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Friday, March 13, 2020

"His Eye is on the Sparrow"

"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then, I shall  fumigate, help clear the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid place and person where my presence is not needed in order to become contaminated, and thus perchance infect and pollute others and cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me, and so I am not responsible either for my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but shall go freely." Martin Luther

Just about everyone around the world is riveted, and concerned, by the virus that is currently making it around the globe. As with previous pandemics, everyone is affected to one extent or another and the way we live has been affected, perhaps permanently. The difference this time, in my opinion, is the speed at which not only the illness, but the news about it travel around the world. Whereas in times past such pandemics were somewhat contained by the very nature of the world (few people in the middle ages, for example, moved more than seven miles from their homes in any direction), today's ease of travel makes it easier for such viruses to spread.

The child of God finds himself in a very interesting situation. We certainly are part of this world and are not exempt from the problems that come upon it. Among the 5,000 people or so who have died and the over 100,000 who have been infected worldwide, it is quite likely that there are many true believers. It is also important to not look upon this scourge as God bringing about a calamity upon a specific nation (China) for their sins. When such things happen, they don't happen because of particular sins, but because of man's rebellion. It is humanity as a whole who has rebelled against God and it is a fallen nature that is deserving of such punishments. We are a fallen people living in a fallen world. As such, we will be punished, sometimes as now with illness and disasters that kill many and that change people's lives in drastic ways.

What is the ultimate reason for these types of events? Simply this: God brings judgment upon a rebellious world, but He also does it because of His incomprehensible mercy. It may sound counter intuitive to say that it is God's mercy that leads Him to punish His creation. But in doing so He is seeking the attention of a world that has gone its own way. Such events have a tendency to focus people's minds and to look above for their redemption. It is in such times, that God works in very visible ways in the hearts of men to bring about their conversion. If this event passes, whenever by the mercy of God it does, without people coming to their senses like the prodigal and turning to the God who alone can save, it will be truly tragic.

For those of us who believe, it is imperative to know that this is not some sort of chance occurrence. God is not in heaven wringing His hands wondering how this all came about and how He can stop it. That is the helpless god of the atheist (and, sadly, some believers). Our God, the true God, is the God who "creates light and darkness" and who is completely in control of all things, good or bad, that take place. And the things that come upon the earth do so because God is working His purposes, always good, through them. Never do we have to fear that God is incapable of accomplishing His purposes because man, the devil, events or any other thing get in the way. 

In the middle ages, the great plague epidemic killed by some estimates up to half of the population of Europe. As is the case with the current viral spread, people at the time did not have a good understanding of just how the disease spread. Today, it is believed that it spread through flea bites, something that seems nearly impossible today given our level of knowledge and hygiene. But culture survived and we have been surviving for more than 500 years since. As Luther requested, God did protect many, including people such as Ulrich Zwingli who ministered to those who were ill while remaining healthy himself. Other believers, however, succumbed to the illness and were ushered into the presence of the Lord. Through it all, the one thing we need to have always before our eyes is that, like David, when we have "served the purpose of God in [our] generation, [we will fall] asleep" (Acts 13:36).

Today, if you are a believer, rejoice in the fact that your Father watches over you and will never abandon you (Matthew 28:20). If you are not, then cry out for mercy because the problems that we are witnessing are but a tiny part of the troubles that will afflict your soul if you do not repent. "It is a fearful thing to fall in the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).


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