“The Earth Trembled”–And Fell
“His lightnings enlightened the world; the earth saw, and trembled.”—Psalm 97:4
GOD’S holy Prophets of the Old Testament and of the New give us numerous pictures of our day and the events now taking place in the world. The Psalmist David, taking prophetically a standpoint of observation future from his day declared, “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof! Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His Throne. A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His enemies round about.” (Psalm 97:1-3) How true it is that the storm clouds are all about us in this Days of Jehovah’s great Representative, the Executor of His great Purposes! Daily the darkness of gloom and perplexity deepens on every side for those not acquainted with Jehovah’s purposes.
If we inquire, Why is this Day such a Time of Trouble and distress of nations? the answer comes, Because righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His Throne, and He is judging the nations and weighing them in the balance. Judgment is being laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet (Isaiah 28:17), to the intent that ere long the equitable principles of His Government may be established in all the earth. Not only will all unrighteousness be made manifest, but “a fire goeth before Him and burneth up His enemies.” (Psalm 97:3) All the willful and persistent opposers of His righteous course shall be “cut off,” “destroyed,” “burned up,” “devoured with the fire of His jealousy.”—Zeph. 3:8.
This work of judgment and the consequent Time of Trouble being a necessary preparation for the glorious Reign of Righteousness that shall immediately succeed it, and all being wisely directed by the High and Holy One, who is “too wise to err, too good to be unkind,” the Prophet bids us discern in it an abundant cause for rejoicing and gladness. (See Psalm 96:9-13; 98:1-9) Indeed, there is great cause for rejoicing, not only among the saints, but in the whole earth; and it is the privilege of the saints to tell the glad tidings to all who will hear.
But whether men hear or whether they forbear, let us tell it out, and by and by when the great afflictions of this Judgment hour begin to seal the instruction upon the hearts of men, then the blessed testimony will be as healing balm. They will see that He who smote them in His wrath, and scourged them in His hot displeasure, is also merciful and gracious, and unwilling that they should perish, but desirous rather that they should turn unto Him, obey His counsels and live.
LIGHTNING FLASHES FROM THE THRONE
It is in the midst of the clouds and darkness of this Day of Trouble incident to the setting up of Messiah’s Kingdom that the statement of the Prophet is verified: “His lightnings enlightened the world; the earth saw, and trembled.” How apt is this figure! Truly like lightning flashes in the midst of the gloom and perplexity of this cloudy day, come to men the remarkable glimpses of the great principles of Truth and Righteousness in contrast with which the world’s present disorder is so manifest! A flash of lightning from the obscured Throne discloses here one error, and there another, and another.
Soon the whole world will be aroused. Already it is largely so. Every day adds to the intensity of the trouble, and the whole world trembles for fear, not knowing what the outcome will be, but dreading the worst. The editorials of some of our popular newspapers read as if written from the standpoint of Present Truth, so remarkably do they foretell what they declare to be almost certain to follow these present terrible conditions. Revolution and anarchy are freely prophesied, to precede a great reconstruction period. The great revolutions of the past are referred to in contrast. How truly are the Master’s words concerning this time being fulfilled—”Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for apprehension of the things coming on the earth”!—Luke 21:26.
It seems remarkable, too, how often in these days of war and stress worldly men are drawing attention to the prophecies of the Scriptures, and wondering whether present conditions, and the troubles which all intelligent people see just ahead, are not fulfilments of these Bible prophecies. All this is leading men to reason of righteousness and of coming judgments (Acts 24:25), when they hope and believe that in some way present wrongs will be righted and righteousness established.
As a result of God’s lightning flashes which are enlightening the world, there is great commotion everywhere manifest. Never before have such conditions prevailed. There are ominous mutterings of dissatisfaction, unrest; and the whole current of popular thought throughout the earth is set in a revolutionary direction. The lightning flashes are revealing the corruption in the world, the dishonesty in high places, and showing men that they are living far below the dignity of humanity. But how to right things they are not able to see; and the conflicting ideas, voices, theories and threats, reveal the facts which the Prophets foretold; for “the nations are angry,” “the heathen [Gentiles, peoples] rage,” and the whole earth trembles from the din of a wordy conflict and from the blows which even now are beginning to arouse the world.
