Sometimes, when I write in the mornings, I am not able to sit and write without interruption. On weekends, it’s easier. So, this morning, I’m going to revisit my previous post. Not that my Master couldn’t use it in someone’s life, He can use anything. In fact, He can use nothing and still be effective. I simply need to pull something out of my noggin that’s been reverberating around in all that open space.
What does it mean that God will shake the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the wilderness?
The writer of Hebrews, Nicodemus, as I’ve been calling him, moves from the encouraging contrast between God in heaven, and God as He revealed Himself at Sinai, to prodding his audience to obey out of fear. Verses 25 through 29 of Hebrews 12 are nothing short of a threat. That may seem like an extreme way to put it, but it’s clearly a “stick” not a “carrot”. They want to be part of the unshakable kingdom, not the one to be destroyed by shaking.
They are saved from destruction by obedience, not refusing the voice of God. The implication is that they are trending toward rejecting or refusing the voice of God, and the writer is trying to reverse that trend. The entire book has been focused at precisely that goal, reversing the trend away from God. And yet, this is a strange way to pull their attention back on track. Quoting this passage in Haggai is a strange choice, especially at this point. As intentional as Nicodemus has been so far, this has to be intentional.
What did it mean for Haggai that God will shake the heavens, the earth, the sea and the wilderness?
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
This is the entire context of the quote (or reference) in Haggai. It may be familiar to you from the claim of the future glory of the temple, or you may have heard the quote, “the silver is Mine and the gold in Mine”, usually used completely out of context. But the entirety of this passage you have probably not heard. It hasn’t truly been fulfilled, not completely, at least not yet. Herod the Great tried, and the temple in Jerusalem that he built was impressive. But it wasn’t Solomon’s Temple, with the gold hammered into the walls and so on.
Nicodemus is probably pointing to the “Temple” in heaven as the fulfillment, although it existed before the building in Jerusalem. Even so, his use of the “shaking” seems disconnected from what Haggai had in mind. Haggai seems to have in mind “shaking out a bag of coins.” Look at the result, “I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations,” that is about money, and the splendor it can enable. Clearly the shaking results in wealth coming to Jerusalem to make the temple beautiful again.
So, when God shakes the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the desert, He is not destroying as much as “rearranging” them, or “re-appropriating” their wealth to His temple in Jerusalem. For Haggai, the fulfillment happens in the Jerusalem in which he lived. For Haggai, the “shaking” is something that Yahweh does to the Gentiles to bless the Jews. Yet, the wealth doesn’t show, the shaking doesn’t seem to happen like Haggai says. Or does it?
A case can be made that return of the Jews to Jerusalem under Cyrus did, in fact, bring with it the wealth of the nations. The items of the temple were returned, and wealth besides. While the temple wasn’t what they had remembered, it hadn’t been what it was when Solomon built it for over a hundred years before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 586 BC. It had been plundered several times prior to the final destruction.
So, the shaking out the wealth of the Gentiles to bring it to Jerusalem is clearly not what Nicodemus had in view. What does he have in view?
What did it mean for the writer of Hebrews that God will shake heaven and earth?
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. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.Hebrews 12:25-29 NASB
The warning is an application from the comparison of Sinai and heaven, and is clear: Don’t be like those guys! Don’t refuse your Savior! If the Creator of the entire cosmos cares enough to speak with you, listen! It is dangerous not to. If the ones who heard Him at Sinai died before reaching the land because of their disobedience, then how will they (or we) escape Him? Why would they (or we) think they (or we) would be spared? That is essentially the point here for Nicodemus.
He pivots from applying the comparison to shaking. The word that Nicodemus chose to use for “shake” initially is different than “shake” used in the quote from Haggai, even though in English they’re the same. Nicodemus uses a word for shake that can have disastrous consequences (Acts 16:26), or refer to something shaken together to mix it (Luke 6:38).
Perhaps the best use can be found in the “Little Apocalypse” of Jesus (Matt. 24:29, Mark 13:25, Luke 21:26), where the “heavens will be shaken”. This is very likely what Nicodemus is drawing from in his use. But why quote Haggai? Nicodemus seems to have something very different in view than Haggai. While an end-of-all-things is clearly where Nicodemus is going, Haggai is pointing to a restoration-of-all-things. So, where’s the connection?
What it means for us that God will shake the heavens and the earth
The journey we are on while sojourning on this world may not be fun, but the final destination makes it all worth while. The day is coming when what we see will be completely remade, and we will know the life in the Garden we started with. That is the point. The new temple will be of greater splendor than Solomon’s because it will be the heavenly temple. The shaking of the world will dump from the nations all the rebellion against the Creator, and what is left will be holy and wholly His. There will be a “new heaven and new earth”:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4 NASB
That’s the result of the shaking. It will be the end of this world, and the beginning of the next. It will be when “tabernacle of God is among men”. The destination is what gives the journey meaning and purpose. What enables enduring this crazy world? Sure the Spirit of Jesus enables us, and He gives us purpose here and now. I don’t want to take away from that.
So, when it gets tough, and the purpose of our Savior for us includes pain, suffering, anguish, and loss, what makes it worth it? You see, the Spirit uses the promise of eternity to help us endure. He Himself is the guarantee of heaven. The destination makes the journey worth the effort, the pain, the frustration, and the suffering.
I think that’s a better treatment of “shaking” than the previous entry. Sorry it’s so long though. Thanks for pushing through to the end.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation