The largest earthquake to hit Britain for 25 years struck only a month ago, in the early hours of Wednesday 27 February 2008. Although its epicentre was in Lincolnshire, the ten-second long tremor was felt throughout England and Wales.
The Association of British Insurers estimated it caused damage of more than £10 million. Mercifully, there was only one reported injury – a chimney pot crashed through a roof and landed on a man in Birmingham.
Surprisingly, the UK is no stranger to seismic activity. It experiences about 200 earthquakes each year, of which around 16 can be felt. But the quake of 26 February was certainly felt. At 5.2 on the Richter scale, its energy release was equivalent to 50,000 tons of TNT. It would take 3 or 4 Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs detonating simultaneously to match such explosive power.
While this was as big as they come in Britain, it was nondescript compared to the rest of the world. One only has to recall the Pakistan Kashmir earthquake of October 2005 and its resultant carnage to appreciate what a major tremor is about. That was 7.7 on the Richter scale – one thousand times more powerful than Lincolnshire’s. The death toll was over 80,000.
Furthermore, most Kashmiri buildings in the vicinity were so damaged that 2.5 million people were made homeless. The Earthquake Engineering Center of Peshawar found that two-thirds of the damaged buildings had not been reinforced against earthquakes.
Lacking foundational and structural integrity, they were unable to withstand the earth’s violence. However, one building did manage to withstand the seismic mayhem unleashed that day.
Kunhar Christian Hospital, an indigenous medical mission close to the epicentre of the quake, remained intact amidst the devastation. Built with reinforced foundations and supporting walls, no expense was spared in its construction. While neighbouring buildings with their flimsy, unreinforced pillars crashed to the ground, Kunhar Christian Hospital stood firm.
Having stayed a week at Kunhar Christian Hospital in Spring 2001 as part of a five-man Pakistani evangelistic team, I have good personal memories of that hospital nestled deep in the Himalayan foothills. And it comforts me to know it nestles there still today, a focal point for Christian service in that desolate region.
If a solid foundation for buildings is vital in withstanding the forces of nature, the same is true in the spiritual sphere. The Bible uses pictures of foundations and cornerstones to speak of spiritual security.
Isaiah 28:16 reads: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation’; and the Apostle Peter unashamedly applies this statement directly to Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:6).
This tells us that Christ is tried, precious and sure. He was tried or tested throughout his life and ministry by the devil, by people, and even by God. Yet he proved a ‘cornerstone’ of solidity and faithfulness; and his integrity gives boundless merit to his vicarious sacrifice on our behalf.
Christ is also very precious. He is God’s only begotten Son – of great uniqueness and preciousness to the Father. Sinners are redeemed, not by corruptible things like silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, Jesus Christ is a sure foundation. Our faith rests on nothing less than God’s certain promises, of which Christ is the guarantor.
Only Christ was able to bear the vast weight of saving human beings from the dreadful consequences of sin. Which other man could have carried the monstrous loads of humanity’s sin and God’s wrath against it without buckling and breaking?
Jesus is the Rock of Ages on whom you can build. He can keep you safe and secure – resting in God’s peace and love – through all of life’s sorrows, and even through the great earthquake of God’s final judgement. Have you made Jesus Christ your Saviour?