None of These Diseases
So much has changed for us within the last month. We are a community trying to figure out how to connect with one another when everyone is told to stay home. Technology offers us some alternative means of communication, but virtual reality is a far cry from the face to face of genuine reality. All of us are having what amounts to an extended snow-day, a chance to stay home and start, or finish, those projects that we have had on our to-do list for a long time. The only difficulty is that we aren’t real sure when the home stay will be lifted, and there is the lurking fear of catching the dreaded coronavirus. How do we adjust and maintain our sanity and our faith?
As I pondered what to write this month in our monthly newsletter, I began to think of the way God in the Bible used social discomforts and diseases and even plagues to achieve his ends. It seemed an appropriate topic to muse on in the midst of our own pandemic.
The primary story of plagues is recorded in the book of Exodus, chapters 8-12. These were the tools God used to convince the Pharaoh of Egypt to let the Children of Israel go. They were slaves in Egypt, in bondage to the whim of their masters. But God heard their cry and sent Moses to lead them out into a freedom of worship. Now none of the plagues were described as viruses in the sense that we understand the term today, but they were called diseases. There were ten of them in all, following one after another in a rather logical progression of a natural cause and effect pattern. The flooding of the Nile produced the blood red color which drove the frogs out of the water and onto the land where they died. Mosquitoes bred in large numbers in these damp conditions. Flies were attracted to the dead frogs that were piled in heaps. Both of these insects are known to carry diseases and perhaps did so first to the livestock and then to the people who developed boils. The remaining plagues describe the effects of a severe hailstorm that destroyed the crops, followed by an infestation of locust which ate what was left, and finally without plant life to hold the soil a sandstorm blanketed the country in darkness. All of this and still Pharaoh refused to see the hand of God. So God sent the angel of death who killed the firstborn throughout the land.
All of these except the last one, had a scientifically explainable cause. The miraculous element in them was that they happened
on cue by the word of God through Moses. He declared when they would start and when they would end. Now Scripture stories are told for their meaning and application. The Bible is a revelational book about relationship with God. In it disease is always a symbol of som
ething gone wrong. Sickness and death are results of mankind’s sin. This is taught in the first lesson of the Bible in Genesis 3. We do not live in the world God intended, the perfect one he declared as good. Instead we are in a fallen, sinful environment where relationships are frayed and broken, an
d the earth itself seems to rise up against us. And yet, even here God can use the natural effects of life to instruct us in the way life should be.
The Israelites were instructed to celebrate it annually as the Passover festival (Exodus 12). And the New Testament brings this lesson home to us when Jesus, God’s only Son, bears in his body the sins of the world and dies on the cross. This occurred at the time of the Passover celebration as all the Gospels record.
Jesus, identified by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), is also referred to by the Apostle Paul in similar terms. He writes, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival…with the bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
Now I am not saying that the coronavirus can be traced back to one person’s specific sin, or that all who get sick are being punished by God for what they have done. There is a natural aspect to all of this that the doctors and epidemiologists can track scientifically. Yet there is a component beyond the material that is also in play. We live in a spiritual world and are spiritual beings created by God.
And just as the historian cannot provide all the necessary information, neither can the research scientist, the medical community or the pharmacists. The psychologist recognizes that there is an emotional component to both disease and to healing and the religious see the need fo
r a spiritual connection. And we as Christians with our Bibles open before us are called to ponder the meaning of life and death, of sickness and health, and of the Creator and his claim upon all of life.
I do not have specific answers for individual issues. But I do offer to you these words of Scripture written after Israel escaped from Egypt and the plagues that were a part of their last days there. They gathered in the desert to worship. They sang together the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-21). God provided for them water to drink (Exodus 15:22-25), and then Moses spoke the word of God to them:
If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if
you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the
diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD who heals you. (Exodus 15:26)
This is not a promise that none of us will get the coronavirus. We are not given some kind of blanket immunity because w
e are Christians. All of us get sick and all of us will one day die. But we have no fear of death for Christ has died for us. We have an assurance that nothing in life or death can “sepa
rate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). We then can face this time of national and international disease with a full awareness that Easter is coming. The Christ who suffered and died rose from the grave!
The questions for us as Christians are spiritual ones. What is the meaning and purpose of life? What are the practical ramifications of God revealing to us that we were created body, soul and spirit? How should I respond to this crisis in a way that cares properly for not just my body but also for my soul and spirit? What are my responsibilities to others around me and how can I fulfill them in these times of isolation?
As we ponder these questions in our own homes we can still sing. I encourage you to sing the chorus based on the Song of Moses in Exodus 15. The words are at the end of this article complete with the Easter edition. And as we approach the season of Easter we can remind ourselves of the hopeful words from one of our present day prophets, Tony Campolo. He said with reference to the events of Good Friday, “It’s Friday, Sunday’s coming!”
I usually end these articles with the words, “See you in Worship.” I’m not sure when our next Worship Service will b
e but we will certainly let everyone know when it is safe to assemble again on a Sunday morning. Until then we are posting a daily Psalm reading and prayer on the church website and a video each Sunday morning. So until we see each other again, continue to practice private worship, stay safe, and reach out to others by using the most technological useful tool we all have, prayer. May God keep us all strong.
I Will Sing Unto the Lord
(Chris Bowater, c. 1982 Sovereign Lifestyle, #1063753)
I will sing unto the Lord
for he has triumphed gloriously,
the horse and rider are thrown into the sea. (2x)
(Easter version for the last line:
the grave is empty, won’t you come and see.)
The Lord, my God, my strength and song,
is now become my victory. (2x)
The Lord is God and I will praise him.
My father’s God, and I will exalt him. (2x)
 You can listen to an excerpt of this address on YouTube by typing in mhommer123 and scrolling down for “It’s Friday But Sunday’s Coming.” It is well worth the 3 minutes.