We can hardly turn on our TV, look at our phones, talk to a friend, or engage in any other forms of news or social media without someone talking about the pandemic caused by the coronavirus. I’m sure that you and I share concern for our neighbors, for our nation, and for the world community at large. Our hearts break to hear the stories of shortages within the health care systems and of lives being lost to this virus. I know that I am daily praying for the government leaders to have discernment, for the researchers to be given understanding, and for those present on the front lines to be granted grace. I’m confident that you are praying those same prayers. May God have mercy and give us Divine assistance during these difficult days.
By God’s design and by my training, I am a forever Bible student and teacher. Because of this ingrained disposition, I have been meditating upon God’s Word to consider what scripture has to say about a wide-spread pandemic. Pandemic is our currently-applied term. Scripture uses the word plague. Plagues are found throughout recorded biblical history including their causes and their cures. I decided to pen my thoughts. Hopefully, as I discuss God’s precepts, I can help us find a sound footing for our faith and our prayers as we ask God to deliver us from this plague.
Everything began in the condition of good. You remember the Genesis story. God made everything that was created and declared His creation to be “good.” The ground was good; the animals were good; man was good. All things remained in that state until Adam sinned. After man’s transgression, God returned to assess the situation and placed an evaluation upon the status that resulted because of man’s mishandling of that which was under his stewardship and man’s manipulation of the creation over which God had given him charge. Man changed the “good” condition, and God declared that the maltreatment caused things to be cursed. God, as judge, announced the resultant condition or the state of affairs. God’s announcement did not cause the curse. Man’s trespass caused the curse. Remember that Adam and Eve were naked. God did not strip them of their glory. Their actions negated their glory. Their flesh was already exposed. God evaluated and declared the results of man’s actions.God’s judgment enforced the sanctions that man’s actions merited.
From that first narrative, the scriptures proceed on the basic axiom that obeying God and working in the earth from the reality of God’s Word causes the earth to be “good” or blessed. Juxtaposed to that is the reality that Adam discovered: working in the earth from a reality contrary to God’s Word causes the earth to be damaged or cursed. This axiom is reinforced many places within the scriptures, including Proverbs 26:2, which states “the curse causeless shall not come.” That cause is man’s disregard of the operational manual, which is God’s Word. God created everything so God knows the nature, purpose, and design of all He made. God gave to man the information man would need to work with the created order without introducing disorder, abuse, and destruction. Probably one of the most well-known and often-quoted passages on the subject of blessing and cursing is found in Deuteronomy 28 where scripture makes clear that obedience to God’s word is distinctively connected to the releasing of “good” and blessings and that disobedience is specifically tied to discharging of the injurious and curses.
One of the curses outlined in the Deuteronomy 28:58-62 is the plague, describing a wide-spread disease or a contagious sickness that affects many people. The Hebrew word for plague is naga, which literally means to touch and can be translated smite, strike, or violently touch. The transmittable nature of a plague is communicated by the choice of the word naga. Several stories in scripture reveal how non-biblical actions were directly connected to the release of a plague.
One prominent story is found when Israel was crossing the dessert on her way to the Promised Land. Numbers 22-25 tell of a time when Balak, the king of Moab, hired a prophet named to Balaam to pronounce a curse upon Israel. This tale is famous for the talking donkey who tried to stop the prophet. Much to the anger of the king, the prophet was not able to curse. In Numbers 23:8, Balaam states, “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?” Apart from actions done in contradiction to God’s Word, the “curse causeless shall not come.” Balaam’s word could not release the curse. Only Israel’s disobedience could.
When Balaam failed to merit the promised wage, he departed; but Israel pitched camp near the Moabites and “began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1). Then “Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor; and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (25:3). A plague broke out among the people and 24,000 died of the plague. The curse of a plague was released thought the rebellious acts of the people. A priest named Phinehas, who was the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the high priest, took action in behalf of the people to make atonement for the sins.
Earlier in Israel’s history, the people rebelled against Moses and Aaron. Numbers 16 tells that story. The murmurings released a plague that took the lives of 14,700. In this story, Aaron arose and took a censer and fire from the altar and released incense. Verse 47 states that Arron made an atonement for the people. In the Balaam story and in this story, the plague was stopped because someone fulfilled a priestly duty to make atonement. We can see a pattern emerge.
Another famous story is found in 2 Samuel 24 and is also recorded in 1 Chronicles 21. King David had disobeyed God’s Word. Again, a plague was released that resulted in the deaths of 10,000. The outbreak had spread from Dan to Beersheba and was at Jerusalem. Over the threshing floor of a man named Araunah, the Lord stopped the spread. King David was instructed by the prophet Gad to raise up an altar to the Lord at that spot. David bought the land from Araunah and bought the animals for the sacrifice. David made atonement. The land, which was on Mt. Moriah, became the site where Solomon later built his temple. Interestingly, the site was also the spot where Abraham was willing to offer his son in sacrifice. The altar of Abraham, the altar of David, and the altar of Solomon were altars of atonement.
The principle becomes apparent: atonement stops the spread of the plague. Remember Passover where the blood of the atoning lamb stayed the death angel. Recall when Moses lifted up the brazen serpent on the poll (Numbers 21) to stay the plague. Note that Jesus stated in John 3:14-15 that His destiny was to be the fulfillment of Moses’ actions. He was to be lifted up on a pole or on a cross to stay the plague of death, to atone for the sins of a people, to stand between life and death. The Apostle Paul confirms the effectiveness of Christ’s atoning work in Galatians 3:13, which states, “Christ redeemed us from the curse …”.
People sin. All people disobey God’s Word at one point or another. People groups sin. Nations disobey. Mishandling of the earth distorts it, destroys it, damages it. Application of other principles contrary to God’s “good” principles releases curses not blessings. Plagues testify that earth managers have failed in their assignment to release heaven’s reality into earthly labors. But there is an answer. When a man who will function in his priestly capacity is willing to activate the principle of atonement, the plague can be stayed. The ultimate priest is Christ, and the definitive atonement is the cross.
As New Testament believers, we are called to be a nation of priests (I Peter 2:9); and we have the authority to apply Christ’s atoning blood to stay the plague (Mt. 16:19). Therefore, we do acknowledge that our nation and all nations have sinned and released perversions and destructions into our earth. We recognize that sin releases the curse and results in death. We offer repentance as we identify with our land and the other inhabitants of our land. We proclaim that Christ’s atonement is sufficient to stay the plague. What Phinehas, Moses, and Aaron did in their day, we activate through Christ and His atoning sacrifice in our day. May the plague be turned back! May the hearts of men be turned to God! “If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron.7:14). Amen and amen!