Recent large earthquakes in both New Zealand, Japan, Chile, and Borneo have led many Christians to speculate about what God might be possibly saying through these catastrophes. Other Christians are struggling with interpreting these same events from the perspective of trying to understand how a God of love and power could allow such massive destruction and loss of human life?
WHEN IS AN EARTHQUAKE THE JUDGMENT OF GOD?
The Bible reveals that God uses phenomena such as earthquakes to speak, discipline and even punish. This is deduced from how earthquakes are referred to through out the Bible. For example, there was an earthquake -
- coinciding with the death of Christ (Matt. 27:54);
- causing the release of Paul and Silas from prison (Acts 16:26)
- resulting in the destruction of the temple in AD70 (Rev. 6:12)
Some people speculate that it was an earthquake which destroyed the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), which would make this particular account the first reference to an earthquake in the Bible, but it is more than probable that it was not an earthquake - for reasons which should be clearer shortly.
God declares through various prophets that He would use earthquakes as an instrument of His correction upon His people (Isaiah 29:6; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5). But this is no small point: the only Biblical references to God using earthquakes in this way was to teach His people something (not Gentiles).
Ah, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped!
Add year to year;
let the feasts run their round...
you will be visited by the LORD of hosts
with thunder and with earthquake and great noise,
with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.
Isaiah 29:1, 6
But the Bible doesn't just describe earthquakes as divine instruments of direct communication (whether that be judgment, punishment or correction). They are part of the natural order which God has ordained to sustain life on earth (earthquakes partly release a build up of tension in the earth tectonic plates). God actually says that not every natural disaster or disturbance is Him speaking or directly acting. For example-
And he said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.