God’s Chastisement on an Unrepentant Nation

According to news releases, COVID-19 is on the rise with the government and medical field warning people to take caution, by wearing mask, avoid large crowds, stay home, do not have family Thanksgiving gatherings, etc. According to our government, Coronavirus is afflicting more people and killing thousands who have underling conditions. According to virusncov.com to date there have been 254,311 Coronavirus deaths thus far (November 18, 2020). As of November 05, 2020, according to Wikipedia the United States has had 9,607,336 cases with a 2.4% death rate. The year 2020 has been a year of breeding mistrust towards the news media, government and the medical field. In Deuteronomy chapter 28:20 one of the cruses promised to a nation who disobeys God is confusion. The Hebrew word for “confusion” (מְהוּמָה mehûmāh) can mean panic, disturbance, turmoil, trouble or vexation. (Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 576). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.; Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship; Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.; Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.; Weber, C. P. (1999). 486 הוּם. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 212). Chicago: Moody Press.)

In fact, most will tell you it is hard to trust the media and government in the handling and reporting of the present pandemic we are in. There seems to be some confusion (מְהוּמָה mehûmāh -vexation) on which test can be trusted to give accurate results and confusion (מְהוּמָה mehûmāh – vexation) on the passing away of people from COVID-19. Many are wondering, did they really pass away from COVID-19 or are they just being labeled as being a victim of Coronavirus and really dying of something else? There is confusion (מְהוּמָה mehûmāh – vexation) over where or how much funds are being distributed from government resources to battle this pestilence.

As we take a Biblical look at pestilence in the Bible, it must be understood that when someone is afflicted with a disease which has become a pandemic or epidemic, it is not because that person has sinned, they are by-standers of spiritual warfare. It is like this, during war a nation may at some time be bombed – where the bombs have exploded there are by-standers who receive injuries and some people die. This is what is referred to as collateral damage.

What we do know is that the Bible is clear, God holds authority and is Sovereign over any pestilence which may be afflicted upon a nation. Habakkuk tells us, “Before Him [referring to God] went pestilence…” (Habakkuk 3:5 ESV) When the Lord wants to deal with His enemies who refuse to repent or deal His disobedient people, He has struck with pestilence.  – (Barker, K. L. (1999). Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (Vol. 20, p. 363). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers; Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Habakkuk (p. 52). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company; (cf. Exod 5:3; 9:15; Lev 26:25; Num 14:12; Deut 28:21; 2 Sam 24:15; Jer 14:12) as well as “pestilence” (rešep; Deut 32:24).

What is Biblical Pestilence

“Pestilence” (דֶּבֶר deḇer) is a dreaded disease. This word is a dreaded threat of the Lord against His people for disobedience and to a people of a nation which are His enemy. (Lev. 26:25; Num. 14:12; Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 223). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.; Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Habakkuk (p. 52). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)

It is an epidemic or pandemic occurrence of sickness that causes widespread death, often with the associative meaning of judgement from God. (Ex 5:3; 9:3, 15; Lev 26:25; Nu 14:12; Dt 28:21; 2Sa 24:13, 15; 1Ki 8:37; 1Ch 21:12, 14; 2Ch 6:28; 7:13; 20:9; Ps 78:50; 91:3, 6; Jer 14:12; 21:6, 7, 9; 24:10; 27:8, 13; 28:8; 29:17, 18; 32:24, 36; 34:17; 38:2; 42:17, 22; 44:13; Eze 5:12, 17; 6:11, 12; 7:15; 12:16; 14:19, 21; 28:23; 33:27; 38:22; Hos 13:14; Am 4:10; Hab 3:5; Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) God sent pestilence to punish the Israelites for the ongoing idolatry and disobedience. (Deuteronomy 32:24; Jeremiah 42:22) Pestilence can incorporate any public chastisements. (Ezekiel 7:15 ESV)

Pestilence is a form of chastisement brought upon a people of God for neglect of her covenant obligations. (Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:21) The warning of pestilence is a frequent occurrence whenever God is dealing with His people in regard to bringing a covenant lawsuit against them as well as a form of judgement on the enemies of God’s people (Psalm 78:50; Ezekiel 28:23; 38:22). (Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (p. 1015). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)

The Bible records occasions when God brought pestilence on a nation:

First: In 2 Samuel 24:15 (ESV) and 1 Chronicles 21:14 (ESV) we read “So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from morning until the appointed time [which was three days]. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men.”

