Coronavirus & What God is Doing
Paul Dean Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog
- 2020 Mar 24
We have questions. How dangerous is COVID-19? How far will it go? How effective is social distancing and the other drastic measures that have been imposed? Is the cost of shutting down public gatherings, restaurants, bars, and the like, resulting in businesses closing, massive lay-offs, the disappearance of personal savings, bankruptcies, supply chain derailments, and a lot more, or is the cost of simply taking ordinary precautions and letting the virus run its course greater? Knowing how viruses work and what COVID-19 is, some medical experts say the steps we’ve taken will actually make matters worse. Is that right or wrong, and how do we know?
And yet, there is still a more important question: a question of ultimate significance. What is God up to? None of this has taken Him by surprise. He’s doing something and we’d do well to ponder that.
God Is Sovereign
God is absolutely sovereign over all things including COVID-19, the economic disaster to come, and those actors who’ve added to the misery in one way or another. "If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it (Amos 3:6)?" This simple truth may shock the sensibilities of some, but who would want to worship a God who is not sovereign? God’s sovereignty does not negate His goodness and grace. His sovereignty is simply a fact. He governs all things, including our current situation. Isaiah agrees with Amos and could not be more clear when he quotes God Himself: "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things (Isa. 45:7)." At the same time, Amos refers to a trumpet of warning. There is no doubt the Lord of all creation has many purposes in mind with a calamity of this nature and magnitude.
Sanctifying His People
First, God is no doubt sanctifying His people. We can say this with certainty as the Scripture says, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers (Rom. 8:28-29)." Paul affirms that all things work for the good of believers. He then defines that good as being conformed to the image of God's Son that He might be glorified. Many believers are suffering and will suffer. While the situation itself is not good, the Lord will indeed work it for their good. That is His promise.
Demonstrating His Power
Second, it is possible that COVID-19 was sent as a demonstration of God’s power before wicked men, whether the virus itself is a greater threat than other seasonal viruses or whether the virus was used to manufacture a crisis. God superintends over it all. In Ex. 9:14 we read, "For at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth." When men shake their fists in the face of God, He sometimes moves in a mighty way to remind them of who is King. His word is clear on this point. He wants men to know that there is none like Him in all the earth.
Exalting His Name
Third, the Lord may have desired the exaltation of His Name in all the earth. God exists for His own glory and does what He does for His own glory. He alone deserves glory and honor and worship and praise and must have such in order to be true to His character. If He did not demand such, He would not be God, or He would be an idolater. As God, He cannot give up His glory, or He would not be God. Nor can He glorify another, for that would be to give glory to something that did not deserve glory which would be idolatry. God cannot fail to glorify Himself, as His character exudes glory. Thus, His glory, His reputation, and/or His Name, must be exalted in all the earth. That is why God says to Pharaoh, "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (Ex. 9:16). The God of Heaven above and the earth beneath sent the plagues on Egypt in Pharaoh’s day, and He sent the plagues of viral and economic disaster in our day that His Name might be exalted in all the earth.
Bringing Temporal Judgment
Fourth, is it possible that God has brought temporal judgment on a wicked country in particular, or the whole world, or perhaps even the church as part of her chastening? While we must be careful not to make statements of possibility into fact, and while we must not think that any particular people deserve punishment any more than any other human being lost or saved, we may say that it is possible that God brought temporal judgment for certain reasons. Peter warns us: "[God turned] the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, He condemned them with an overthrow, setting an example to men intending to live ungodly (2 Pet. 2:6)." Conditions of this magnitude are an example to those who intend to live ungodly lives.
What about believers in hard-hit areas or circumstances? Some were like Lot. "And He delivered righteous Lot, oppressed with the lustful behavior of the lawless. For that righteous one living among them, in seeing and hearing, his righteous soul was tormented from day to day with their unlawful deeds (2 Pet. 2:7-8)." And others were like some of the saints listed in Hebrews 11 who “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings; yes, more, of bonds and imprisonments. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented (36-37)." This text is a call to faith regardless of the state of affairs. Our problem is that we so often fail to take God seriously, even in the church.
Highlighting His Grace
Fifth, by these events, God certainly affords us an opportunity to put the grace and power of Christ on display through ministry. Our Lord gives us that opportunity both for our sake and the sake of those to whom we minister. Jesus said, "For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me (Matt. 25:35-36)." At the same time, as noted, His glory is on display. There are and will be countless opportunities to share the love of Christ both now and in the coming days. At least part of what God intends is that people would fear Him that they might get a sense of their own lost and helpless condition, fly to Christ, and be saved.
Sign up free for "True Worldview News," a weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting relevant news stories affecting Christians. Dr. Dean’s comments on selected stories along with editorials are included. The newsletter also features True Worldview, a twice-weekly podcast hosted by Dr. Dean and his daughter, Christi Johnson.