God Or Satan?
Without trying to be too dramatic, I think it’s accurate to say we are in the midst of a pandemic. Most of the countries in the world are reporting verified cases of The Virus, along with a percentage of deaths. The number is growing exponentially, which is why the US has a “shelter in place” policy and some counties have shut down places like the beach or hiking trails. It’s all with the intention of keeping people from infecting each other.
The natural question is, why? Is God bringing this pestilence upon the world? Is Satan using this virus and the near panic that spurred the hoarding we’ve seen in order to close down churches and prepare the world for the anti-christ? Or is this just a result of the laws of nature and the inevitable mutation of the virus, of humans living in close proximity to disease-carrying animals?
I think the answer is, Yes.
Yes, I believe God works in and through things like earthquakes and wars and pestilence. We see this in Scripture. The first occurrence of God saying that He would do something cataclysmic that would cause devastation is in Exodus when God lays out His plan to free His people from slavery in Egypt: “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” (Exo. 7:5; emphasis mine) This phrase is repeated throughout the period of the plagues, either to Pharaoh or to Moses or to the people of Israel.
At other times, of course, God told Israel that they were delivered from an enemy so that they would know He is Lord, or that they received needed food or care, and even His choice of them as His people, the apple of His eye.
But when we reach the books of prophecy, God begins to declare His judgment upon His people, and upon other nations, all with the purpose of letting them know Him. Take this passage in Ezekiel:
“Behold, I Myself am going to bring a sword on you, and I will destroy your high places. So your altars will become desolate and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols. I will also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars. In all your dwellings, cities will become waste and the high places will be desolate, that your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out. The slain will fall among you, and you will know that I am the LORD.” (Eze. 6:3-7; emphasis mine)
There are many other such passages throughout the book and in other books of prophecy. Besides these explicit statements, we have an example when God brings judgment to Israel because of David’s sin. God actually gave him a choice between a period of famine, war, or pestilence. David chose pestilence because he said he wanted to be in God’s hand. Yes, in God’s hand:
Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. (2 Sam 24:14-15)
Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I think it’s safe to say that God can send pestilence.
But what about Satan? Well, the most obvious example of this from the Bible is Job. First Satan destroyed his belongings, then he killed his servants and his kids, and finally he gave him an illness—something horrible like boils spreading all over his body.
Satan’s plan was to bring Job to the place his wife tempted him to go: “Curse God and die.” He wanted Job to be an example of a person who only worshiped God when things were going well. As soon as life was unbearable, Satan reasoned, Job would turn against God.
I dare say, the majority of people today don’t think either God or Satan has anything to do with the rapid spread of a mutated virus. Rather, it’s just the natural course of things, and all we need to do is “flatten the curve,” which we can do with social distancing.
Of course there is some truth to that way of thinking. We can and should be careful and wise, but in no way can we bypass God’s plans. Satan’s? He may mean evil for us believers, but God means good.
This was the case when God put Joseph in place to deal with a seven year famine.
I can’t help but think God has put each Christ-follower in place for “such a time as this.”
Bottom line: God is a righteous Judge. He may well be bringing judgment on the world—not in flood proportions, but in a way that we will know He is God. All the plans we had—for March Madness or attending conferences or even graduating from school or buying toilet paper in the grocery store—are as nothing. All are changed, and we are foolish if we don’t understand that God’s hand is behind it.
He actually may use Satan’s schemes, or the work of evil men, such as Joseph’s brothers; He may even use the natural way things work—the way viruses mutate and spread. But be clear: God is at work in the world. He wants us to see Him and to know Him.
It’s almost become a politically incorrect thing among Christians to say that God is a Judge, that He exercises justice against people. A pandemic gives us the opportunity to recognize God and His role as a just Judge, that His justice is real, just as His love and mercy is.
Feature image by Our World in Data, dated March 19, 2020.
Is it actually about political correctness, tho, or if it’s just people trying to avoid sounding absolute froot loops? How many hurricanes have been blamed on gay marriage? Because we all know that the Gulf Coast is home to those deep-blue liberal states that have gay parades on every corner. /s
I’d need some evidence that there are any Christians blaming any natural disaster on one particular sinful behavior. The real issue is, people not believing that God is or that He is just and righteous. As that attitude grows, why should we expect God to ignore it instead of giving us warnings as He did for the people of Israel?
But just to be clear, is God not a just judge? That’s the fact that too many want to deny or hedge about. The fact that we don’t always know why God does what He does or allows what He allows can hide the truth that first and foremost He wants us to turn to Him and repent of our wicked ways. That hasn’t change throughout time. It’s us who disconnect calamity from God.
You could easily build a doctrine from the Bible that God is more likely to judge his own people for sin than He is to judge people who have no interest in Him (see I Cor 11:32). So you could say that hurricanes happen in the Bible belt for a reason.
