There are many of us believers who look at the Old Testament and wrinkle our noses. We somehow feel we should just study and follow Jesus’ red letter words in the four Gospels, but the Apostle Paul did not agree with that thinking.
Now these things happened as examples for us… (1 Corinthians 10:6)
With Paul’s admonition in mind, let’s look at an Old Testament example to learn more about San Francisco’s plight.
Most of us know the story of Jonah and how the rebellious prophet decided to take a hike to Spain rather than obey the Lord. His sea trip was then cut short by a storm and eventually Jonah was dumped overboard by the sailors into the raging Mediterranean Sea. There a great fish swallowed him.
Okay, what was it like inside the great fish’s stomach?
The protein-digesting enzymes, the strong hydrochloric acids, the constant muscular contortions causing the stomach to churn digested food and Jonah toward a sphincter muscle which opened into the small intestine. The smell. The insufficient oxygen. His whole body constantly being burned by acids. The never-ending churning. It had to feel like a living Hell without end for him.
What did Jonah probably look like when he walked through Nineveh preaching his message?
I assume Jonah obeyed the Lord and went directly to Nineveh from the Mediterranean shore. It was a five hundred mile trek through rough country and across the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
Thus, his skin, hair, and beard most likely still had yellow acid burns coloring them. And his clothing must have been tattered, stained, bleached, filled with acid holes, and smelly. He had to look and reek like Hell.
Jonah’s message, “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed,” would have gathered him a crowd in the Assyrian capital city, but even the heathen had babbling prophets in those days. So, why did the people listen and believe his prophetic words?
Jonah’s appearance and testimony about his three days and nights in the great fish had to be a powerful sign to the people of Nineveh of God’s mercy. Who could argue with him? The people quickly believed Jonah and his prophetic words, and then repented.
Jesus also referenced Jonah’s three days and nights inside the great fish as a sign to evil and adulterous generations. The message was loud and clear for all: “Repent at hearing the words of the Lord concerning judgments for sin or be destroyed.”
On April 18, 1906, at 5:12 AM, a major earthquake struck San Francisco. A policeman who happened to be on duty said he heard a deep rumbling and looked up a hill. “The whole street was undulating. It was as if the waves of the ocean were coming toward me, and billowing as they came.” The earthquake lasted 65 t0 75 seconds.
Within seventeen minutes, fifty fires were reported in downtown San Francisco. Fire engines rushed to answer the calls, but the water mains were broken. The fires burned out of control.
Out of San Francisco’s population of 410,000, up to 75% were left homeless. Over 3,000 people died. 80% of the city was reduced to rubble by the earthquakes and fire.
At the time, San Francisco was the ninth largest city in America, and the largest city west of the Mississippi River. It’s port made it a banking, trading, and cultural center which gave it the title, “Gateway to the Pacific.”
The earthquake’s damage ended up diverting trade and population to Los Angeles which soon surpassed San Francisco as the most important and largest urban area on the West Coast.
Were there any prophetic warnings given ahead of time to San Francisco?
A woman named Ellen White may have had a vision ahead of time, but she did not publish or announce her vision until after the earthquake struck the city.
Frank Bartleman, an author and evangelist, was involved with the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles at the time the earthquake struck San Francisco. Soon after, he noticed how most preachers announced that God had nothing to do with the earthquake. Even school teachers taught their students that God was not involved in the San Francisco Earthquake.
Barthleman sought the Lord in prayer and ended up writing an Earthquake tract. In it, he explained how God was grieved with the wickedness of San Francisco and that the earthquake was a judgment for the city’s sins. The tract specifically answered the question, “Did God do that?”
Thousands of tracts were distributed to Los Angles and San Francisco. Many people repented and others were upset by them.
So, how does this all play out for today’s San Francisco?
(Continued in Part 6…if you are interested, the full series, which was written in 2012, may be seen here.)