What Is God Saying through COVID-19?

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This article was written by The Glory of God on Cape Cod.

 

“Now I will arise, says the Lord, Now I will be exalted, Now I will lift myself up” (Isa. 33:10).

 

As you know, the Scriptures speak of “The sons of Isaacar, who understood the times, and knew what Israel ought to do” (1 Chr. 12:32). Daniel understood his times (Dan. 9:2). The Lord Jesus taught us to discern the times and rebuked the Pharisees for not doing so: “You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:2), and He repeatedly exhorted us in His Word, “He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:29).

As the world has been thrown into unprecedented chaos caused by the coronavirus, resulting in a global economic crisis, with many countries closing their borders and the shutting down of businesses across the world, uncertainty and fear gripping the nations, how does the body of Christ see the current crisis? How should we as the followers of Jesus Christ see and understand what is happening? The Church is the prophetic voice of God to the world, and leaders in the body of Christ not only have a responsibility to calm the people, combat the spirit of fear in the Church and ignite faith, but also have a responsibility to seek the Lord and hear His voice, have a prophetic understanding of what He is saying and doing, and proclaim it.

With that in mind, let’s look at 3 questions:

  1. Why did the Lord allow this to happen? Not just the economic crisis, but the current closure of the churches which may possibly go on for another 6–10 weeks
  2. What is He saying to the world and what is He saying to the Church?
  3. What is the response that He is expecting from the Church? Repentance? Rebuking the pestilence? Self-examination?

 

Here are some biblical principles and truths that may shed some light on our situation, help us make sense of what is going on, and give a bit of clarity on the times we are in:

 

Biblical principle #1

God’s dealings with people differs according to where they are in their relationship with Him. He loves all humanity, believers and unbelievers, but His dealings, motivated by His love are different. At any point in time, He is pleased with His sons and daughters who faithfully love and follow Him, who pursue obedience to His Word and resist darkness in their lives, even if they are weak and immature in their walk with Him. He disciplines His sons and daughters who live in compromise, willfully embracing sin in their lives rather than resisting it (Heb. 12:6), and He judges the wicked, those who defiantly rebel against Him.

The Scriptures exhort us to behold, to take notice of the goodness and the severity of God (Rom. 11:22). The Lord’s severity is redemptive and is motivated by His love. He used it to bring Israel from arrogantly rejecting His Word through Jeremiah (Jer. 36:23) to responding to His Word through Nehemiah (Neh. 2:18). We as sons and daughters of the Father, should not apologize for or be embarrassed by the message of God’s severity, His judgments (decisions/decrees), or what His Word has to say about these things. Otherwise, we would be embarrassed by the way God runs the world!

In this crisis, what the Lord has to say to the world is different than what He has to say to the Church and so are His dealings. God’s dealings with Egypt in Exodus were different than His dealings with Israel. What happened in the rest of the land of Egypt was different from what happened in Goshen, the part of Egypt where Israel lived (Ex. 9:26).

As Egypt was experiencing judgment, Israel was simultaneously experiencing revival. When God chastised Israel because of their compromise, and sent them into the Babylonian captivity, the exact day that Jerusalem was invaded by King Nebuchadnezzar’s army, was the very same day that Jeremiah was released from prison, by the captain of King Nebuchadnezzar army. God’s dealing with His faithful servant Jeremiah was different from His dealing with compromised Israel (Jer. 39:11–2; 40:4). Also, we see in both Ezekiel 9:4 and Revelation 7:3, that even when God judges or chastises, His judgment or chastisement is not collective, but He protects His people.

It’s important to understand that the Lord protects those who walk with Him faithfully, those “Who dwell in His shelter,” even if their walk is imperfect. They may stumble, but they resist sin and do not embrace it in willful compromise. However, had compromised Israel quoted Psalm 91 in Jeremiah’s time, when he warned them of the coming Babylonian captivity, thinking they had the protection of God while walking in willful disobedience to Him, they would have been deceiving themselves. In fact, that’s exactly what the false prophets assured them of, that they will be protected from harm without needing to repent.

