I was born and raised in Southern California, so earthquakes were are part of life, sometimes an exciting part. I was never hurt, never in a building that was damaged, I was never that close to dangerous ones. But, on the third floor of a cinder block dormitory, feeling the outer wall I was leaning against sway…well, that was creepy.
I was able to accept earthquakes as something that happens, and knew what to do. Even so, there is still something that rocks you to your core to have the earth on which you walk, move. Your mind simply finds it difficult to accept that the “unmovable” just did. I believe that is true, to some extent, regardless of how many earthquakes a person has been through.
The writer of Hebrews refers to God shaking the earth and heaven quoting Haggai:
See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE 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.Hebrews 12:25-27 NASB
Comparing the presence of God in heaven with His appearance at Sinai was to be encouraging. But the call to remain faithful continues with this warning. The reference to His voice shaking the earth “then” is probably Sinai (Exodus 19:18), but the passage in Haggai 2:6 isn’t a reference to Sinai. The reference in Haggai is part of the passage below:
On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the LORD of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts. ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts.”Haggai 2:1-9 NASB (Emphasis mine)
This is the translation from Hebrew, and the text in Greek (Septuagint) is only slightly different than the Hebrew. So the Greek text of Haggai doesn’t really fit the quote in Hebrews either (at least not the edition of the Septuagint I have access to). Which leaves us wondering to what the writer is truly referring.
Haggai is writing to encourage the people witnessing the second temple in Jerusalem who remembered the Temple Solomon had built. The second temple was not as magnificent as the first, but God promises that “the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former.” From the context in Haggai, it also seems that “glory” means “wealth” or the beauty enhanced by gold and silver. This isn’t the point of the writer of Hebrews.
The writer of Hebrews is pointing out a more “end-times” perspective. The point he makes is that the shaking of the heavens and the earth will destroy the “created things”, leaving the “things that cannot be shaken”. He is pushing his audience to focus on the “unshakable” kingdom he has described as the Heavenly Temple. The second temple of Jerusalem was never again as splendid as Solomon’s. But the Heavenly Temple may be considered as never being as plain as Solomon’s either.
We have something indestructible to look forward to. This is another encouragement to focus on the sure promise of God through Jesus: promise of unlimited access to our Creator, promise of forgiveness from all unholiness, promise of an eternal city where our Savior intercedes for us. It’s another push to endure because this is not all there is, and what is to come is unimaginably superior to what has been.
So, if this world, this country, or even your community has shaken you up, consider the unshakable kingdom of our Savior, and press on. Press on in your love for others. Press on in your faith in your Creator and Savior. Press on in your hope of an eternal unshakable city. Press on.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation