The Bible tells us in the tenth chapter of Joshua of the day at which the sun stopped in the sky. It seems that the earth stopped spinning for a while, so that the sun and the moon appeared to be fixed in the sky. “The Sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.”
Yes, God can do that. And He has done it again.
The Day The Earth Stood Still is one of my favorite classic Sci-Fi movies. Made in 1951, the storyline goes that a “space man” came to planet earth for the sole purpose of warning its people that if they continued on their present course, “the earth would become a burned-out cinder”. In order to disguise himself for dwelling undetected with earth’s people, he became a man, giving himself the name, John Carpenter. (Purposed by the writer, the obvious connection would be the initials of Jesus Christ Who, as man, was a carpenter.) Being of superior wisdom, he decided to get the world’s attention by causing it to stand still, shutting down all transportation, all commercial enterprises and all every day activities. Maybe then, people would listen.
The writer, American short story novelist, Harry Bates, may have divined a present-day prophesy and while there are spiritual implications, it is nonetheless rooted in some scientific fact. I read an article from a seismologist who said, “The quarantine seemed to have made it easier to listen. Normally we wouldn’t pick up a 5.5 [magnitude earthquake] from the other side of the world, because it would be too noisy, but with less noise, our instrument is now able to pick up 5.5’s with much clearer signals during the day.” I also read that the decrease in “foot traffic” of the world’s almost 8 billion people, has had a similar affect.
So today in the midst of Covid 19, while the earth stands still, while the clamor on its surface is quelled, while the din of distraction is diminished and thronging humanity is hushed, are we listening? Are we picking up the signals from the One Who shut the entire world down with a single microbe? Now I can’t pretend to know all that God is doing in allowing this pandemic, and be assured, He has. “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, Who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7) But I do know that His purposes are redemptive, born from mercy and not judgement. Far from reducing the world to a cinder, it is instead the clarion signal of Almighty God to listen more to Him rather than (ultimately) the prognosticators, the experts, the statisticians, the politicians and the media so that we might hear more clearly His message of divine love. So said John Piper when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed:
“The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God’s message in the collapse of this bridge. That is the most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live.”
Indeed, if we could see the eternal calamity from which God is offering escape, we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.
Hebrews 12:27 tells us that when God shakes the world, it “indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” For the unbeliever, it means that if you are breathing, there is still time to escape from eternal judgement, each breath a clemency, each drawing in of air an opportunity to confess your sins and receive the forgiveness which has already been secured at the cross, each life giving inhalation the possibility of securing forever your salvation. How merciful of God to shake the passing and temporal world of the unbeliever so that they may become citizens of His unshakeable kingdom!
When God shakes the believer’s world, He is prying our hands off of those things which in the end will not ultimately satisfy nor will be sufficient to bear us up when powers, people and pandemics threaten to undo us. When those things “fall away”, when comforts are not readily available, when friends are at a distance, when funds are failing, when plans are paused, when store shelves are scant and even when the specter of death may threaten us, what remains is Jesus and His unwavering goodness, mercy and His all satisfying love, fixed in the heavens, immoveable, joy filling, peace giving, eternal.
Jesus Christ triumphantly stands astride Covid like the Colossus of Rhodes bidding all to look to Him for salvation, for satisfaction and for safety and as the old hymn says to, “Put away lesser things” so that nothing eclipses our view of Him and a deeper, more intimate fellowship with Him. The message is merciful. And in the quiet of a world no longer spinning in a hurried pace, much easier to hear.
“You will never find Jesus so precious as when the world is one vast howling wilderness. Then he is like a rose blooming in the midst of the desolation, a rock rising above the storm.”
– Robert Murray McCheyne