This series first appeared on The End Time in March 2011. Today’s essay has been edited & updated.
“The earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth.” (Psalm 18:7).
The USGS essay regarding the historical New England earthquake of 1727 and its aftermath continues
“The people of New England were affected by this earthquake as they had never been before, being fearful of divine judgments for their sins and lax responsiveness to the call to religious duties. The clergy taught them that it was “a loud call to the whole land to repent and fear and give glory to God.” The next morning great numbers of the inhabitants of Boston gathered at the old North church for prayer and other religious services. The fear of further immediate danger was somewhat dispelled in the pleasant sunlight, but as soon as the sun had set their fright returned, and in greater numbers than in the morning the people crowded to the old Brick church, which could not hold them. The old South was then opened, and those who failed of admission to the Brick church flocked thither, and that was also filled. Rev. Thomas Paine of Weymouth, Mass., and some other ministers, tried to prove to their congregations that the earthquake had not a natural cause, but was a supernatural token of God’s anger to the sinful world.”
“The selectmen of Medford, Mass., appointed the next Wednesday as a day to be observed by fasting and prayer on account of the earthquake; and Lieutenant-governor Dummer recommended that Thursday should be kept in the same way for the same purpose throughout the province. Many sermons delivered on the latter and other days were printed and are still extant. In Salem, Mass., a meeting was held on Saturday at the upper meeting-house (then so called) which was attended by the largest congregation that was ever in that edifice.”
They repented, the fasted, they prayed, and they entreated. The people fell down before a mighty God and supplicated in proper Holy Fear.
In his sermon “A Holy Fear of God and His Judgments” John Cotton defined Holy Fear:
–Trembling for fear of God implies our solemn an awful apprehensions of the great God, who brings such judgments upon us
–Trembling for fear of God means that we are sensibly touched and affected with the consideration of the judgments that are or may yet be brought upon us.
–Trembling for fear of God means our humbling ourselves exceedingly before Him who is thus visiting and threatening us.
Do we tremble? Rarely. We strut, we dismiss, we forget the power He wields, and holds back. Holy Fear, repentance, and awe of His majesty are not popular topics today. Prosperity, ecstatic experiences, all paths leading to heaven are the topics of today, when the bible is even referred to at all.
I remember the bright fall day of September 11, 2001. I was in my newspaper office happily writing the last of the articles for upcoming publication, and then my world shattered. Planes smashed into the Twin Towers in NYC, the Pentagon in Washington DC (where we lost a home town boy) and into the Pennsylvania ground. Our complacency was gone and the world never looked the same after that day.
More to the point, the event shook all of us in America. The next Sunday, churches were full. People wanted – needed – answers. Intuitively we knew any answers that came from ourselves would be inadequate. We sought them from ‘somewhere or something else.’
The rush to church was short-lived, as it inevitably must be in a pagan nation.
Repenting. Falling down on our faces. These are proper responses when disaster strikes. It’s intuitive that people do these things because as Romans 1:18-20 shows us, we all know, saved or not, that God exists and is in control-
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Do we weep day and night for our own sins, faults, and failures? Do we weep for neglecting to give glory to God? We do not react thus: “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself.” (Habakkuk 3:16).
We shake our heads at the poor folks way over there experiencing natural disaster, such as the Hawaiians losing their homes to the volcano, and we move on. We do not do the first and proper thing: repent. I am talking to believers who may have forgotten what it means to be a sinner falling into the hands of an angry God.
Why are not the churches in America full today? Why are not people weeping at altars, seeking forgiveness? Do we evidence a Holy Fear? No, we talk of prosperity with a flashy smile.
Rev Cotton finishes, “Oh, what need we have then to cry mightily unto God that He will make the impressions lasting on the souls of parents, children, young, old, rich, poor, bond and free! We have done it already. We will continue to do it, and we hope the Lord will not turn away our prayers nor His mercy from us.”
Will the dreadful impressions of God after 9/11-Japan quake-Indian Ocean Tsunami-Joplin tornado swarm-Hawaiian volcano- etc last in you? In me? It is an awesome thing to see His power in creation. It’s even more powerful to see His work in a human soul.
Give glory to God for His power. Give glory to Jesus by repenting, and living an obedient, honorable, and moral life in Him.