Blind Willie Johnson wrote and sang “In the year of nineteen and eighteen, God sent a mighty disease” in his song “Jesus Comin’ Soon”.
Today we recognize COVID-19 coronavirus as something akin to 1918 era “Spanish Flu” pandemic which swept the world and killed millions.
For myself, I am not so certain “God sent” or regularly “sends” disease or other so-called natural calamities to plague humankind -but it would be ignorant to simply ignore the many clearly non-allegorical narratives in The Bible to say with certainty He never afflicts -or never allows- such to affect human beings. Denial of such in Scripture will not change the Hebrew or Greek words nor their contextual interpretation.
Having said this it is of great importance we face our own individual and corporate DNA, our typical mental and emotional “defaults” when considering such horrible and disastrous historical events. What do I mean by this?
We often believe or disbelieve there is a God, that He is the God of the Bible, and likewise that if He exists, that He is a good Father Who actually cares about us, even that He interacts in our lives out of love and desire to protect us, even offer us eternal life as per Jesus’ teachings.
Our judgment of God’s character and nature may be as much a virus as a sustaining gift -and we have much personal responsibility in that it is our own judgment of God which is a core matter. I believe His judgment of us is far more important, but if we conclude we are the center of things… well, read on please.
A principle in Scripture that comes to mind: When God gave Israel a king because they determined to have one like the other nations did He warned them it would be a mistake, that they would turn to a king and reject Him… They did not relent and He gave them Saul. What a terrible lesson and in our world and time we may well wonder if anyone has paid attention? The people had no actual ability to “bottle Saul up” any more than we do many horrors of our time.
There simply is no power greater than that which is His Own.
For more specificity, Paul writes Timothy (-once-…) about Christian leaders who have fallen into habitual sin telling him to “Rebuke them sharply”. Some of us LOVE to rebuke others, in particular, sharply. Must I quote a host of other verses that speak to correcting others gently, to humbly take care when doing so lest we are (and we are) likewise tempted, to communicate with grace and humility because we are as prone to sin as the rest of society?
Reformation often comes in times of crisis. It’s no secret that historically, massive groups of people came to saving faith in Jesus during famines, wars and indeed, the very influenza epidemic Blind Willie and other blues singers wrote and sang about.
We so want to re-write The Bible, to make God IN OUR OWN IMAGE -meaning “He thinks like I do, does as I would.” Some naturally tend toward hard, even harsh condemnation of others because it suits THEM, not God. Others will gently and with deep compassion state “God would NEVER do such horrid things to people He loves” when the Scriptures are rather laced -BOTH Testaments mind you… with more than mere illustrative narratives that He is a God of judgment and justice, not merely (what our concept of love is) gentle and only forgiving.
Some LOVE slamming texts about judgment and people “getting what they deserve” while others only focus on biblical writ which depicts the God Who indeed IS love, anxious to forgive and fully pardon -as if there is rarely a call to repent, nary a rebuke nor destructive judgment in Scripture. I’d say both extreme views are more human than exegetical (solid, thorough biblical interpretation and methodology) of The Bible.
So which is it? Is this coronavirus thing part of God’s history-threaded “strike fear into ’em, turn or burn you snakes!” plan to reform the world and perhaps the churches… or is it merely part of a fallen, imperfect world where disease has always and with more regularity than we want to face, killed and kills all sorts of otherwise seemingly innocent people? Does God orchestrate or does He rather allow this sort of thing?
Does He ALWAYS deliver/save/protect believers, have none of them died in plagues, often while serving the dying, being “the hands and feet of Jesus”? Have there never been any God-loving-serving-truth-believing martyrs among us? Though “we have the mind of Christ” do ANY of us always understand God’s ways, means and methods as to how to get people’s attention toward Himself, reformation in self-centered/seeking church folk?
When will we catch more than an illness but in the very painful positive: recognize our own vulnerability was and is always present- and thus become vulnerable to God and His Word above our own self centeredness?
I don’t know. I do not know! I truly don’t believe I have the final and absolute understanding of whether the Lord “sent” or did not and never “sends” calamity but it seems quite clear horrors on this planet and amongst all humans deal with to varying degrees, do and often will occur regardless of faith in Him as a GOOD GOD -and I believe He is truly GOOD for more reasons than not! But the object of this post isn’t to defend either God’s existence or His character. It is to consider the reality of the razor’s edge of uncertainty and personal soul-searching about our own motives, goals and self-talk which at times tells us far more about our concept of God than it does about the true God Himself.
I indeed believe He hears and answers prayer- if, as and when HE wills, not always as we will.
IS He “A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE”? I absolutely believe He is!!!
I also believe He gave us brains to think, soap for our hands, doctors and scientists and blesses us with their wisdom in times of illness.
There are fools who think in their heart “There is no God!” just as there are fools who drive ninety miles an hour during raging storms and expect to survive because of faith in Jesus -who, last I checked, never blesses stupid choices of human beings.
Finally, God never rejoices in the death of (even!) the wicked. “He commands all people EVERYWHERE to repent.” Christians- “judgment begins with the house of God.” Let us serve our neighbors with grace and humility knowing we are as vulnerable to pain and death (this side of heaven) as they are. Making ignorant statements about those who fear while not lifting a finger to love our neighbor speaks more of our sin than it does theirs.
I wish you the peace that only Jesus can give! I wish for all of us the wisdom and sense of balance that the “only wise God” desires for us all.
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn
4 thoughts on “Epidemics: Sense or Nonsense?”
Hi Glenn, very good insight into what we are going through right now. Can I ask your permission to share this link on my own Blog post that I wrote this morning (link below)?
Certainly, thanks Quentin, Lord give you and yours grace and safety. -Glenn
Thanks so much!