“You shall have no other gods before Me.” – Exodus 20:3
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. – I John 5:21
The book of Jeremiah contains the writings of the “weeping prophet,” who was routinely ignored and persecuted as he tried time and again to warn the people of the coming judgment for their blatant unfaithfulness to their God (idolatry). The book of Lamentations follows, written during the nightmare of the siege of Jerusalem, just before the Babylonian Empire defeated Israel once and for all, carrying them away into captivity. Sadly, Jeremiah suffered along with everyone else when the starvation was so severe that people were eating their own children. I’m sure it gave him no pleasure to say “I told you so.”
How could a loving God allow such horrors? Good question.
Another good question would be, How could Israel abandon the Lord and worship idols after all He had done for them? He had freed them from slavery in Egypt, opening up the Red Sea, feeding them supernaturally in the wilderness, conquering nations far bigger than they, and giving them the “land flowing with milk and honey”? For centuries God pleaded with His people to come back to Him, sending one prophet after another to warn them of the consequences of their disobedience. But time and again God’s people turned to the idols of the nations they had conquered, preferring the false prophets who assured them that all was well, believing that God either didn’t see their sin or didn’t care. Finally, through the Babylonians, the nation was defeated and scattered, even as the Lord promised He would bring them back someday. (Notably, although Israel has sinned in various ways like any other nation, since the Babylonian siege she never again returned to idolatry.)
Sunday our pastor delivered a message on line centered around the Exodus, especially regarding the ten plagues God sent to Egypt. He pointed out that every plague was a blow to a false god. One by one, Egypt’s deities were attacked, including the gods of the Nile, frogs, the earth, the fly, the bull. The last two plagues were three days of darkness, attacking the sun god, and finally, the death of the first born, even the first born of Pharaoh, who considered himself a god.
In preparing for the last plague, the Israelites were told to stay in their homes. (Sound familiar?) To protect their own firstborn, they were to sacrifice a lamb without defect and place its blood on the sides and tops of the doorframe – a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who centuries later would be slaughtered to save us from the slavery of sin. Those who believe in Him will be saved from eternal death.
That afternoon, I received a timely email with yet another perspective of the Corona virus, seemingly taken right out of the Old Testament:
“In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, “you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don’t want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can’t go to church”
“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 will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Maybe we don’t need a vaccine, Maybe we need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of the world and have a personal revival where we focus on the ONLY thing in the world that really matters. Jesus.”
While I am not saying that every word of this “prophecy” is true for everyone, it has been “food for thought.” America certainly has many examples of idolatry today. We have allowed the preborn to be slaughtered by the millions in the name of “freedom of choice.” While we have decried the proliferation of human trafficking, we’ve ignored its connection to the porn industry, which we have allowed into our movie theaters, and even into our homes via television. We have worshiped the rich and famous, devouring every bit of gossip about them that we can get our hands on, while ignoring the true heroes, those who minister to the poor, the sick, and the oppressed.
Do I believe everyone in America deserves what is happening to us? No, other than the fact that without Jesus we are all hopeless sinners. There are many in this country who have remained faithful to the Lord in the midst of the evil all around them. But I have no reason to believe that they won’t suffer along with the rest, as Jeremiah did.
Is the Corona virus the work of a loving God? I don’t believe so. But Scripture is clear that nothing happens without God’s knowledge and permission. So, why is He allowing it?
Is it a loving thing for a parent to yell at his child and yank him so hard that he dislocates the child’s shoulder? That depends. Was the child just being annoying, or was he ignoring the parent and running into the path of an oncoming semi?
For centuries Israel ignored the warnings of God, running headlong toward spiritual (eternal) destruction.
When times are hard Scripture shows God disciplining His children, destroying His enemies, or both. Israel was eventually gathered again, even becoming a nation. Egypt has never again been a major world power. The mighty empires of Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and Rome all have disappeared.
How we apply this to ourselves depends on where we stand with Him. The hard truth is, He will do whatever it takes to bring back His wandering children. We can make it easy on ourselves, or we can make it hard.
Right now His children should bear a striking “family resemblance.” When others are suffering, Christians should stand out as the most generous, loving people on the planet. But there also comes a time when we must have the courage to speak the truth in love. After all, what’s loving about letting a child run out into the street when a semi is barreling his way?
Prayer: Lord, as Your children, help us to reflect Your heart – a heart of both holiness and grace. Help us to speak the truth in love, even when it is hard, in Jesus’ name, Amen.