Grace For The Journey
Our State is beginning to implement “reentry” procedures for getting us back into a more normal way of life. For the past seven weeks we have been listening to the experts and looking for help in every direction as we have been confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet . . .
The voice that is
The most significant
And the direction
That will be
The most helpful
Seems to have taken a backseat
In the midst of all the advice of
Scientists and medical sources.
The most important advice and direction we can follow today is from the God who created us and wants to be involved in our lives. As we near an end of our “Stay At Home” phase of dealing with COVID-19, I want us to look into God’s Word and let Him give the advice we all need as we move forward and beyond this difficult time.
In my daily Bible reading, I am reading through the Book of Isaiah these days and came upon a chapter that speaks directly to our crisis. The prophet foresaw a day when the people of Israel would be judged by God. In Isaiah 17:5-6 God says, “It shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain and his arm harvests the ears, and as when one gleans the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Gleanings will be left in it, as when an olive tree is beaten.” During olive harvesting season in Israel workers go throughout the grove and beat the trees to knock the olives from their branches. While most fall to the ground, a few olives are always left.
This is a powerful picture of God’s judgment against His sinful people. But there is the declaration of good news in verses 7-8, “In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made.”
The people had trusted
What they could make
Rather than the One
Who made them.
When they got so far down
They could look nowhere but up,
They would turn back to the God
They should have been trusting
And worshiping all along.
This is something that is of vital importance that the people needed to deal with immediately. In verses 10-11 God says, “You have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain.”
In other words . . .
Trusting man’s ability
And enjoying the resources
God has provided for us
Without acknowledging God
Is always a tragic mistake.
How this warning relates to the pandemic
These words are in God’s Word as a warning not just to their original readers, but to us as well. Is God trying to say something to us in this world-wide event? Is this God’s judgment on the world? People of faith explore these questions when disaster strikes and the world is in upheaval. So, with the global reach of the coronavirus, the question of whether the pandemic is “God’s judgment on a sinful and corrupt world” requires some attention. I believe that the answer to this question is both “Yes” and “No.”
According to the Bible, there is a brokenness in this world that has existed since the beginning of man. Since the Fall of man – man turning away from God’s Word and will in the Garden of Eden – all the bad stuff we encounter today entered the world: death, disease, destruction, murder and a whole list of sins is the reality of the world we live in. God uses these in two ways: 1) To remind us that something is terribly wrong in the world that man can’t overcome; and 2) To warn the individual or nation of God’s judgment for sinning against Him.
God is in control. His greatest desire and priority is for a relationship with man and his welfare. When disasters happen we need to see them as a part of the fallen condition of our world. Because man disobeyed God and went his way instead of God’s, one of the consequences of that sin is that death and disasters happen.
It is a way for God to remind us that there is something terribly wrong with the world that man cannot make right or undo. It is a way for God to try to wake us up and to say, “Please make sure you’re right with Me; Please think about why these things are happening and where you are in your relationship with Me.”
There is a sense in these kinds of disasters for us to wonder whether these events are a judgment from God. Jesus addressed the issue in Luke 13:1-5 about whether disasters are God’s judgment. In these verses, Jesus uses the example of a tower that had fallen and killed several people. He asked, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Verses 4-5). Jesus is telling us, “When people die in a disaster that does not mean because God is judging them. He it’s trying to show that they are no worse than anybody else. What God is trying to do is to get our attention and to understand need to deal with the issue of our repentance from our sin and accepting God’s way of salvation before it is too late.
On the other hand, there are times when God does judge a nation. In Deuteronomy 29 God lays down guidelines for blessings and disasters. I know this is addressed to the nation of Israel, but I believe the principle applies to any nation, for God tells us in Proverbs 11:11, “By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” In Proverbs 14:34, “Righteous exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” The Bible tells us in Romans 1:21-32 that “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” because they: (1) suppress the truth (verses 18-20); although man knows about God, they do not glorify God (verse 21); and (3) they worship the things they created rather than God alone. Because of this God “also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” Because man has turned his back on God and is seeking to live life without Him, we are bearing the consequences of that sin in what we see going on today.
So many today are insisting that we look to science to help us deal with what we are facing in life. And I would agree with them. But those same people are rejecting what science is showing us. And if we are honest with the conclusions, we will see that science agrees with what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that we are to “choose life” – that refers to choosing God’s way but also to protect the most innocent among us: the baby in the womb. Science is very clear that the baby being developed in the womb is very much a human being – he/she has DNA which will determine his/her development; he/she has everything they need to survive outside the womb but just needs time to develop and grow; he/she can hear, feel, and already has a personality. I could go on about what modern science and technology reveals to us about the baby in the womb. And yet, some people reject the truth or “suppress” the truth about these facts.
We are being warned about the danger and damage of trying to change one’s sexual identity and same-sex marriages. People are rejecting the way God made them as well as God’s design for marriage. How can we expect God to bless these things? Do we think God will continue to work with man if he continues to refuse to look to Him and turn to Him? Sometimes God allows disaster to get man’s attention and help him to come to his senses to bring Him to an awareness of his need of the one true God.
Is COVID-19 a judgment from God? I do not claim to be a prophet but I think we ought to be open to find out what God is trying to tell us in it. The real question that needs to be answered is,
“Is God the One
To whom I look
To and trust in when
Bad and good things happen?”
What I am claiming that the principle found in Isaiah 17 is just as relevant today as it was 2,700 years ago.
Neither God’s nature
Nor human nature
What the Lord
He judges today.
God told the people of Israel that they had “forgotten the God of your salvation” and shifted their faith and reliance on what they could do themselves. Our secular culture has done the same.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo captured the spirit of our age when he said of the declining coronavirus cases in his states, “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that. Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that.” In his worldview, we have a choice – either we do something, or it doesn’t get done.
The governor doesn’t seem to understand
That God employs people to do His work,
That He can lead scientists and
Empower doctors in our fallen world.
Or that praying for His help
Is essential to experiencing
The fullness of His omnipotent grace.
We obviously need scientists and leaders to do their work. But as we search for ways to defeat this disease, how many of our leaders are turning to God for help? Praise the Lord for those who are. When we make progress in battling the virus, how many of our people are turning publicly to God in gratitude?
When we submit our lives to our Lord, we experience the paradoxical freedom that comes from making Him our Master. Consider this profound observation by Frederick Buechner: “We have freedom to the degree that the master whom we obey grants it to us in return for our obedience. We do well to choose a master in terms of how much freedom we get for how much obedience. To obey the law of the land leaves us our constitutional freedom, but not the freedom to follow our own consciences wherever they lead. To obey the dictates of our own consciences leaves us freedom from the sense of moral guilt, but not the freedom to gratify our own strongest appetites. To obey our strongest appetites for drink, sex, power, revenge, or whatever leaves us the freedom of an animal to take what we want when we want it, but not the freedom of a human being to be human. The old prayer speaks of God ‘in whose service is perfect freedom.’ The paradox is not as opaque as it sounds. It means that to obey God, which above all else wishes us well, leaves us the freedom to be the best and gladdest that we have it in us to become. The only freedom God denies us is the freedom to destroy ourselves ultimately.”
How free are you today? I trust you experienced the hope and peace of looking to God and leaning upon His wisdom and guidance before and during this time. I also trust that you will continue to look to God and lean and lean upon His wisdom and guidance in the days ahead. If not, maybe God has been trying to use this pandemic to get your attention and lead you from your reliance upon self and others to come to Jesus and look upon Him for your freedom, forgiveness, and future?
This is God Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”