I am compelled by the Lord to write on our current global situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Admittedly, I have struggled in spirit to write about this subject at all because of its enormous breath, depth, and width. What can I say, Lord? What should I say? What commentary may be provided that could add sanity, offer calm, or provide perspective to our current international struggles? Yes, there are plenty of optimists (seeing only white), pessimist (seeing on black), and realists (seeing the gray) in our world. By nature, I am a realist. The glass is not half-full nor half-empty—it is what it is and from this point, the realist clutches the situation at hand.
It seems that most people are asking the basic questions—except for one. The answers for the “who, when, what, where, and how” questions are emerging. Who?—likely a single infected person and now by extension most of the world; When?—January 2020 appears to be the inception date; What?—Coronavirus (COVID-19); Where?—Wuhan, China as ground zero; How?—a mutation within a common virus family. Why? Ah yes, the “why?” question. Are we seeking to ask and to answer accurately this fundamental “why” question from a biblical perspective? What is really happening?
Far be it from me to be a prophetic of doom! I am not an individual who gravitates toward the extremes. In fact, very few situations in life could uphold extremism as “healthy” in any form. You will not find me licking handrails at the local mall nor storing food and guns in a bunker for a looming apocalypse. The realist simply asks “why?” Why this pandemic, why this global uproar, why the panic among the nations? Why is God allowing this situation to happen on His beautiful and beloved earth?
Perhaps not many people are seriously asking the why question because it is likely the hardest one to answer, especially from a divine perspective. However, in the search for pure truth, we MUST consult the Bible, the word of God. What can we learn as we pour through the hundreds of pages of scripture? Are there events recorded in the Bible that can give us light (insight) on our present pandemic status as sinful and fallen human beings before an all-present, all-powerful, all-knowing, deeply loving, and compassionate God; the Creator of the universe who is full of both love and justice?
The old proverb, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck,” is soaked in truth. Likewise, we can describe COVID-19 by many names (coronavirus, viral pneumonia, disease, epidemic, contagion, sickness, illness, pandemic, etc.), but by biblical standards COVID-19 is clearly a plague. According to the light of the Scriptures, God as punishment for sin and disobedience sent plagues. Plagues appear throughout the Old Testament biblical account. For example, God sent a plague(s) upon Pharaoh to protect Abraham’s wife Sarah from immorality (Gen 12:17), upon the nation of Egypt during the Exodus events (Exo 7:14-12:30), upon the Hebrews (God’s chosen people) for making and worshipping a golden calf (Exo 32:35), upon the Hebrews again for murmuring against their Lord (Num 11:33), upon the faithless Hebrew spies sent to scout the Promised Land (Num 14:37), upon rebellious individuals who protested God’s righteous judgments (Num 16:46-50), and upon the blatant pagan worship of the Israelites at Baal-peor (Num 25:7-9).
The word “plague (-s, -ed)” is found 71 times in the Bible (NASB); 57 times in the Old Testament and 14 times in the New Testament. Of the New Testament occurrences, 13 of those times are in the book of Revelation (the remaining one is in the Gospel of Luke and appears in context of end times prophecy). Notice the “bookend effect” . . . the entirety of the Bible, from Old Testament days to the final era of civilization as we know it, is framed by the certainty of plagues upon humanity as punishment for sin and disobedience against a holy and righteous God.
In a nutshell, there is simply no way to see the world through the lens of Scripture without embracing the truth that plagues (diseases, epidemics, pandemics) are a part of God’s governance of His universe. That being said, must we ask the question, “Is God a malevolent God desiring human suffering and abounding in evil?” MAY IT NEVER BE! The Bible is absolutely clear that God is a holy God who loves and cares deeply for His creation and especially for the humanity created in His own image. What is often overlooked is that God is equally a God of love AND a God of justice. Ultimately, He will leave no sin unpunished. The biblical plagues are simply God’s temporal punishment on the evil actions of a fallen humanity. The eschatological (end time) punishment is yet to come one day.
Let us never forget that God has provided a Savior for us, Jesus Christ, to take away all our sins and to forgive us for all our unrighteousness—to declare us “not guilty” on that great and final Day of Judgment. However, during the current crisis, God has provided the perfect counsel for the world:
“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).”
Today, may you fully embrace the word of God and His faithful promises to you.
In His Grace—Dennis