Updated: Mar 28, 2020
In that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: “Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,” says the Lord God of hosts.
Isaiah 22:12-14 ESV
As with so many incidents that occurred in Biblical times, we must take lessons from the past. They are recorded for a purpose, that we might heed them and take them to heart. There is a remarkable similarity between the circumstances that surrounded the nation of Judah over 2700 years ago and what we are experiencing today with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 701 BC, the Assyrian army invaded the Land of Israel. In response, the city of Jerusalem prepared for an extended siege by repairing the walls and securing their food supplies. The combination of this time period’s dietary habits, local economy, and response to the enemy’s attack had a strange cultural effect. Because the city’s inhabitants knew that water and grains would have to last for an extended period of time, the first food stuffs eaten during the siege were livestock (so that scare resources would not be dedicated to their preservation). People at this time did not eat a lot of meat. Meat was reserved for festivals and celebrations. So oddly, this change in their daily routine and eating behavior created a perverse festival-like atmosphere within the city. Early into the siege, the people are almost celebratory instead of being somber and reflective of their plight as God called for them to be through the prophet. Thus, Isaiah records how the God of hosts was affronted by their attitude (Isaiah 22:12-14).
Consider the similarities between that siege of Jerusalem and our present experience in 2020. The isolation precautions announced and imposed have resulted in what are almost like siege conditions for many brothers and sisters. At the time of this writing, twelve states and multiple municipalities are under “stay at home” orders. While the cause of our restricted movements and separation from human interaction is different from that of Israel in 701 BC, the words of Isaiah and the situation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem provide important lessons for us.
Don’t misinterpret the severity of the situation. Like the inhabitants of Jerusalem, we may fall into the trap of dismissing the threats surrounding us. Truthfully, it can almost feel like a holiday for some. Many of us are now telecommuting for work and are at home for multiple days in a row. Children’s schools and daycares are closed, and studies are now done in the home. Stores, entertainment centers, restaurants and many national and state parks are closed. Still, many crowded into bars for early celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras. Also, countless flocked to beaches, determined to treat this spring like any other and ignore the threat of contagion. Surely, this is not a holiday and we must remember that we are surrounded by peril. There have always been perils in this world, but this pandemic will likely impact brothers, sisters, and friends of the Truth as much or more than others in our past. Are we thinking about the needs of others? Are we thinking about how our actions at this time can help or possibly hurt them? Are we hoarding or are we sharing? How can we assist those in need? By the end of this crisis, there will be those who are in dire circumstances: hungred, thirsty, strangers, naked, and sick (Matthew 25:35-36).
Use our time wisely. A clear concern throughout the world is how to fill the void left by no commute times, no shopping excursions, restricted travel in a world of social distancing, restricted movement, and isolation. Paul instructs us, See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). Instead of more television, streaming movies, or social media, what would be a wiser choice? Are we doing family Bible study and our daily readings? Are we using this time to prepare that lecture, article, Sunday School, or children’s class? Likewise, we are fortunate to live in a time of increased ease in communication. It is relatively easy for any of us to check on those older or isolated brothers and sisters with a phone call, or to invite them to Bible reading or study over the phone or internet (when practical). Here is an opportunity to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10).
Remember the real reasons we should not fear. This is a time of men’s hearts failing them for fear (Luke 21:26), but we should not be afraid of the perils of the world. Instead, we should be submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21). We do not know the extent of the role this current virus will play in God’s current plan and purpose. We can rest assured, however, that God is in control. While under siege by the Assyrians, Hezekiah recognized God’s Divine control over the situation, And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth (2 Kings 19:15). We are blessed to have access to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe through His Son and our Mediator, Jesus Christ. God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid (Isaiah 12:2)
I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Josh Vest, Carmel, IN