Second: In Leviticus 26:25 (ESV), under the preoccupy, Punishment for Disobedience we read, “I will send pestilence…”  

Third: In Numbers 14 under the preoccupy, The People Rebel, the Israelites were coming against Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. “The Lord said…, How long will these people treat Me with contempt. How long will they refuse to believe in Me… I will strike them will pestilence…” (Numbers 14:10-12 ESV)  

Fourth: Jesus gives a list of sorrows which in the NIV Bible are under the preoccupy Signs of the End Times. Note: These are things to come before Jesus’ second coming. (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 122). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) The Lord said, “…Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences.” (Luke 21:10-11 ESV)

God has promised chastisements for an unrepentant people, rather they are the hard-hearted children of God or people living according to their fleshly desires, living by a world view or the lies of the devil. The greatest prophet of all time, Jesus Christ, told us of possible judgements which were proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets as well as the New Testament writers. (Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1899). Peabody: Hendrickson.; Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (p. 1015). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)

Jesus says in Luke 21:10, pestilence would be a part of God’s chastisements until the very end. (Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Lk 21:9–11). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.) Jesus is teaching what can be called a prototype. Pestilences have happened in the past and they will happen in our modern times. (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 261). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

In the New Testament, we read of Warnings from Israel’s History, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6 NIV) “These things happened and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

Coronavirus today is a pestilence, a prototype of past national afflictions which can according to Jesus happen again in modern times as well, which will also be a judgement of God in the future. The beloved John, in the Book of Revelation 6:7-8 (ESV) we read, “When He [the Lamb of God, Jesus] opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, an behold, a pale horse! The rider’s name is Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beast of the earth.”   

The fourth living creature was like an eagle (Revelation 4:6-7) implying high soaring intelligence and judgement descending from on high…” (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 568). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.; Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Revelation (p. 186). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)

It must be noted the Greek word for pestilence (Thánatos) in Revelation 6:8 is different than the Greek word Jesus used when He spoke of pestilence (loimós). In the New Bible Commentary (21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1435). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.)  we are told the rider on the pale horse is named Death represents a special kind of death coming trough pestilence. Barclay tells us the Greek word for “pestilence” (Thánatos) in Revelation is used in a double since meaning both death and pestilence. (Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1976). The Revelation of John (Vol. 2, p. 9). Philadelphia: The Westminster John Knox Press.)

Recalling our minds to God’s instructions to learn from His dealings with Israel and Israel’s enemies, it is clear He is Sovereign over all pestilences in the past, now and in the future.

What to Do?

The Book of Psalms gives us a foundation to lay hold of as we hear of all the news about Coronavirus, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust a prince.” (Psalm 118:8-9) To take refuge (חָסָה – ḥāsâ) can mean to confide in. (Wiseman, D. J. (1999). 700 חָסָה. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 307). Chicago: Moody Press.)

Thus far, we have confided in God’s Word to grasp what pestilence is and it is God who holds Sovereignty over all pestilences. We are to seek God’s help and pray, “Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law. …do not hide your commandments from me” (Psalm 119:18-19b) We need to confide in the counsel of God’s Word. The Bible says about king David, But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. (It says, “Heart-stricken” in the NIV). And David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.’” (2 Samuel 24:10 ESV) 

The Bible says “Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer. Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says…’”  

We need modern day children of God, disciples of Jesus Christ, with Holy Spirit enlightenment of the whole counsel of God’s Word, to go and tell those in government and the church, “this is what the word of God says,” so the Lord will hear our prayers and heal or land. The Bible says, When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name 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 heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)