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Pandemic

What is God saying to the world during the pandemic?

As we are in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic and surrounded by somewhat uncertainty, perhaps fear and maybe some panic, we need to turn to the ultimate source of hope and truth, the Bible.

The Bible’s truth is true because God cannot lie and full of hope because it is God’s Word.

What does the Bible have to say to our world at this extraordinary time?

1. We live in a broken world

The coronavirus is not the first pandemic in our world, there have been numerous, for example:

(a) The Plague of Justinian

It arrived in Constantinople in 541 AD.  Plague-ridden fleas hitched a ride from Egypt on rats snacking on the ship’s grain. The plague decimated Constantinople and spread like wildfire across Europe, Asia, North Africa and Arabia killing an estimated 30- 50 million people, perhaps half of the world’s population.

(b) The Black death

The Justinian plague never ultimately ended, and when it returned 800 years later it was devastating.  The Black Death,  which hit Europe in 1347, claimed a shocking 200 million lives in just four years.

(c) The Great Plague of London

The Great Plague of 1665 in London killed 100,000 Londoners in just 7 months.  All public entertainment was banned and victims were forcibly shut in their homes.  Red crosses were painted on their doors along with the words: “Lord have mercy upon us.”

(d) Smallpox

Smallpox was the persistent threat that killed three out of ten people it infected.  Hundreds of millions of people have died over the centuries.

Plagues and pandemics are not a new thing.

Our history is filled with disease, despair and death.

Why is this?

The Bible tells that in the beginning God created the world and all that is in it (Genesis Ch. 1-2).

God not only created the world, but he created human being in his image to multiply, fill the world and rule over the world as good stewards of what is God’s.

Human beings submitted to God as their loving ruler.

It was a good world filled with goodness, healthy relationships and love.

No death. No abuse. No racism. No injustice. No disease. No pandemics.

But that’s not the way the world is now – just read the news.

What went wrong? Answer: we did.

Human beings rebelled against their Creator. It was cosmic treason.

Cosmic treason is the default factory setting of every human being since. We want to be our own boss, decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong, and what’s acceptable or unacceptable.

We want to be like Frank Sinatra and sing, I did it my way.

Or if you listen to Limp Bizkit:

I’m doing things my way

It’s my way

My way, or the highway.

This is our default factory setting, the Bible calls it sin.

The consequence of this rebellion and cosmic treason was that God cursed the world in Genesis Ch. 3.

The world is now filled with brokenness, strife, pain, pride, thorns, thistles, disease, death and pandemics.

But worst of all, our relationship with God is shattered.  We now fall under the judgment of a holy God who must judge sin.

This is our reality.

Disease, death and disability is the new normal.

This pandemic does not mean it’s the end world, it means we continue to live in a broken world where things go wrong and where human beings are separated from God.

2. We are fragile

In the funeral service of REACH-SA, we say these words:

Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.  He comes up, and is cut down like a flower; he disappears like a shadow and does not stay.  In the midst of life, we are in death.

These are words are a very good reminder

Death has a 100% success rate; sin has a 100% mortality rate.

Death comes to all.  Life is therefore, humanly-speaking, fragile.

We can’t be sure if we will be alive tomorrow.

We remember esp. in times of war, plague and pandemic that death is a great enemy that knocks at any time on one’s door and he refuses to wait outside.

Psalm 103:15-16

 As for man, his days are like grass;

    he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

    and its place knows it no more.

3. We are equal

It doesn’t matter if you’re a prince, a pauper, a millionaire, homeless, educated, uneducated, a CEO, or a blue collar worker…death comes to all.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a prince, a pauper, a millionaire, a homeless, from SA, from Nigeria, or from England; it doesn’t matter if your black, white, coloured, beige…you can contract the Coronavirus.

At times like this, we remember that we are not only fragile, but are equal.

All human beings are distant cousins, descended from Adam, and equal before God

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image,

    in the image of God he created him;

    male and female he created them.

We are created equally by God, in his image, with same dignity and worth.

There is only one race.  The human race.

4. We are under God’s judgment

Often times in the Bible plagues are reminders of God’s judgment.  We see this esp. in the book of Exodus and the book of Revelation.

