Matthew 27:50-54: "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks split . . ."
The crucifixion of Jesus literally was an earthshaking event. Meditating on the event, it appeared to me that creation trembled and quaked over what puny men had done to their creator, as though that when a nation rejects God, that nation invariably experiences upheavals and finally oblivion. As the Psalmist noted, "The wicked shall be turned into hell and all nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17).
God takes a nation's mocking of Him and what belongs to Him seriously. Belshazzar, the king of Babylon during the captivity of Daniel, learned this first hand. Daniel recorded that, some time after Babylon sacked the Jewish temple and carried off the consecrated worship accessories, "Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave commandment to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzer had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.
"In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace . . . Now all the king's wise men came but they could not read the writing . . . Then Daniel was brought in before the king . . . [and said,] 'You have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and . . . have drunk from them. And you have praised the gods . . . which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him and this writing was written. And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
"'This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it: Tekel: You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting: Pares: Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.'
"In that very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans was slain. And Dirius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old" (Daniel 5:1-30). God's warning to Belshazzar occurred almost immediately after the handwriting appeared on his palace wall. In a single night, the powerful, majestic, tremendously feared, presumably unshakable, Babylonian Empire toppled and passed into the shadows of history. "That very night" Belshazzar's kingdom fell to the Medes and Persians.
Media was the ancient name for north-western Iran. The inhabitants were called Medes or Medians and were descendants of Noah's son, Japheth. After the Medes participated in the capture of Babylon (Isaiah 13:17 and Jeremiah 51: 1-24) many centuries after their ancestor's death, Darius the Mede - so-called because his father, Ahasuerus, was of Median ancestry - became the new ruler of Babylon.
Persian history began with the Indo-European nomads of South Russia, who most likely entered the Iranian plateau during the second millennium BC. The nomads, known as "Fars," began their Iranian community as a small province on the Persian Gulf. Its people were of the Aryan race, descended from Japheth, the son of Noah. Their community was bordered on the north by Media, on the south by the Persian Gulf, on the east by Carmania, and on the west by Elam. Though at first, the Fars' province was subjected to the Medes, after revolting under Cyrus the Great, it became the principle power in the conquering of Nebuchadnezzer's empire. Known as the Persian Empire it became the most far-flung of the Oriental empires, conquering and ruling over all the regions from India to Ethiopia. Its capital was Susa, called in the Bible "Sushan the Palace" (Esther 1:2). Though seemingly all powerful, the Persian Empire was itself eventually was conquered and subjected by Alexander the Great in his quest for world dominion. He, in turn, died at an early age and his empire was partitioned by his generals, who ruled the divided empire in his stead. Each of these kingdoms eventually was conquered by Rome.
There is no permanency for a nation that forgets or out-rightly rejects God. In our era, the Soviet Union is a quintessential example of this truth. It leaders often vaunting their atheism, it disintegrated at the instigation of an American president who knew and loved God. Even so, America also is being weighed in the balances by God. And though we grieve to mention it, America also is found wanting. In the last several decades, our nation has had one president assassinated, one attorney general also assassinated, a civil rights leader assassinated, an entire administration quake and then fall, and an attempted presidential assassination.
In our lifetime, America has experienced race riots, youth rebellions, the undermining of family values, the abortion of millions upon millions of pre-born infants, the acceptance of the homosexual agenda, legal wedges driven between parents and their children, God shut out of the classroom and replaced by humanism, which is undermining our schools and all levels of our governments.
It may be a beneficial, though not very pleasant thing, to experience social earthquakes. I know a literal earthquake can be terrifying and I can think of nothing as attention-getting as one. I served a lengthy tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force, and was assigned to Japan, an island nation prone to devastating earthquakes. More than once I felt tremors under my feet. Imagine if you will, taking off and landing a plane, when the runway suddenly begins heaving and rolling. Thankfully, no one at our airfield ever was hurt as a result of an earthquake, but we certainly were apprehensive.
Yes, an earthquake certainly catches one's attention, and this is what occurred at the crucifixion of Christ. "The earth shook, the rocks split apart, the graves broke open, and many of God's people who had died were raised to life. They left the graves and after Jesus rose from death, they went into the Holy City, where many people saw them. When the army officer and the soldiers with him who were watching Jesus saw the earthquake and everything else that happened, they were terrified and said 'He really was the Son of God!'" (Matthew 27:51-54; "The New Testament in Today's Modern English": The American Bible Society").
There may be times when personal "earthquakes" shake our own lives. As we pass through them, it will stabilize and bless us to meditate on things that cannot be shaken:
The Word of God Cannot be Shaken!
In Psalm 138:2 David wrote: "I will worship toward your holy temple, And praise Your name For your lovingkindness and Your truth: For you have magnified Your word above Your name" (Psalm 138:2). "The New King James Version."
We should permit these words of David to saturate our souls. He is exalting because God rests His reputation upon the truthfulness of His word. Governments may lie, persons may be untruthful, legislators and other may not keep their promises, but God's word never fails; He rests His reputation upon His truthfulness. His word cannot be shaken. It never returns void.
The Word of Jesus Christ Cannot be Shaken!
Referring to His second coming, Jesus states: "But in those days, [Matthew 24: 29, includes the word 'immediately' before the following phrase] after the tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory . . . Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my word shall not pass away" (Mark 13:24-25 & 31). Our Lord assures us that His word is eternally more durable than heaven itself. It shall never pass away! As finite creatures, we find it impossible to fathom such mysteries.
How can the powers of the heavens be shaken, thereby creating what amounts to heaven-quakes? The Pulpit Commentary states: "The powers may here mean those great unseen forces of nature by which the universe is now held in equipoise. When the Creator wills it, these powers shall be shaken."
How can words [promises] endure forever? As this author meditated upon this question, he concluded that this is possible only when an eternal redeemer such as our Lord Jesus Christ makes the promises. As to His other eternal promises to us, when he transforms us like unto His own image, we shall be continuing recipients of all of them, among them the promise that where He is we also shall be.
The Person of God Cannot be Shaken!
Some time ago, the author listened to a radio discussion by two liberal women ministers. They were discussing their plans to change the Bible by removing all masculine gender references to God and replace them with the neuter. Of course, we all realize that God is neither male nor female; He is God. Nonetheless, condescending to our finite comprehension, He inspired the Holy writers to refer to His in the male gender. Not only so, but He chose to send us His Son, in the form of a man. In doing so God did not discriminate against women; rather, he created in Jesus Christ the second Adam, to regain for those who trust Him that which the first Adam lost because of his disobedience.
God is eternally God, eternally the same. His person cannot be shaken or changed, nor can that of His Son. However, in condescending to take the form of a man, the Lord Jesus Christ made an eternal sacrifice by stooping to become eternally identified with us as the eternal Man.
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