On January 17, 1994 at 4:30 in the morning, the Northridge thrust, a fault under Northridge, CA, shifted causing the first earthquake to strike directly under an urban area of the United States in over sixty years. The quake produced the strongest ground motions ever instrumentally recorded in an urban setting in the US according to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center.
The pictures that show the damage of that quake are not huge cracks in the ground that crossed some remote road in some far off deserted sand field. The pictures are of homes, neighborhoods in fact, and apartment complexes that were destroyed by the shaking and shift of the ground. This quake didn’t just collapse the home of a field rat; it collapsed the homes of people.
When we think of earthquakes, we think about the destruction of homes. God thinks differently.
Paul and Silas were on their way to the place of prayer and ended up in prison. There was a slave girl in Philippi who had been following Paul, Silas, Luke and the others around the city shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17). Normally, Paul and his companions would have rejoiced at the testimony, but this girl was a possessed by an evil spirit. If you saw someone with a terrible acne problem pushing a face cleanser, you’re probably not buying in. A demon-possessed girl pointing the way to salvation is not effective advertising.
So one day – why he put up with it at all I don’t know – Paul cast the demon from the girl by the power of God. She was rescued, but her owners were outraged. They had been using her as a source of revenue, but now their money-maker was normal. They accused Paul and the others of causing an uproar. Paul and Silas were beaten, thrown into prison, and shackled.
What do Christians do when they’ve been beaten and locked up unjustly? These Christians sang. I don’t know what they sang, but I bet it wasn’t “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me” or “Man of Constant Sorrow” or “Welcome to My Life.” It may have been a song that expressed distress, but it probably expressed confidence, too. They knew God could rescue them. And he did. He sent an earthquake that broke their shackles and opened the door of the prison. But that isn’t the greatest part of the story. When he sent the earthquake, he also saved a home.
The jailor took Paul and Silas home with him to learn what the slave girl said he could learn from them – how to be saved. He and his home were saved that very night.
I know there is a different between a house and home. Thanks for letting me play with the words here – I know you get the point. Buildings might have collapsed in Philippi, but a household was saved. That’s how God used an earthquake to save a home. Does anything need shaking up around you to get you asking “What must I do to be saved”? That’s Life at Work!