By Rhett Burns
We live, like the old Chinese curse goes, in interesting times. A global pandemic and all its political and economic ramifications are wreaking havoc upon the world. The wise among us will ask: What is God doing through this pandemic?
The very first thing we must recognize is that God is doing something. The sheer scale of the crisis shows this to be true—the entire world is affected and shutting down. But it is our doctrine of Providence that convinces us that God is doing something purposeful in the world. God controls all things and orders the course of world and human events. This event is not just something bad happening in the world with God on our side to help us through it. No, this pandemic is from the hand of God, and he has determined that this is the right time to use it to accomplish his holy will. We say with Spurgeon that God sends all pestilences and that he sends them with a purpose.
But what is his purpose?
This is a hard question to answer, for we do not presume to grasp the full knowledge and wisdom of the Lord. But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), the Word of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, we can read the times and make some educated postulations about what the Lord is doing, even if we hold them with a caveat of uncertainty.
So, what is God doing? Is this judgment?
The short answer is, I don’t know. But it could be. Again, Spurgeon:
I am not among those, as you know, who believe that every affliction is a judgment upon the particular person to whom it occurs. We perceive that in this world the best of men often endure the most of suffering, and that the worst of men frequently escape; and therefore we do not believe in judgments to particular persons except in extraordinary cases; but we do nevertheless very firmly believe that there are national judgments, and that national sins provoke national chastisements.
We deserve judgment: abortion, sodomy enshrined as marriage, unjust war, and an economic system that flouts the sabbath and entirely depends on androgyny and abortion. We must ask: has God changed how he deals with rebellious nations? Why wouldn’t he judge us?
New York City recently lit up one of its high places, One World Trade Center, pink in celebration of their brutal new abortion law, and now the city is a hotbed for CoVid-19 and economic devastation. Is this a coincidence?
President Trump proudly stood before the American people during the State of the Union address and took credit for a booming American economy, and now the economy is headed for recession or depression. Is this a coincidence? Or was this President Trump’s Nebuchadnezzar moment? God still opposes the proud.
In the Bible, what does it look like when God judges a nation? We see plagues, death, economic ruin, and confusion among the nation’s leaders. To some degree, we see each of these things in our current situation. It sure seems like God is judging us.
But what about Christians?
Believers, because of our union with Christ, are not under the judgment of God. Christ has already been judged in our place, and he took the wrath of the Father that we deserved.
But God disciplines his wayward sons. He is our Father, and he disciplines those he loves. God also gives his children times of testing (Deut 32) and trial.
This is a time of testing and trial, as evidenced by the difficult circumstances. It is also likely this is a time of discipline, and that God is purifying his people through trial. He means to lead us to repentance, which is always God’s kindness to us.
Therefore, we should examine ourselves and confess our sins. We should pray with the Psalmist,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Reading the Story
At this point, I will engage in a bit of educated speculation. But it is my attempt to read the times as I would a story. Given the circumstances, what is God teaching us? I see two lessons for us to learn.
The first lesson is to get your house in order. Our fathers have abdicated, and our homes are broken. Our household sins are legion: divorce, unbiblical remarriage, porn use, premarital sex, adultery, outsourcing home responsibilities to the state and the market, men and women abandoning their stations and duties, and legally-protected gay “marriage.”
That God wants us to deal with our households seems likely, for he has sent the whole world home at once.
The second lesson is to keep the sabbath holy. Our entire global economy is built upon disobeying God’s command regarding the sabbath. We profane the sabbath, neither resting nor worshiping rightly. In the Scriptures, sabbath-breaking is connected to idolatry, which leads to judgement, discipline, and exile. Even in the church, breaking the sabbath is so routine few even realize they are doing it.
That God wants to point out our sabbath-breaking seems likely, for he has put the whole world to rest. God will get his sabbath one way or another.
Prepare to meet your God
The fourth chapter of Amos is haunting. God recounts the calamity he has brought upon Israel in recompense for their sins. He withheld bread and rain and sent mildew, locusts, and pestilence. He unsheathed his sword against man and beast and made the stench of the camp go up into their nostrils.
“Yet, you did not return to me.”
That is the refrain of Amos 4. No matter what the Lord did to call them from their sins, Israel persisted in her sin. They did not return to the Lord.
May the same not be said of us. We face the disasters of death, economic depression, fear, and confusion. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6). Of course not, God controls all things. The hand of God is upon us.
May we return to the Lord, for one day we shall meet him, the God of armies.
“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name! —Amos 4:12-13