Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”Nehemiah 5:12-13
Nehemiah not only returned to Jerusalem and orchestrated the rebuilding of the walls, but he also protected the people–both physically and financially–in the midst of their work. The workers were afraid that their enemies would attack while they worked so Nehemiah organized a system whereby they would be physically guarded and protected. The workers were also financially burdened because of the taxes and interest that previous leaders had exacted from them. So, Nehemiah made the nobles of the region promise to stop collecting interest on their loans during this season of rebuilding.
After the nobles and priests made their promise, Nehemiah did a prophetic act signifying judgment against them if they didn’t stick to their promise. He shook out the folds of his robe and pronounced a shaking on anyone not keeping their word. Jesus’s disciples did a similar prophetic act of shaking when they left a town that rejected them and the message of the Kingdom.
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.Matthew 10:14 & Acts 13:50-51
Throughout the Bible, this idea of shaking was used as both judgment and refining. The idea is that God would allow a metaphorical earthquake to impact a person or the whole people of God. Things were shaken. Yet, those things with firm foundations were left standing, and things that were sinful or selfish fell to the ground.
This is why over and over again in the Psalms we read things like, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken“(Psalm 62:2). This is why Jesus told the parable of the person who build their house on the rock instead of the sand. When the storms came, only one was left standing (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49).
Shaking is also something the Lord uses to sift a person’s life.
“For I will give the command,Amos 9:9
and I will shake the people of Israel
among all the nations
as grain is shaken in a sieve,
and not a pebble will reach the ground.
The prophet Amos was prophesying of a time the Lord would shake the people of Israel so that the dead things would fall away and only the healthy things would remain. Jesus told Peter this same thing would happen to Peter and the disciples.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”Luke 22:31-32
For those who have put their trust in the Lord, a season of shaking becomes a time of refinement. For those who have put their trust in other things, a season of shaking becomes a time that reveals the emptiness and powerlessness of the things they’ve put their trust in. It becomes a both a time of judgment against false gods and an invitation to repentance.
If you haven’t noticed, there is a shaking happening right now, both in society and in the church. As a society we are being sifted. As a church we are being refined. Our false gods are being exposed and judged for the empty and powerless things that they are. May we build our life on the rock and on nothing else. And may everything else fall to the ground.