Meditations for Troubled Times
Jonah and Corona: Disobey God, and You'll End up in Deep Water
Jonah is the well-known prophet who was directed by God to communicate a divine word of warning to the pagan people of Nineveh. Shocked that he would be called to preach repentance to those who were mortal enemies of his people, Jonah refused. Instead of going east to Nineveh, he went to the seacoast city of Joppa and boarded a ship bound for the city of Tarshish, roughly 2,300 miles west across the Mediterranean.
And we know what happened. The LORD caused a life-threatening, ship-destroying storm to imperil the ship and its crew. Jonah ultimately confessed his colossal disobedience, and, to spare everyone on board, he told them to throw him into the sea. Jonah's act of disobedience had extraordinary implications.
When the coronavirus roared through the continents, physicians and politicians rushed to look for medical remedies and social strategies.
And we know what happened. Hundreds of thousands have been diagnosed, economies have been crippled, and people have been confined to their homes.
An important question for all people affected by the coronavirus is this: as with Jonah, is obedience to God (or the lack of it) an issue at work with respect to the virus? Is COVID-19 an act of divine judgment on populations of people? If this is true, then this truth has extraordinary implications for millions of people.
Of course, theories abound concerning COVID-19 and its effect on people and their paychecks. Is it nothing other than the flu on steroids? Has the pharmaceutical industry manufactured a crisis so that it may develop and sell vaccines? Is the coronavirus a subversive act of bioterrorism? Has the government overreacted in the shelter-in-place orders? Or is COVID-19 a real, serious, life-threatening virus that is dangerously infectious to people of all ages? Or could it be an occasion in which the King of Kings has exercised a judicial act of judgment on men and women of all nations?
In Ezekiel 22, the prophet was called to declare judgment against the people of God in the southern kingdom. Ezekiel looked at the prophets who saw false visions and declared lies to the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord God, when the LORD has not spoken.” He saw the work of the priests who had “made no distinction between the holy and the common” nor “taught the difference between the unclean and the clean,” and disregarded the sabbaths. The princes of the land were “like wolves tearing their prey, shedding blood, and destroying lives to get dishonest gain.” And the people—those whom the prophets were to guide, the priests were to teach, and the princes were to protect—the people practiced extortion, committed robbery, and oppressed the poor. To these—prophets, priests, princes, and people—the LORD said, “I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30).
Where are those men who will “stand in the breach” before the LORD in our day? Why is there silence from key spiritual leaders who should be crying out to God to “forgive our sin and heal our land” (2 Chronicles 7:14)? The silence is deafening.
The writer of the Chronicles not only wrote this call to corporate confession, but also he made this bold declaration: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are totally dedicated to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Where are the men who will build the wall and stand in the breach?