The Lord Was Not in the Earthquake - Word&Way

The Lord Was Not in the Earthquake

A 4.8 magnitude earthquake shook the northeastern part of the U.S. on Friday (April 5). The quake made news because of the rarity in that area, but it actually wasn’t that big. A tremor of that size in California probably wouldn’t have even been worthy of a Facebook post. Yet, as locals restraightened their wall hangings and picked up their lawn chairs to return things back to normal, some people saw the shaking as a sign from God.

“Somebody’s sending us a message: communist states are getting earthquakes,” claimed Rudy Giuliani, a New York City mayor-turned-sweaty-lawyer outside a landscaping business while trying to overturn a presidential election

People walk around Times Square as news tickers mention the East Coast earthquake on April 5, 2024, in New York City. (Brittainy Newman/Associated Press)

He didn’t explain how this theory of divine messages to “communist states” fit with the fact that two days earlier Taiwan was struck by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake — which was almost 8,000 times stronger than the one that hit New England. Why does God hate Taiwan so much? Or did God miss while trying to send a message to communist China?

“God is sending America strong signs to tell us to repent,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed. “Earthquakes and eclipses and many more things to come. I pray that our country listens.”

There are about 55 earthquakes every day (or about 20,000 per year), and a solar eclipse about every 18 months. Is God sending a unique message in each one? And does God tell Greene about what each one means, or only the ones that make the news during election years?

The problem with such “readings” of the times is the lack of moral consistency. Was the 2017 solar eclipse shortly after Donald Trump defended White supremacists at the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, rally a warning for the nation to repent? Were the earthquakes in 2020 in red states like Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Utah warnings for the nation to repent? Or do such celestial and geological moments only count when a Democrat is in the White House?

If only there was a Bible story that might teach us God isn’t necessarily sending messages through earthquakes. Like maybe in 1 Kings 19. As the prophet Elijah awaited a word from God, there was a powerful wind that shattered rocks, an earthquake, and a fire. One can only imagine what Giuliani and Greene would have made from those moments to issue a word against the ruler. But the Bible makes it very clear: “The Lord was not in the earthquake” (or the wind or the fire).

What if an eclipse is just the natural and completely predictable result of the movements of the Earth and moon? What if an earthquake is just the result of shifting tectonic plates? What if God is not sending a message through a fairly minor earthquake?

The problem with such “prophetic” readings of natural events is the moments are so malleable as to be twisted to support virtually any cause. Maybe we could instead say Friday’s earthquake was God sending a message to Republicans — who voted for Trump in the primary three days earlier — to find a new candidate instead of one spending so much time in courtrooms in the Empire State. Or maybe we could say the earthquake was God warning the New York Jets they shouldn’t have traded for Haason Reddick.

Of course, it’s none of those things. But I could easily make up some more. Politicians who seem willing to ignore the plain and obvious commandments against adultery and bearing false witness instead prefer to look outside of Scripture for hidden partisan messages allegedly from God. Why follow God’s words when you can instead make God say what you want?

But the Lord was not in the earthquake. Nor is the Lord in the fiery hot wind from politicians who care more about power than truth. It’s time to put down the astrology charts and try actually reading the Bible. Of course, the dangerous thing is that then one might actually hear from God.