What does it mean that we receive an unshakeable kingdom? How is God a consuming fire and why does it matter?
In Hebrews 12:28 God tells us we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken. Just before that, He tells us He will shake the earth and everything that is not worthwhile will be gone.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
In recent years, we’ve heard about earthquakes accompanied by tsunami waves. In 2011, one of the most powerful earthquakes since modern record-keeping began in 1900 hit northeastern Japan. Tsumani waves in Miyako reached heights of 133 feet. To say things were shaken is an understatement. Things were shaken, crumbled and removed by the accompanying deadly waves.
The confirmed deaths reached 15,880 with 2,694 people missing and 6,135 injured. Almost 130,000 building collapsed and nearly 700,000 were partially damaged.
What a shaking! My realization in watching videos of the tsunami wave, destroying homes like they were toys, is that nothing in this life is permanent. It is just one more indication that all that we hold dear in the here and now will fade away, whether it is today or 100 years from now.
True confession, these are things I put my hope, faith and trust in on this earth. No matter how much I say I don’t, I do trust in those I love, in my job that brings provision, in the food in my freezer, in the electricity to come on when I flip the switch, in my car to get me where I need to go and in my house to stand strong against the wind I hear blowing outside even now.
Things that can be shaken
A friend of mine who has been married quite a long time had a shaking in her marriage. She felt everything was fine. Then, her husband came and told her it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, he said he wanted a divorce.
All of a sudden, everything in her life was shaken to the very core. Her home was in jeopardy. Would she be able to afford it? Her relationship with her children was up in the air. Would they live with her or him? Her certain life was suddenly uncertain.
When another friend’s son lost his high-paying job, life became difficult to navigate. After several years of not finding a job, his life has become a raging, swollen river threatening to take him and his family under.
In her late 50’s my mother received the diagnosis that no human ever wants to hear: cancer. Although I don’t remember the stage they assigned to it, it was quite advanced by the time she went to the doctor.
In her heart, she had known. With my dad recovering from quadruple bypass surgery, she put off her own aches and pains to take care of him. When she finally went to the doctor, the pronouncement of what would surely be a death sentence, hit her hard.
She, like my friend whose marriage was shaken and the other whose job vanished, put her faith in the one thing that cannot be shaken. She trusted God. She trusted Him in her life and she trusted Him in her death.
All you need
My friend’s marriage is on the mend but she learned something in the interim, in the waiting, in the complete lack of control over what would happen. She learned in the final analysis, God is all you need.
The one without a job is still without a job. He does have yet another promising job interview this week. He also learned that everything he put his trust in, his degree, his experience, his training, his good job with benefits can and will be gone in the blink of an eye.
My mother didn’t win her battle with colon cancer. The shaking she experienced culminated in the final shaking that each of us will experience in this life provided Jesus decides to wait awhile before returning here.
She knows today, as my friends have started to understand, that everything we deem valuable in this life is but hay and stubble. It burns easily because our God is a consuming fire, burning up everything in our life that does not matter.
He does not consume the things we love because he takes pleasure in seeing us suffer. He does it because He knows these things are not what lasts. He wants us to put our hope in a kingdom that cannot be shaken. He wants us to put our faith in an eternal future. In His love and watch care over us.
Unshakeable kingdom? Consuming fire?
The Japanese tsunami is a safe illustration because it’s on the other side of the world. Recently, though, thoughts of Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis have hit much closer to home. My daughter will be leaving in a little over a month to head to Japan where she will live for a year and teach English.
I ask myself the question, do I believe in God enough to put my daughter, whom I love more than my own life, in His hands in a foreign country half way around the world? What if His shaking involves a disaster of 9.03 magnitude?
Yet, even when the shaking quivers me to my core, I must believe in a God who says we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Because of that, we thank Him. We worship Him. We do the work He has for us to do on this earth.
“Let us therefore, receiving a kingdom that is firm and stable and cannot be shaken, offer to God pleasing service and acceptable worship, with modesty and pious care and godly fear and awe. For our God is indeed a consuming fire” Hebrews 12:28-29 (Amp).
Unshakeable kingdom. Consuming fire. Thank you, Jesus, for holding us close to your heart.
What do you think, does God shake our world on purpose? If so, for what purpose?