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Many churches are rising to the occasion and ministering to their communities and showing the love of Christ during the COVID-19 crisis. We applaud them and are doing the same. But what about our response to the Lord Himself? Do we trust Him and His sovereignty? Can we trust Him to bring some good out of this horrible virus? Can we partner with Him in using the virus to bring people back to Himself?
After all, that was often the main point when hardship came upon God’s people. Consider the words of the Lord in Amos Chapter 4:
“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months way…yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
“Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt….yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
Many times in the Bible God either sent or allowed hardship to come upon people so that they might wake up and repent of their sins and turn to Him. Why should it be any different now? Why are we so focused on getting through the crisis instead of turning to God in the midst of the crisis? Why are we pointing people towards temporary fixes when what they need is eternal life? Why are we afraid to call our culture to repentance when it is so obvious that we have strayed so far away from God and His precepts?
A few months ago, the Lord brought my attention to a verse in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
A little background; this is God speaking to Solomon after the awesome experience of the dedication of the magnificent temple, when the Israelites had seen God's glory and been in His presence. After a time like that, you would think that no one would ever waver in their faith and turn away from God, right? However, God knew that the Israelites would do exactly that. They would turn away from God and serve other gods, specifically, the gods of the people who surrounded them, the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Edomites, etc.
This verse seems to be saying that when difficulties come to a nation (or nations), God is not blindsided by them or sitting by helplessly watching as the forces of evil run amuck. No, He is actually allowing those things to happen, in hopes that His people will have the appropriate response to the events that will lead them back to Himself, and keep them from further judgment.
I read the passage above over and over for some time, and in response, the Lord impressed on me several things that He was asking me to do.
My hope is that we will not waste this opportunity, and that like Esther, we would be agents of that deliverance for the people around us. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:13, the people of the world don't have the same hope we have, which should make those of us who believe fear less in the face of disaster and possible death. No, we will one day be with Him and all this uncertainty and sorrow will be like last night's bad dream. Instead of responding with the same fear and anxiety the world is demonstrating right now, we can be fasting, praying, seeking the Lord and identifying and grieving over our sin, both individually and corporately. I believe the Lord is calling us to this. The question is, will we listen and obey?
If we do, the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14b will be fulfilled. God will hear from heaven and will forgive our sins and heal our land. I believe we will also see Isaiah 58 fulfilled. I encourage you to read the entire chapter, but to quote verse 8: "….your healing will quickly appear, and your light will break forth like the dawn... "
Amen! May all the Lord's people hear His word at this critical time.
COVID-19 has captured the world's attention and altered our daily lives. How should we as churches and church leaders respond?
Read the verses below and let the Spirit lead your thoughts:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (1 Chronicles 7:13-14)
If you are like me, what immediately leaps out to me is the promise is that if God’s people repent, then they will receive forgiveness and healing. And yet here we are in the midst of a worldwide plague and God’s people, represented by church leaders everywhere, are rarely leading people to repentance. Instead, we are encouraging hand-washing, debating whether or not to hold services, and claiming the promises of God for people who hardly know Him and rarely serve Him. And while there have been many calls for prayer, most of the prayer is along the lines of “Bless us and protect us Lord…” rather than “Forgive us and heal us, Lord, for we have fallen away from you…”
Let’s pray together today: “Father, forgive us for we have fallen away from you. Our nation is no longer known as a Christian nation, but as a people who pollute the world with pornography, kill our unborn babies, and live for our own pleasures. Deliver us from our blatant materialism and our love for the things of this world. Bring us back to Yourself. Use COVID-19 and whatever else it takes to bring us back to You….” (continue praying)