Lord decisively defeats all of Israel’s opposition [xxii]. It is also the day of final judgment [xxiii]. The Lord will roar. The Lord’s voice is so powerful that even the earth and the sky tremble.
God’s final judgment of all nations is when the measure of their iniquity is full. This denotes that in the great day of judgment the voice of God will speak such terror to the wicked as if it were enough to put even heaven and earth into utter dismay.
Just as the blessings out of God are the sweetest there ever was, and enough to make heaven and earth sing, so is it the terrors sent from God are the greatest of all terrors, and enough to make heaven and earth shake. To the righteous it will be a joyful day. When the heaven and earth shall tremble, and be dissolved and burnt up, then will the Lord be the hope of his people and the strength of the children of Israel.
What we have heard served only to spread terror, now the Prophet shows that God’s purpose is to console the faithful, and to give some relief to their troubles and sorrows. This is the reason why he introduces God as roaring from Zion and crying from Jerusalem.
Purpose: To spread terror amidst God’s enemies. It is their day of judgment.
Application: In the midst of the extraordinary manifestations of the Lord’s anger against the nations, the Lord protects His covenant people.
It is futile to hide from God’s wrath is futile
Context: Isaiah 2: 6-22
Man’s pride will be brought low, and all that man lives for will be destroyed.
This may refer particularly to their destruction by the Chaldeans first, and afterwards by the Romans, or it may have a general respect to the method God takes to awaken and humble proud sinners, and to put them out of conceit which they delight in and depended on more than God.
Those who will not fear God and flee to Him will be forced to fear Him and flee from Him to a refuge of lies. It is foolish for those that are pursued by the wrath of God to think to escape it, and to hide or shelter themselves from it. The things of the earth are very things that will be shaken. The shaking of the earth always will be a terrible thing to those who set their affections entirely on things of the earth.
From the presence of the terror of the LORD, and from the glory of his majesty What he adds about the terror of God must be understood to mean that terror which was a result of the invasion by the Chaldeans and Assyrians. What is called, the glory of God for God means that the attacking armies were sent by God to chastise His own people. Although the Jews were wicked and treacherous, yet the invading armies promoted the glory of God.
Pride will, one way or other, have a fall. Men’s haughtiness will be brought down, either by the grace of God convincing them of the evil of their pride, and clothing them with humility, or by the providence of God depriving them of all those things they were proud of and laying them low.
Purpose: To humble proud men.
Application: The LORD Almighty has a day in store for the all the proud and lofty.
Isaiah 5:25 Woe to the wicked!
Context: Isaiah 5:19-25
“For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. On this account the anger of the LORD has burned against His people …”
Isaiah is speaking of the consequences of Israel disobeying the covenant stipulations. When God comes into the open in power and wrath against a people the hills tremble. Fear seizes even their greatest and strongest men. The earth shakes under them and the sense of dread fills the land (what does more so than an earthquake?). What sight can be more frightful than the carcasses of men torn with dogs, or thrown as dung in the midst of the streets? This intimates that great multitudes should be slain, not only soldiers in the field of battle, but the inhabitants of their cities put to death in cold blood. The survivors should neither have hands nor hearts to bury them. Despite this horror, God’s anger is not turned away. Fire will burn as long as there remains any of the stubble and chaff to be fuel for it. His anger is not spent.
The dreadful nature of these punishments is described in such a manner as to prove the sheer stupidity of the people. We are more stupid than inanimate objects if we do not recognize the wrath of God and the dreadful vengeance which had been inflicted on the Northern Kingdom of Israel to whom this was written. There are ridiculous people in this world today who mock the justice of God and challenge the Almighty to do his worst (v. 19): They say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work; this is the same language with that of the scoffers of the last days, who say, Where is the promise of his coming? These are violent people and heroic in their sins, and walk after their own lusts, 2 Pt. 3:3, 4
Application: Do not think judgment is not coming simply because God is being patient with sinners. Judgment is coming – like a flash of lightning.
Context: Isaiah 6:1-7
Observe the marks of terror with which the temple was filled, upon Isaiah’s vision of the divine glory. The temple was shaken; not only the door, but even the posts of the door, which were firmly fixed.
This violent concussion of the temple was an indication of God’s wrath and displeasure against the people for their sins; it was an earnest of the destruction of it and the city by the Babylonians first, and afterwards by the Romans; and it was designed to strike an awe upon us, too. Shall walls and posts tremble before God, shall we not tremble, too?
And the lintels of the posts were moved. This noise was an indication that it was not a human voice which the Prophet had heard; for no mortal man has a voice so powerful as to be capable of making the lintels and posts shake.
We should tremble whenever He speaks, too. If inanimate and dumb creatures are moved, what ought we to do?
Why did God manifest his presence by this sign rather than by any other? This question may be answered in two ways. First, it was always the will of God to repress the disrespect of men, in pushing their inquiries about his majesty beyond what is proper; for on this point almost all men are too rash and daring. They wish to rise above the clouds, and to penetrate into the secrets of God, while they do not see what lies at their feet. Because of this arises a jumble of errors, and when the minds of men have been entangled in it, they adopt false and pretended modes of worship.
