The coronavirus has now become a pandemic –
- a “worldwide spread of a new disease” (www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/frequently_asked_questions/pandemic/en/ ).
- “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people” (www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/7/11-088815/en/#R2 )
- “A true … pandemic occurs when almost simultaneous transmission takes place worldwide” (www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/7/11-088815/en/)
A pandemic does not mean that the situation is the worst possible one. It simply refers to the fact that the virus is spreading widely and quickly.
Facts, spin, denial and omniscience
People respond to this pandemic in very human ways. Usually, people acknowledge the verifiable events. Immediately after that, fierce arguments break out as to the real meaning of these events. The following points may be helpful here:
- There is a difference between the amount of people tested and the amount of people who have the virus. Some educated guesses suggest that 20-27 times more people have the virus than will ever be tested
- The news media usually zoom in on the number of people infected, but less often tell us how many people have recovered
- Most people (over 90%) who test positive for the virus are recovering/ will recover with no long-term problems
- Some people will die from the virus. The percentages will depend on advanced age, preexisting immunity system issues and available medical treatment. Numbers thrown around are based on averaging things out – 0.7% South Korea; 4.9% Wuhan region of China; 5% Iran
The stark realities of this pandemic are unsettling for many people. Reactions include declaring that huge conspiracies are at work, blaming supposedly deliberate plots by China, the CIA or Israel’s Mossad for the spread of the virus. Others deny that the pandemic is even a problem, and assert that the whole thing is a manipulative ruse by politicians attempting to shore up their own rule.
Only an omniscient God knows exactly how many people will be touched by this virus and to what extent. The Bible’s perspective is stunningly reflected in the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) rabbinic prayer ‘Unetana tokef’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unetanneh_Tokef) which declares that God is both good and sovereign in all these events:
- It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness; Who writes and seals, Who counts and Who calculates … All mankind will pass before You like a flock of sheep. Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living. And You shall apportion the destinies of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict . . . – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die after a long life and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by famine and who by thirst, who by upheaval and who by plague, who by strangling and who by stoning.
This Yom Kippur confession is powerfully true. And that same truth also applies regarding the ultimate destiny of each one of us. It’s worth remembering the reality that God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31). In light of that, we ruefully confess: “If You, O YHVH, should mark iniquities – O YHVH, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You might be feared!” (Ps. 130:4).
Messiah Yeshua’s soon return to Jerusalem will establish the fallen Tent of David over Israel and the nations. All His promises will be established for the Jewish people. His judgments on all the peoples of this planet will also be actualized: “ But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32).
Casting the first stone
When bad things happen, we want to know why. Who is guilty? Against whom do we point the finger? Two thoughts here:
Shi’ite Iraqi Islamic scholar Hadi Al-Modarresi, based in Qom, Iran, said on February 28, 2020 that the spread of coronavirus is undoubtedly an act of Allah’s divine punishment against China for their disrespect towards Muslims and Islam:
- “It is obvious that the spread of this virus is an act of Allah. How do we know this? The spread of the coronavirus began in China, an ancient and vast country, the population of which makes up one seventh of humanity . . . The authorities in that country . . . laid siege to more than a million Muslims . . . Allah sent a disease upon them and this disease laid siege to 40 million [Chinese] . . . And there you have it, this disease spread . . . and it has scared humanity in its entirety” (www.memri.org/tv/qom-iraqi-scholar-hadi-modarresi-coronavirus-divine-punishment-chinese-mock-islam).
In early March, online sources reported that Hadi Al-Modarresi contracted coronavirus.
Messiah Yeshua raised the issue of individual responsibility in one of His comments on the collapse of a building in Jerusalem’s Shiloach neighborhood:
- Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Yeshua said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Shiloach fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5)
Yeshua tells us that we need to avoid haste in ascribing specific guilt to people who suffer tragedies. The fact is that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. None of us is righteous (see Psalm 14:1-3), and all of us are in need of repentance. The accurate reason for tragedies and judgments may not be available to us in the heat of the moment.
God’s wake-up weapons of discipline
Though many believers are not aware of it, the Bible does not mince words regarding God’s ability to bring judgment to a nation or even an entire planet (think Noah). Jeremiah, Ezekiel and John the Revelator refer to four weapons in YHVH’s hands – famine, wild beasts, the sword of war, and plagues – that He has used, does use and will use to speak to a deaf and rebellious world (see also 2 Samuel 24:13; 2 Kings 8:1; 2 Chronicles 20:9; Psalm 105:16; Jeremiah 5:12; 14:12, 15; 15:2; 21:7; 24:10; 27:8; 29:17-18; 34:17; 44:12-13; Ezekiel 5:12, 17; Revelation 6:8).
- Then the word of YHVH came to me saying, “Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast . . . Or if I should send a plague against that country and pour out My wrath in blood on it to cut off man and beast from it, even though Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, as I live, declares YHVH God, they could not deliver either their son or their daughter. They would deliver only themselves by their righteousness. For thus says YHVH God, How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it” (Ezekiel 14:12-21)
A pandemic touches all the nations of this world. Whether it is specific sins that are the fulcrum, or simply the general attitude of the world that ignores God, His values and guidelines – we may not clearly know at this point. But there is no question that, like King David in 2 Samuel 24, we need to cry out to YHVH the God of Israel and ask Him to stay His hand, grant repentance and hold the plague back from people (2 Samuel 24:21).
David purchased the threshing floor of Jerusalem’s Jebusite mayor (the Ara’unah) “‘in order to build an altar to YHVH, that the plague may be held back from the people.’ . . . So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. David built there an altar to YHVH and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus YHVH was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel” (2 Samuel 24:21-25).
The voice of King David echoes down through the pages of history to us, and it should become ours as well. As 70,000 Jewish men, women and children were perishing, he cried out to YHVH and asked “But these sheep, what have they done?” (2 Samuel 24:15-17).
- Intercession for the sins of our nations is of great urgency right now!
Racing against the chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:17)
The Prophet Isaiah tells us that people respond to God’s judgments in two diametrically opposed ways:
- “For when the earth experiences Your judgments, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9-10).
The present pandemic challenges us to seek the face of God, to learn righteousness and to call out to Him for international mercy.
Some of us may feel that it is hard to keep up with all that is happening. Be encouraged that the God of Jacob is calling us to press onward to our upward calling in Messiah Yeshua (Philippians 3:12-14). Jeremiah’s challenge is ours as well: “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for God to have mercy on your nation and to reveal the areas of needful repentance
- Pray for the saving of many lives and the healing of many who are sick
- Pray for gifts of healing to increase on the earth through praying believers
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,