For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence (Ps 91:3).
The fear that Covid-19 has caused around the world is (pardon the pun) at fever-pitch! Reactions in every quarter are over the top. Instead of determining the national championship in college basketball by letting the players play and televising the games for the fans (minimizing social contact) the NCAA canceled all sports! Other sports organizations did the same. Fear dominates the scene, even though we have the best medical care in the world and few will contract the virus and far fewer will have any serious complications. The situation reminds me of Proverbs 28:1 where people “flee when no one is pursuing.” (Dare I say that the subject in this verse is “the wicked”?) But, for many, the fear is real.
Since the news is dominated by the reactions to this virus, we are beginning to see people questioning the source as a new angle for reporting. Is it just a flu-like virus gone rogue, just as we experience every year? Some are starting to theorize that it could be a biological attack from the Chinese who were angry over the sanctions that have been imposed upon them by the United States. What I have not heard is that this is a judgment from God Himself. Of course, that would be immediately dismissed by the politically correct who deny that a God of love is capable of judgment.
I looked up the word “pestilence” in the Scripture. I found there the comforting passage quoted above in Psalm 91, but I also found that well more than half of the references in Scripture are in Jeremiah and Ezekiel where they refer to pestilence as a judgment. Neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel were concerned about the pagan nations of their world. The judgment of pestilence was upon Judah and Israel that had been given God’s Truth in the many prophets that God had sent to them, but who had been summarily ignored. Pestilence also was part of the judgment for those who prophesied (preached) falsely, preachers that gave their hearers ideas that they had dreamed up but which the LORD had not sanctioned.
If it has done nothing else, the fear that has gripped the world over this virus has demonstrated how frail and vulnerable human beings really are. There ARE things that are beyond us, outside of our control. And, even when this virus has been fully contained, another is destined to come. We need the perspective of CS Lewis who wrote, “It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty” (On Living in an Atomic Age). If this scare awakens us to the certainty of our mortality, it will have done mankind a real SERVICE.
The confidence of the Psalmist is conditioned upon “dwelling in the presence of the Most High” and “abiding in the shadow of the Almighty.” That Psalmist saw the LORD as his “refuge.” The confidence of this generation in the midst of this virus-scare will also be conditioned upon our individual response to trusting in the LORD. Whether the origin of this is natural or man-made; whether we view this as a judgment of God or not, the proper response — in addition to discretion and good hygiene — is to begin or deepen one’s relationship to Christ. Since many are asked to self-quarantine, this is a good opportunity to find a quiet place to meet Him.
If we, in faith, will turn back to Him, trusting Him when others are fearful, the LORD makes this promise to us at the end of this psalm: “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him securely on high because he has known My name. He will call upon Me and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him behold My salvation” (Ps. 91:14-16, NASB).