Purpose: Inspire awe.
Isaiah 13:13 A cruel day is coming filled with wrath and fierce anger.
Context: Isaiah 13:4-13
This section of Isaiah’s prophecy concerns God’s judgment against Israel’s neighbors. Isaiah was predicting that the Medes were about to end the glories of the Babylonian empire.
Isaiah prophesies concerning the day of the Lord and what it means for the nations. Babylon and Assyria are treated together in the first prophesy (13:1–14:27) because Babylon became the center of the Assyrian Empire. Babylon was regarded as an epitome of religion and culture, and as such Babylon represents the kingdoms of this world. Peter and John continue to use Babylon as a symbol for ungodly nations [xxiv].
There shall be a universal confusion and consternation, such a confusion of their affairs that it shall be like the shaking of the heavens with dreadful thunders and the removing of the earth by dreadful quakes. All evil shall become ruin in the day of wrath.
This prophecy declares to us the destruction of the wicked. Thus it is as if Isaiah had said, “Though heaven and earth be moved, that the ungodly may be shaken and destroyed.” The world may think that they are out of all danger, and that they have struck their roots so deep that they cannot be moved; but Isaiah shows that they believe a lie, for the Lord will move both heaven and earth.
Though the world may present to us a support system, still there will be no permanency in it, except through the grace of God. And if this is made known in judgments of God relating to particular cases, how much more in the universal judgment, when Christ will ascend his magnificent judgment seat, to destroy the ungodly!
Here again we see the earth “shaking” before the coming of God as a warrior to battle against His enemies. The earth itself will be shaken to pieces. The earth itself will be shaken to pieces. It will be literally so in the final days, when all the works therein shall be burnt up; and it is often figuratively and hyperbolically so before that.
Purpose and application: Humble the prideful and destroy the wicked.
Context: Isaiah 24:1-2; 16-21
The inhabitants of the earth will be pursued from time to time, and from place to place, by one disobedience or other. It is a common state of life that when we seek to avoid one mischief we fall into a worse, and that the end of one trouble is often the beginning of another. We are least safe, it seems, when we are most secure.
The earth itself will be shaken to pieces. It will be literally so in the final days, when all the works therein shall be burnt up; and it is often figuratively and hyperbolically so before that.
Upon the wicked God shall rain snares, and, the fountains of the great deep being broken up, the foundations of the earth do shake of course, the frame of nature is unhinged, and all is in confusion.
See how elegantly this is expressed. The earth is utterly broken down; it is clean dissolved; it is moved exceedingly, moved out of its place. God shakes heaven and earth. See the misery of those who lay up their treasure in the things of the earth. We place our confidence in things which will shortly be utterly broken down.
By breaking down is the earth broken down. The allusions of which these verses are full; hence the brilliant metaphors in the style; hence the threatenings and terrors announced in various ways; the object of all is, that careless men may be aroused.
Now, this doctrine ought to be limited to the wicked; not because the godly are exempted from those evils, for they are afflicted as well as other men; but because, when the godly betake themselves to God, and rely wholly upon him, they are not shaken in this manner, and remain firm and steadfast against every assault; while wicked men, who despised the judgments of God, and took unbounded liberties in transgression, are terrified and alarmed, and never find rest.
Context: Nahum 1:1-6
This is a magnificent display of the glory of God, in a mixture of wrath and justice against the wicked, and mercy and grace and patience toward His people. We discover His majesty and power in both.
Nahum says that when God appears as the Judge of the world, He will not only shake all the physical elements of the world, but He would also change their very nature. For what can be less characteristic of nature than for mountains to tremble and for hills to melt?
But the prophet suggests that the mountains cannot continue in their own strength, but as far as they are sustained by the favor of God. The moment God is angry, the mountains melt like snow, and flow away like water. The wicked might not gallantly despise the threats of God although He is patient with them. They should not think that they will eventually escape the punishment they deserved.
God is ready to pardon whenever men are disgusted with their sins, and seriously repent. But He will is also diametrically opposed to all the reprobate and the perverse who do not repent. The mountains, then, before him tremble, and the hills dissolve or melt.
This useful instruction may be gathered from these words, that the world cannot for a moment stand, except as it is sustained by the favor and goodness of God; for we see what would immediately happen is that God manifests His judgment. Since the very rock-solid mountains will be as snow or wax, what would become of frail man? They will vanish away as soon as God manifests His wrath against them.
Purpose: Divine Judgment
Application: This comparison ought to be remembered by us whenever a forgetfulness of God’s future judgment begins to creep over us. Do not confuse God’s patience with sinners. He is not slacking in judgment. God does not forget – He’s simply patient.
Context: Jeremiah 10:6-13
The prophet Isaiah prophesied of the captivity in Babylon and added warnings against idolatry and largely exposed the idol-worshipping heathen there. The temptations would be great in Babylon and become a danger of drawing the Jews to idolatry. Their captivity in Babylon was actually designed to cure them of their idolatry. Jeremiah arms the people against the idolatrous customs of the Babylonians, not only for the use of those that had gone to Babylon, but of those also that stayed behind. It is also written for our learning as well.