Similarly, Jesus warned the Church of Ephesus, “But I have this against you: that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the works you did at first. But if you do not, I am coming to you, and I will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4–5).

Had they rejected that warning and quoted Paul’s letter to Ephesus among themselves,“He has  blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love… by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.(Eph. 1:3–7), they would also have deceived themselves because they had since fallen from that place when the apostle Paul wrote to them. In fact, there is no gospel witness today where the Church in Ephesus was. It’s merely a tourist attraction in modern day Turkey.

In this current crisis, God is saying something to the Church and something different to the world. He is dealing with His Church and dealing with the world at the same time.

 

Biblical principle #2

Psalm 2, a messianic psalm, also adequately describes the nations and their leaders in our times. The nations around the world today boldly and proudly reject God and the authority of His Word, legislating laws that are defiant against His societal order:

Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings (leaders) of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Christ, saying,’Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their chords (restraints)from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh. He shall hold them in derision. He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on my holy hill of Zion” (Psa. 2:1–6).

 

We know from the Word of God that He resists the proud (James 4:6) and that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). The Lord is dealing with the nations, humbling them and reminding us all that we are mere mortals, who exist by the grace of God and answer to Him. Lifting that grace even for a moment throws the world into chaos.

Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment” (Ex. 12:12). The judgment on Egypt was necessary to let Israel go and worship the Lord. “Let My people go so they may worship Me” (Ex. 8:1). Someone defined revival as “When God judges the gods of a nation that hold people blind.” That often results in chaos, and was certainly true in the Exodus revival, as well as other revivals in history.

 

Biblical principle #3

Haggai 2:6–7:”I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of hosts.” The apostle Paul quoted this verse in Hebrews 12:27, further explaining the purpose of the shaking, “The removal of those things that are being shaken…that the things which cannot be shaken remain.”

The Lord has allowed this crisis. He has shaken the nations indeed, to humble them and turn their eyes to Him. However, He not only has shaken the nations, but He also has shaken the Church. He pushed the pause button as if asking us all to stop, re-evaluate, reassess where we are, and reset. Why do we do what we do? What are our motives? He is giving us a time to connect deeply with Him and to return to our first love.

 

Biblical principle #4

We see in the Scriptures that revival often comes in the context of crisis:

Arise and shine, for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people, but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The gentiles (unbelievers) shall come to your light, and kings (government leaders) to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around and see: They all gather together, they come to you; your sons (the prodigals) shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed by your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy (Isa. 60:1-5).

 

In the verses above, we see a harvest amidst a deep crisis. Isaiah 59:19 says the same thing. In the context of this chapter where the Lord is chastising Israel, He reveals His redemptive purpose: “So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives.”

This crisis presents an opportunity for us as believers, to learn to be a real New Testament Church. To connect deeply with one another as one family of Christ across the Cape. One family and one body across denominations, ethnic groups, and generations, a witness in and of itself to the world about Jesus (John 17). It also presents opportunities for us to shine the light of Christ among a dark and fearful world, to share the love of Christ to unbelievers around us and point them to Jesus as their hope and salvation.

 

Biblical principle #5

We must align ourselves with God’s purposes and not our own. As Jeremiah uttered prophecies of Israel’s chastisement and his scribe, Baruch, wrote them down, Baruch got fearful about what the Lord was about to do, and him having to live in the ensuing chaos. The Lord corrected him, exhorting him to align his heart with God’s heart and purposes, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said,’Woe is me now! For the Lord added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing and I find no rest.’ Thus you shall say to him,’Thus says the Lord:’Behold, what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land, and do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them…’” (Jer. 45:2–5).

In this crisis we must re-examine our priorities and align ourselves with God’s heart and God’s purposes. Our priorities and deep desires should not just be concerns for our own personal circumstances, but for the glory of God and His purposes, trusting that the Lord will protect His people during the crisis as we cry out with the saints, “True and righteous are His judgments…” (Rev. 19:2).

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