Apocalyptic language such as this tends to divide the Christian community. It need not do so. Written in times when it was dangerous to be a follower of Christ, such symbolic language is meant to encourage us to be true to the faith and to trust in God. When the penalty for such loyalty is death, being faithful is not easy; but these writings show that it is possible.
Verse 26 speaks of God shaking “not only the earth but also the heaven.” This most likely refers to Exodus 19, where Moses attempted to impress on his people the grandeur of God’s covenant with them, and Mount Sinai shook violently. Haggai 2:6 expands this passage by including the shaking of the heavens.
Hebrews 12:28 makes the crucial point: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks.” We all experience a lot of shaking. It can be caused by economic recessions, wars, natural disasters, accidents, and human cruelty. Everything we think we possess or can count on can be taken from us, including property, money, power, prestige, and the people we love.
What I have just stated is not easy to hear. In my household, when a violent television show comes on, one family member is apt to say, “This isn’t a bedtime story.” So we don’t watch it. Yet, in real life, many things can happen and will happen that are not “bedtime stories.”
We are mortals who live fragile lives. But this message from Hebrews assures us that we belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. By God’s grace, we shall endure.
Holy One who shakes the earth, you also restore its order. In our fear, give us confidence; in our grief, strength; in our heartbreak, hope; and in the darkness that often returns, be to us the light that never goes out. Amen.
The Luke text portrays the healing that Jesus has just performed as a call to decision, a call to “repentance and changed lives.” Hebrews proclaims to the readers that they “have come . . . to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem . . . and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” For Luke, Jesus and his wonderful works signal the accessibility of God’s transforming power and thus signal also the time for repentance. The accessibility of God’s transforming power is evident in the lessons from Jeremiah and the psalm, although Jeremiah has no choice! And amid opposition from the wicked, the psalmist af rms what Jeremiah had been told by God—that his life from its very beginning has belonged to God.
• Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. God offers light to a world covered in darkness. Where do you see God’s light in your life? How can you offer this light to others?
• Read Psalm 71:1-6. When in your life have you turned to God for refuge? How did trust in God help the situation?
• Read Hebrews 12:18-29. We belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. How does that realization help during dif cult times?
• Read Luke 13:10-17. How do the limitations we experience turn us to the power and grace of God?
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