Let us stand in awe of Jehovah, and not dare to provoke Him by giving His glory to another which is due to Him alone. At his wrath the earth shall tremble – even the strongest and stoutest of the men who inhabit this earth. The earth, firmly as it is fixed, is made to quake and the rocks to tremble at Jehovah’s command. Jeremiah reminded the people of Judah that their God not only created the universe but also governs its ongoing life.
Through his fury the earth will tremble, and the nations will not sustain itself under His wrath.
The power of the one true Jehovah God of creation is called to in an argument against foreign gods, in particular a god called Marduk – a god of magic. The heathen worshipped this god which they believed controlled the sun, moon, and stars. The Babylonians believed Marduk gave them divine honors, and from him they expected divine favors, according to the threatening signs seen in nature.
- Marduk is a false god; Jehovah is the true God
- Marduk is dead; Jehovah is the living God
- Marduk is subject to destruction; Jehovah is eternal and issues destruction to whomever He pleases.
Let us fear the true God of heaven, and make note of His providence in earthquakes, and then we need not be dismayed at the signs of heaven or the calamities of earth.
Purpose: Presentation of the distinctive attributes of Jehovah to prepare us against idolatry and false gods.
Application: Jehovah cannot be compared to any thing or any one. How ridiculous it is to turn from the true and living God to worship the things around you and get your leading from the dark arts such as zodiac, horoscopes, and other occult practices. Israel is not to imitate the nations around her.
Context: Ezekiel 38:17-23 [xxv]
This chapter, and that which follows it, are concerning Gog and Magog, a powerful enemy to the people of Israel. Though Gog plotted against Israel, in reality God was bringing them to their own destruction, using them to fulfill his purposes at the same time. Disaster would descend upon these pagans, and put them into utter ruin. We think this prophecy had its accomplishment some time after the return of the people of Israel out of their captivity, whether in the engagements they had with the kings of Syria, or perhaps in some other way that is not recorded — we cannot tell.
Great terror that this should strike upon the land of Israel. God brings this enemy against the land. Yet, when the enemy comes against the land, God’s fury and wrath are ignited. They shall be put into the greatest confusion and consternation imaginable.
I do believe this was a literal earthquake, but do not want to be dogmatic about it. There shall be a great shaking of them in the land of Israel, a concussion. There shall be such an earthquake as shall throw down the mountains and the steep places, towers and walls and buildings; they shall all fall to the ground. It will frighten the fish, birds, and all the animals.
Some understand this of the fright which the land of Israel should be put into by the fury of the enemy. But according to M.Henry, it is rather to be understood of the fright the enemy should be put into by the wrath of God. This prophesy contains things which raise the enemies up as tools of the Almighty and likewise they shall at the same time be shaken down. Isn’t God clever and efficient?
This shall take place in the latter days, namely, in the latter days of the Old-Testament; but in the latter days of the New-Testament church another enemy like it shall arise, and in like manner be defeated.
Purpose: Destruction of sinners; also “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD”
Application: We should glorify and magnify God so He does not have to do it for us!
Zechariah 14:5 A day of the Lord is coming [xxvi]…
Context: Zechariah 14:1-9
The Old Testament prophets proclaimed here a “day of the Lord” for judgment and for deliverance. This day of battle ushers in the eternal bliss of God’s special presence among His people.
The coming of God is not described as fearful for the purpose of threatening the Jews; but rather in order to show that the ungodly would not be able to stand in the presence of God, as he would terrify even those who opposed Him and His people.
Notes and Citations:
[i] 2 Sam. 22:8
[ii] Psalm 68:8
[iii] Exodus 19:18
[iv] Ezek. 38:19–23
[v] Psalm 93:1
[vi] Ps. 68:8
[vii] Ps. 114:4
[viii] Hab. 3:6
[ix] Job 38:13
[x] Deuteronomy 4:32, 33
[xi] Exodus 19:18
[xii] Exodus 33:22
[xiii] Exodus 19:18, 19; 20:18; 24:17; Deut. 4:11, 12; 5:22–25
[xiv] Zechariah 14:5
[xv] Zechariah 14:4-5
[xvi] Psalm 46:6
[xvii] Psalm 46: 10
[xviii] Is. 13:1–14:27
[xix] Ezek. 30:2–4
[xx] Is. 10:5, 6, 20, 24
[xxi] Is. 34:2–35:10
[xxii] Joel 2:2, 9; 3:8–20; Joel 3:14–16
[xxiii] Amos 5:18–20
[xxiv] 1 Peter 5:13; Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:1-18:24
[xxv] Though the identification of Gog and Magog remain uncertain, the identification of Meshech and Tubal is not in doubt. From the ancient historians Herodotus and Josephus, as well as Assyrian documents from the twelfth to the eighth centuries b.c., they are known to be tribes from central and eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey). Considerable misunderstanding has resulted from misguided speculation regarding these geographical terms. Some have identified these locations with other sites known from contemporary geography and have made them part of conjectures about later political events.
[xxvi] Zechariah 14:1