“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
On the afternoon of May 31, 1970, a huge, magnitude 8 earthquake struck off the coast of Peru. The massive quake shook a huge glacier loose from the side of Mount Mount Huascarán, Peru’s highest mountain. This triggered a landslide of truly nightmarish proportions. A colossal wall of mud, ice, boulders and debris cascaded down the mountain at incredible speed. In 60 seconds, the beautiful town of Yungay, with its tiled roofs and cobblestone streets, was buried 100 feet deep. In the blink of an eye, more than 20,000 people were killed instantly. Only those who fled to the town’s cemetery, which was situated on higher ground, managed to survive the disaster. Today all that remains of Yungay is a statue of Jesus overlooking the cemetery, a bus, crushed and twisted into the ground, and four palm trees. Though the event is tragic to be sure, it does lead us to contemplate important spiritual realities. To begin with, we are reminded that earth isn’t heaven. This world we live in is not the original “very good” world that God created (Genesis 1:31). The entrance of sin brought a deadly curse over the entire created order under the sun (Genesis 3:18; Romans 8:18-22). The catastrophe also causes us to question the “wisdom” of modern geology, which operates in accordance with strict uniformitarian presumptions. The idea here is that slow, uniform natural processes produced the earth’s geological features. On this view, as one digs into the earth’s crust, windows into the past are revealed; essentially, the further down one digs, the further back in time he goes. This view all but ignores large-scale geological disasters such as the disaster at Yungay, which accomplished the same amount of geological work as hundreds of thousands of years. If Yungay is forgotten and future archaeologists begin excavations over its ruins, they might conclude, upon the discovery of a cobblestone street, that they had discovered a civilization thousands of years old (how wrong they would be!). Those that take the Genesis record as straightforward historical narrative understand that the worldwide flood (and post flood catastrophism) could easily account for the earth’s geological features. The tragedy at Yungay involved the full and unstoppable force of 10 million cubic meters of rock and ice coming down hard on the town. I imagine a scenario in which it all could have been diverted away from Yungay to some other, preferably uninhabited, location. This is what our Lord did for us. Today’s verse reminds us that the Lord Jesus diverted the full wrath of God of against sin onto Himself; our iniquities were laid on Him. This is the wonderful mystery of the Gospel, that Christ bore our sins in His body (1 Peter 2:24) and that He no longer imputes our trespasses to us (2 Corinthians 5:19). “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!”(2 Corinthians 9:15).