But in the midst of all this trouble and tumult in the world, what is the attitude of the Lord’s truly consecrated and faithful people? Are they, too, in fear? As the judgments of the Lord fall heavily upon the wayward and disobedient so that the whole earth reels and staggers as a drunken man (Psalms 107:27), are the saints in dismay and distress? Ah, no; for it is written, “Zion heard, and was glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoiced, because of Thy judgments, O Lord!” It is the “sinners in Zion” that are “afraid.” Psalm 91 and 46 show why the saints rejoice and are restful of heart while others weep and lament. It is because they “dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (as the typical Tabernacle was covered by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night). It is because God is their “Refuge and Strength.” “The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence Him, and He will show them His Covenant.”—Psalm 25:14.
These dwellers in the secret place of the Most High are provided in these perilous times with a clear knowledge of the Divine Plan, with its times and seasons, which enables them to see both the necessity for the present method of Divine discipline upon the world and also the peaceable fruits of righteousness which shall result therefrom. In the midst of the storm and battle of coming great Day of the Lord, they hear the commanding voice of the Lord of armies, and their hearts rejoice; for they have full confidence in His ability to bring order out of all the confusion. They realize that in the judgments of this Day it is the Lord that speaks from Heaven—from the high place of authority and control; therefore they give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness (Psalm 30:4)—of His Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power, which insure His doing all things well.
THE HEEDLESS WHO WILL NOT HEAR
But the Psalmist intimated that, while the world at large would be in ignorance of the real portent of present events, and therefore in fear and dread, and while the saints, with clear knowledge, will be rejoicing and lifting up their heads, because they see the outcome, some—heedless both of the world’s distress and of the Voice which speaketh from Heaven—will still boast themselves of their idols. He says, “Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols.” These words call to mind the warning of the Apostle Paul: “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh from Heaven.” (Hebrews 12:25) St. Paul addresses these words to those who know the Lord’s voice and recognize it, warning them against at any time refusing longer to heed it, when He speaks in wrath and judgment.
But alas! there are some who heed not the warning, and who, although they recognize the voice of the Lord, refuse longer to obey it. They turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven, toward the idols which their wayward hearts have set up instead of God. These “graven images” are indeed the work of their own hands—the human philosophies, and science—”falsely so called”—of this evil day. And those who reject the testimony of God, when once they have heard it, invariably fall into some one of the many forms of idolatrous worship now so prevalent; or else they drift restlessly from one to another of them.
All such shall surely be confounded; they shall be put to shame and confusion; their idols shall be destroyed. The willful sinner, once enlightened and blessed with the hallowed influences of the Holy Spirit and the Truth, shall not, the Apostle declared, escape the just punishment for his deeds. Heb. 12:14-19 points out this danger to the children of God, and warns them of the fearful penalties of turning away from the holy commandment delivered unto them. The Apostle Paul here depicts the scenes accompanying the inauguration of the old Law Covenant, and shows it to be a picture of events which will accompany the establishment of the New Law Covenant, at the close of this present Age, under the greater than Moses—our Lord Jesus Christ.
We see the deepening clouds of trouble. We hear the thunder tones of judgment that “call the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof” (Psalm 50:1)—from the east to the west. We see the lightning flashes of Truth and Righteousness, and observe how the whole earth is now in the shaking process which will eventuate in the complete overthrow of all existing institutions, systems and governments. Present events indeed speak in trumpet tones. How shall we regard these things? Surely, dear brethren, it will be with thoughtful and reverent hearts! Surely we shall watch and pray, lest “a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of us should seem to come short of it!” (Hebrews 4:1) We shall guide our course with the greatest carefulness that we may make our calling and election sure.
In this eventful period everything that can be shaken will be shaken, that only the unshakable things of truth and righteousness may remain. (Hebrews 12:25-29) Every one called to share in the coming Kingdom must be a lover of righteousness, one who will courageously and lovingly stand for the Truth however much it may be spoken against. All others will be shaken out of this company. The snares and delusions of this “evil day” are accomplishing this very work. In the end only the true will remain. “Seeing that we look for these things [let us] be diligent, that we may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14), ready for the entrance into that rest which yet remains.
A Precious Promise
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Isa. 26:3
Stephen had this same rest and joy even while his enemies were stoning him to death; and countless more of God’s saints can testify to the same thing — in the midst of poverty, sickness, affliction, temptation, and enemies on every hand, and even in the flames of violent persecution. Whence comes it? or how are rest and even joy compatible with such conditions? The answer is: it is a rest of mind — “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” None can know the blessedness of this rest until they have experienced it. And none can realize its great value until they have been put to the tests of affliction.