“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!” (Isaiah 64:1-2)
What must be the potency of the One at whose presence the mountains flow down! To give ourselves a sliver of knowledge of how great God is, let’s just try and take in what it is for the mountains to flow down.
Here’s a description of the power of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens:
“The explosion, on May 18, was initiated by an earthquake and rockslide involving one-half cubic mile of rock. As the summit and north slope slid off the volcano that morning, pressure was released inside the volcano – where super hot liquid water immediately flashed to steam. The northward-directed steam explosion released energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT, which toppled 150 square miles of forest in six minutes. In Spirit lake, north of the volcano, an enormous water wave, initiated by one-eighth cubic mile of rockslide debris, stripped trees from slopes as high as 850 feet above the pre-eruption water level. The total energy output, on May 18, was equivalent to 400 million tons of TNT – approximately 20,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs.”(Austin, S. A. 1986. Mt. St. Helens and Catastrophism. Acts & Facts. 15 (7).)
I’ve queued up this video to be to where it has a time lapse of the photgraphs taken by Gary Rosenquist of the landslide and eruption.
Reading this passage from Isaiah 64 it’s as if I see that which had seemed so solid, so imposing, so immovable, melting away. As if what we thought was real was not; it melts away in the presence of something really real.
I see the water rise in huge columns of of steam, giant heralds of the terrible strength that has made the mountains to flow down. The rising steam is seen in awe by people from far in every direction. Trembling, we are all stripped of our usual complacency and confidence.
The response I imagine is like what I once heard in a video of the World Trade Center’s south tower collapsing. All around you can hear a wailing, and while usually the words “Oh my God” are said casually and vainly, in these videos it doesn’t sound like that standard flippant sacrilege. After writing this I went and watched it again, and realized I had totally fallen short in remembering the power of those screams of grief and astonishment.
I remember a time when complacency was snatched from me while driving to school. I was thinking about the class I was going to and the people I would see there when I spun out of control on I-5. I cried out to God. That change of velocity was like the world I knew melting. Immediately thoughts of the class were spun away from me and the core of myself was left alone where I think perhaps it always is. With only one relationship.
“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down”
This prayer for His coming will be answered. “For he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” (Psalm 96:13)
“Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.” (Micah 1:2-4)
A comparison comes to my mind; if His presence makes the real solid earth seem unreal, how much more will the One who judges the people with His truth make our lying truth seem unreal? The other day I was listening to a sermon and the preacher pondered why certain embarrassing incidents in the lives of the patriarchs are included in the Bible. My first thought was, “I know why the stories are included; they are there to let us know who people really are. Muslims hate stories like that of Lot and his daughters and they also greatly underestimate the evilness of the human heart.” Then I felt lucky, “Whew, my sins got missed in the writing of the Bible” and this banking on luck is a very familiar feeling. I congratulate myself when things get overlooked and I get a ‘lucky break”, and feel angry when I don’t.
Don’t we all live our lives hoping that we will be lucky in this way; that others won’t hear when we play a wrong note, but that they will hear when we play a particularly beautiful note, that the day we didn’t prepare we won’t get called on but when we know the answer the teacher will ask the question? (Probably the highpoint of my academic career was when my Roman History teacher was talking about Queen Teuta of Illyria and said “To this day she is a hero in Albania, but who else do they have to choose from?” he said dismissively. “Can anyone think of any Albanian general?” he said, as if no one could. “Skanderbeg” I answered). In romance we hope for this luck all the time; “I hope she’s sees me when I’m heroically saving a child’s life” and, “It’s not fair that she should walk in just when I was yelling at grandma.”
(Queen Teuta of Illyria) (Skanderbeg’s helmet.Wikimedia)
Besides all this, after “things” happen we edit our memories so that all in all, we can feel like our failings aren’t significant. We kind of slide them under the rug, and then hide the rug. We don’t want to see the tape, but rather believe that the record stored in others’ minds of their impressions of us, and our own memory card of our lives, have become the truth about our lives. Did you notice how well I remember knowing the answer about Albanian hero? I could run that reel over and over to the exclusion of other memories.
But there’s no possibility of that style of luck with God. Or that kind of reshaping of the facts. Though not included in the Bible like the Patriarch’s lives, He knows the life of every living thing. How could he not? “[O]f him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
Not only did he speak the universe into existence, Jesus keeps this whole thing existing with the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). If Jesus but removed his upholding word, all of this would be gone. How could he be unaware of that which is totally inside that which he makes to exist? God is not the author of sin, but for now he does allow it to happen in his creation. He could make the heart that is about to hate his brother fail. He could make the hand that is about to strike dissolve. Every thieving hand has been reliant on the power of God for its continued existence even as it stole, insulting its maker. Every blasphemy breathed out, was only able to be said because God at the moment granted a breath to that man. Every evil thought is only possible because God upholds the minds of men in existence.
How could he not be aware of every point of our lives for “In him we live, and move, and have our being”? (Acts 17:28) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, as David said –
“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”
Oh, how should be in awe the One who knows all our ways and at whose presence the mountains flow down!