Sin and rebellion have been a hallmark of our world (and all of us) since the Fall.
How God providentially manages all things is well beyond our cognitive ability to comprehend. Yet he has assured us he is in control. We are and can be confident of God’s ongoing engagement in the affairs of humanity and his willingness to use extreme and catastrophic measures to accomplish his purposes.
So today there are many upheavals. The pandemic is rocking the world, all nations feel and see the specter of death, and on top of that social disorder, financial ruin, personal tragedy, and the list goes on and on, many people are dismayed and upset and fearful.
So, is the pandemic divine judgement?
As in the period of the 1918 Spanish Flu there are people crying the “End is Near”!
But we must use discernment and wisdom.
God disrupts the human cycle of selfishness through profound and drastic means and calls us to account for our sin. God has done this throughout history. Global pandemics are rare, but when they occur, they spread through trade/financial routes and financial hubs of prosperous and powerful nations. These nations, like the United States are inherently prone to prideful pursuit of profits and indifference toward God (Deut. 8:10–14).
So, like Egypt in Moses day is this pandemic part of a larger pattern? Look at other recent catastrophes that have struck North America over the past 20 years or more: 9/11; Superstorm Sandy; hurricanes Katrina, Maria, Irma, and Harvey; the California wildfires (which are raging again); Midwest tornado outbreaks; the swine flu, and now COVID-19. And just yesterday the Derecho storms have devastated crops and homes in the Midwest. And the list goes on.
Have we hardened our hearts to the point we write off God’s warnings as acts of nature?
I personally believe the answer is yes.
Ask yourself are we under divine judgment? Consider our nation and its citizens, not only the sin and dishonesty of our government officials but all of us! Pornography, unbridled consumerism, materialism, cheating, stealing, violence against the helpless and not to mention the greed. All the money spent on political campaigns and other frivolous things while people are hungry and destitute. We are indeed a wicked people.
In America, the church has largely failed in its mandate and has for the most part become lukewarm and ineffective. Remember we all bear responsibility- WE ARE the church!
When confronted with disasters, Holy Scripture calls us to look to God for comfort, self-control, and healing. Prophets from Moses to Malachi pointed to sin and the need for repentance as reasons behind many disasters. We see early in the book of Romans, the apostle Paul states, “the wrath of God is being revealed … against all ungodliness and unrighteousness” (1:18).
We are called to repent, which means to change our minds and behavior, to go to God in prayer.
Are we under God’s wrath today?
It is important to understand that God’s wrath always comes with mercy (Hab. 3:2; 1 Chron. 21:13). We can see his mercy in the pattern of smaller catastrophes leading to greater ones, allowing opportunity for repentance sooner rather than being subjected to larger consequences later. The ten plagues of Egypt for example increased in severity partly because, early on, Pharaoh and his people “did not listen,” but rather “turned and went into his house with no concern even for this.” (Ex. 7:22–23).
In our arrogance and pride, we often quickly dismiss extraordinary acts of God as flukes of nature. We falsely believe we can through reason and logic control these forces of nature. Scripture calls this mindset hardening of the heart (Ex. 8:19; Prov. 28:14).
Is your heart hardened?
Paul holds up Old Testament patterns of judgment as “types,” or “examples to us”—historic precedents to heed (1 Cor. 10:1–12; Rom. 11:20–21). When chastising the Corinthians for desecrating the Lord’s Supper, Paul says, “why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [have died]” (1 Cor. 11:30). Paul understands sickness and death are a “judgment”, even for these New Testament believers. Hebrews 12, referring back to Proverbs, tells believers, “‘do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, ... for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Heb. 12:5, 11).
Tragedy and crisis are magnifiers of circumstances that force us to realize the true nature of what we are doing and shine a bright light on underlying situations we might have otherwise ignored or dismissed.
The coronavirus global pandemic has not only claimed more than 600,000 lives across the world. It has shaken all of us in ways big and small. There is a greater hunger for substance and significance, both in our personal lives as well as in our professional pursuits.
Through all the strife and adversity, God is inviting us to take inventory of what is important. In His graciousness, He is providing us with an opportunity to become reacquainted with our families and life in general. The loss of our freedoms is allowing a newfound appreciation of the luxuries of normal, everyday living.
We are not called on as the Body of Christ to announce God’s condemnation or judgement but rather to examine ourselves, to reflect on our lives, our sins and to repent. Our personal repentance serves as but one part of our larger kingdom mission to relieve suffering, mourn with the grieving, care for the sick, encourage the weak, comfort the afflicted and plead for God’s mercy.
In this pandemic, God demands our repentance. With that in mind we must receive any discipline God may send our way as coming from the hand of our loving Father.