Summary: The title is 'God responds to sin and oppression'. That's a very basic thing to understand in our process of thinking about coronavirus! Not only that, God responds to sin and oppression in an appropriate way. The plagues of Egypt show us this.
We’re looking at three questions. Is coronavirus a judgement from God? Are we living in end times? And, what does the Bible say about COVID-19? Today we’ll look at some general principles about how God responds to a situation he doesn’t like.
1 Kings 6:1 tells us that ‘In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign … he began to build the house of the Lord.’ This verse allows us to estimate the date of the Exodus to around 1445 or 1446 BC. That year, God rescued the Israelites from slavery, but to do so he brought judgement on the Egyptians. A great year for the Israelites, but not such a great year for the Egyptians.
On 12 April the Guardian [a UK newspaper] ran an article with the headline, ‘US’s global reputation hits rock-bottom over Trump’s coronavirus response’. The same day, Bill Gates was interviewed by the BBC. He said, ‘Few countries will get an A-grade for what that scrambling looked like’ (talking about their response to coronavirus).
Leaders have to respond to changing situations. Some do well, some don’t do so well. God also responds to what he sees happening in the world. He saw that his people – the Israelites – were enslaved and suffering. How did he respond?
In Azerbaijan I taught English for a time. When you teach English to non-native speakers it’s often useful to teach ‘collocations.’ That means, words that are often found as pairs. For example, ‘fast food’ is a collocation, so is ‘pay attention’. I wondered what collocations there are for ‘response’. The seven adjectives that are most often paired with ‘response’ are ‘immune’, ‘emotional’, ‘positive’, ‘appropriate’, ‘correct’, ‘immediate’, and ‘quick’.
Are these adjectives characteristic of God’s response to the Israelites’ situation in Egypt?
What about emotional? God told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings … I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them” (Exodus 3:7). God is not unfeeling, like a chess computer!
What about appropriate? Have you ever wondered why there were 10 plagues? God was giving the Egyptians every chance to comply with what he was demanding.
What about immediate and quick? Hmm, there’s an interesting one! Doesn’t God’s response seem rather slow? The Israelites were obviously slaves for some time. In fact, in Genesis 15:13 God tells Abraham that his descendants would be ‘sojourners in a land that is not theirs and … will be afflicted for four hundred years.’ Why so slow, God? This morning my wife and I read the first half of Psalm 103. Verse 10 says, ‘He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities’. God doesn’t rush to execute judgement. It isn’t a nice thing to do.
God responds to what he sees happening in the world. He judges. He has to. It isn’t my job to judge God’s response. But perhaps it’s OK for me to say: ‘God, I for one am very happy with the way you responded in that situation.’
Have a good day!