However, most modern Christians, including me, see disasters as a result of the curse upon and the ordinary operations of the universe rather than anything specifically targeted by God. But God could have a purpose in this–in fact, I would say God as a purpose in everything that happens, whether what’s happening causes suffering or causes rejoicing.
This is way off base. There is no pandemic, only hype. No difference yet from any other year’s flu. SF should avoid getting into the weeds of speculation. If THIS is a pandemic, what was 1918?
Have you looked at the numbers or any of the facts in the news?
Seasonal flu doesn’t kill a dozen doctors in northern Italy in the span of a few weeks. It doesn’t overwhelm morgues In Madrid to the point that you have to store bodies at a public skating rink.
Feel free to be calm cool and collected and not panic-hoarding like the crazies but do NOT spread misinformation.
(For what it’s worth I’m a neonatal intensive care nurse with a dad who is an infectious disease specialist but anyone can say anything on the internet. Unfortunately.)
It’s a pandemic, but it isn’t the worst imaginable pandemic. It isn’t smallpox or the black death. But we don’t want it to kill off people unnecessarily.
We need to treat it seriously, but not panic either.
And because it could be worse, I don’t see why we shouldn’t see it as God’s warning that His judgment is coming .
Satan struck Job with physical illness with the specific notion of challenging what God had to say about Job–that is, God said Job was righteous. Satan’s motive was to defy God, to make a liar out of God, by making Job into an overt and unrepentant sinner.
In general, if we look at what Scripture says about what Satan wants (and I’ve done this in the post What Does the Devil Want I produced for Speculative Faith) we see very little about him wanting to make people sick.
Satan wants to make people /sin/ and wants to corrupt their ideas. Sure, he also hates the human race because we are the creation of God, but he is much more interested in getting us to defile ourselves in sin than he is in making us sick. Because sickness is NOT a clear indicator of sin or sinfulness, even though ancient people often thought it was, as seen in the book of Job.
The Bible does reveal the Devil tries to hurt Christian people to hinder the Gospel–the enemy doesn’t want the good message of God to go out. But in general, Satan is interested in targeting physical illness against specific people (II Cor 12:7 for Satan vs. Paul), not widely-spread illness. Not pandemics.
Because when any event comes that puts human lives in jeopardy in a significant way, a higher percentage of people than otherwise think about life after death. Thinking about life after death in a way that might make someone turn to God is bad from Satan’s point of view. So I think Satan in general is not in favor of pandemics.
God, on the other hand, IS portrayed various times as causing widespread calamities. Generally as punishment for sin, but also (more importantly I think) as a means to call people to repentance.
However, I Corinthians 11:32 shows an interesting contrast between a believer being disciplined by God and the world being judged. The passage says in effect it is better to be disciplined by God in the short term (which is what the text Bible God does with people He loves) than it is to be condemned with the world. I.e. condemned at the judgment at the end of the world. So the text is saying God is /more likely/ to bring calamity on the lives of people who believe in Him in /this/ world than people who don’t! (And that certainly explains a lot of the history of Ancient Israel!)
As for this life, the Bible says “God makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust” Matthew 5:45, which actually means in context God allows both to receive the blessing of rain. But both groups also suffer sickness and from the curse of Genesis 3. Both groups face death–and disease–and hardship. Some things are just part of ordinary operations of the universe.
So is a pandemic from God with a specific intent, or is just ordinary “rain” falling on everybody? I.e. part of ordinary operations of the universe? Or does Satan have a hand in pandemics?
In short, the least likely culprit of the three is Satan. He wants people to have comfortable lives where they don’t have to think about God if circumstances favor it. On the other hand, it IS possible that God has a specific purpose for this pandemic. On the other hand (oops, we don’t actually have three hands, do we! 🙂 ), this all might be just another set of circumstances taking place of the sort that continually happen in the world, “ordinary operations”–which actually happen to provide individual opportunities for both God and Satan.
I didn’t elaborate much on the Satan issue because the post was already getting long, but I think there are a couple things we could legitimately see that Satan might want. First, that people would stop going to church in an effort to bring an end to Church. We are not going, but we are still operating as the Church, so if he had that in mind, he’s failed. Second, to create an atmosphere that would pave the way to a one world leader with Answers. The jury’s out on that one. And of course, I have no way of knowing if Satan is involved at all. But even if he is, he meant evil, but God meant good. The good that God wants to accomplish will be the outcome.
I don’t necessarily see this virus as God’s judgement or wrath, though we can use it as a reminder and opportunity for some things(more time at home might give us more time to learn new skills for example). So not everything about the virus has to be bad.
That said, I think it’s interesting that people get so upset at the idea of God being a judge, when they themselves pass constant judgement on each other for much smaller things. Every person tends to regard themselves as the judge in some way, and won’t tolerate judgement from other people(unless maybe they agree with that other person or deem them ‘worthy’)