What is God Doing in This COVID-19 Pandemic?
This question may seem broad considering the countless situations surrounding our individual lives, not to mention its global effect on mankind. Therefore, a broad answer may be, “God is doing many/countless things.” In our lives as individuals, as we continue through these times, we, as Christians, should be noticing what God is doing in and through us. Maybe God is purging us of self-made idols. Perhaps God is teaching us to be more frugal with our finances or teaching us about wants versus needs, or maybe He is helping us to appreciate and not take for granted the assembling of believers for corporate worship. All of these things and many more are definitely true, but if we want a proper perspective and worldview on this situation, we need not look further than what God has said and done throughout history. The answer can be found on the pages of Holy Scripture.
The answer to this question can be seen in many stories and instruction given to us in the Bible. The general answer which all others fall under is: “In times of crisis in humanity, God is working judgment and salvation.”
If we consider the first crisis known on the pages of Scripture, we can observe this truth. Adam and Eve found themselves in the crisis of the fall. They disobeyed God and the result was, God judged Adam and Eve along with mankind, yet He provided covering for them rather than sudden death and pronounced the Gospel that the woman’s seed would crush the head of the serpent. Judgment and salvation.
We could also consider the Exodus. Through the ten plagues and the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, God brought judgment on the Egyptian pagans while at the same time He saved His people Israel leading them out of slavery and eventually into the promised land.
There are a plethora of stories demonstrating this fact in the Bible. But, possibly one of the most condensed illuminations of this truth is found in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a prophet that lived at the end of the 7th century BC. He lived through the great spiritual reform in the nation of Judah (Israel’s southern kingdom) led by King Josiah, one of the godliest kings in Old Testament times. Following King Josiah’s death, his son Jehoahaz replaced him as king and led the people of Israel back into pagan idolatry. Habakkuk is distraught and cries out to God to clean up the people, “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2).
Speaking of his experience among the Israelites in Judah he says, “…plundering and violence are before me; there is strife and contention arises. Therefore, the law is powerless and justice never goes forth” (1:3-4).
Habakkuk sees the sin of the people all around Him and knows that the just God, Yahweh, must judge in this situation to set things right. Habakkuk desires spiritual reform like brought under King Josiah, but God’s answer is that He will judge Judah by the Babylonians, the most ruthless nation known in that day. This leaves Habakkuk perplexed in crisis. God will judge the sin of Judah but not how Habakkuk expected. There will be difficult times, bondage, Israelites will likely lose everything they own, they will lose family and possibly their own lives. Sound familiar? Amidst the seemingly bad news and upcoming crisis, Habakkuk is reminded that the God of just judgment is also the God of merciful salvation. The Lord tells Habakkuk, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him, but the just shall live by his faith” (2:4).
Habakkuk is reminded by this statement that the God of mercy has promised to save those who have faith in him. There will come a day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (2:14). God’s ways are everlasting (3:6). God has proven His mercy over and over again as He went forth for the salvation of [His] people (3:13). Habakkuk closes his short book with a pledge that even though everything around him falls apart and times get seemingly hopeless, [he] will rejoice in the Lord, [he] will joy in the God of [his] salvation (3:18). Habakkuk pledges to trust God in the worst of crisis.
As we look back at this event as it took place in history, we can also observe what took place following Habakkuk’s exile. Within years after this prophecy is believed to have been pinned (605-586 BC), Judah was completely taken captive by the Babylonians. We don’t know exactly what took place with Habakkuk, but Judah experienced this great crisis. But well known to us from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the remnant of God’s people returned to Jerusalem. So, we can look at this event in past history, with specifics of this event recorded in Scripture, and observe God’s judgment over the wicked and His merciful salvation of His people.
In times of crisis, there is certainly confusion, heartache, perplexity, etc. But when we are down, we are vulnerable and possibly very open to the things of God. God is just and will set things right, whether partially now or all in the end, but God is also merciful and patient with sinners that they may repent and turn to Him (2 Peter 3:9). We have the privilege of living 2000 years after the cross. The cross is the greatest example of God’s judgment and salvation simultaneously being demonstrated in one event. In the cross God placed His righteous judgment for the sin of all who would believe on His perfect Son, removing our guilt and penalty. While doing this, He simultaneously placed His mercy on us and saved us from His just wrath. Consider the crisis that this was to all of Jesus’ followers that lived through His crucifixion. They had to be heartbroken and bewildered. But in just 3 days, they experienced joy unthinkable, the resurrection.
In this crisis, we have a sure hope, the hope of the resurrection of our bodies (Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 15). So, as you consider all that surrounds you at this time, be joyful of your standing in the Lord and promise of eternal life. Also, be sensitive to those around you who don’t know Him. Share the glorious gospel and call them to salvation. Then and only then can they be comforted and rest in God working in judgment and salvation during COVID-19.