Plagues, pandemics and so-called natural disasters remind us that we live in a world that has rebelled against its creator.

They are a small foretaste of the great judgement of God to come when every human being will stand before Almighty God to give an account.

When were not free agents. We are creatures accountable to a Creator.

The coronavirus is not God’s judgment on a particular country, continent or sin; but a general reminder that we are all broken and sinful people who must face the judgment of a Holy God.

Sin is much more serious than the coronavirus, Ebola virus and the Marburg virus combined.

Sin has a 100% fatality rate because it places us under the judgment of God.

Hebrews 9:27

It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

5. We need to trust Jesus, our death-defying Saviour

1 Peter 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

We are doing what we can to avoid transmission of the virus, and therefore possible illness and death.

It’s good and right that we want to slow the spread of the virus, lower the curve and avoid unnecessary suffering and death.

Did you know that Jesus could have avoided his suffering and death, but he chose not to?  Why?

Jesus knew that it was only through his suffering and death that he, the perfect Son of God, could pay the price for our cosmic treason.

The scandalous news of the Bible is that Jesus died in our place, as our substitute, to bear the judgment of God for our sin – so that Jesus could be our Saviour.

And Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose to new life never to die again.

He ascended into heaven from where he now rules over all things – even today.

Jesus’ resurrection proved that all he said was true, that his death did pay the price for sin and that he is the death-defying Saviour.

However, Jesus isn’t automatically our Saviour.

Remember, our default factory setting is rebellion against God. For Jesus to be your Saviour you need to:

A – Admit you are a sinner, guilty of cosmic treason.

B – Believe that Jesus died for your sins.

C – Come to him in faith and say: Jesus you are Saviour, please be my Saviour.

If you do this, 1 Peter 1:3 says that you have a Living Hope that nothing can ever destroy or take away, not even viruses.

A hope of God’s presence in this world; a hope of life forever in the world to come; a hope that will never fade away; a hope that shines brighter than the darkest day.

In the midst of a broken world, we keep trusting our death-defying Saviour who gives us a solid, indestructible, living hope for this world and the next.

6. We love and do good to people

Christians aren’t immune from viruses, plagues and pandemics.

In Philippians 2:27, this is what the Apostle Paul wrote about Epaphroditus, his faithful Christian friend and co-worker:

“Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”

Paul wrote, “Wow, Epaphroditus almost died. But thankfully, God was merciful and he didn’t. We were really fortunate!”

In other words, Paul expected Christians to get ill and possibly die from that illness, just like the rest of the world.

God can certainly heal, but it’s not always God’s will to heal.

Christians are not immune from the consequences of living in a broken world and certainly not immune from viruses.

Christians should practice good hygiene like anyone else.

But here is the amazing thing: history is littered with accounts of Christians who have sacrificially loved others and cared for the sick, dying and plague-ridden even to the cost of their own health.

In 1527 in Germany, Martin Luther, one of the great Reformers who called the church back to the Bible, wrote this as the Bubonic plague passed through his town:

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.

If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely… See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy…

During a major cholera outbreak in London in 1854, the minister Charles Spurgeon wrote:

During that epidemic of cholera, though I had many engagements in the country, I gave them up that I might remain in London to visit the sick and the dying.

I felt that it was my duty to be on the spot in such a time of disease and death and sorrow.

In Wuhan, China, many Christians were involved in front-line relief efforts.

A few weeks ago, I saw a video of Christians in Wuhan in Hazmat suits handing out masks (and gospel pamphlets) while telling passerby’s about Jesus.

Christian people have always been the ones to show sacrificial love in times of crisis because they love people and know that death is not the end – it’s just the beginning.

Loving people at this moment will mean:

  • Stating at home during the Lockdown
  • Not buying all the groceries and toilet paper
  • Washing your hands
  • Giving your domestic worker paid leave
  • Checking in with your small group, friends and high-risk people in the church to see if they are OK

However, there may come a time when you are in a position to help someone in an emergency knowing that you may get infected yourself.

God allows tough times and pandemics so that the love of his people may shine more brightly.

Galatians 6:10:

As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

I pray that we hear what God is saying in his Word, the Bible, esp. at a time like this.