Promise and Perspective in a Pandemic

Ever since the start of COVID-19 in South Africa, I have been drawn to reading Psalm 91 every day. The more and more I read it, the more and more comfort I am finding in it.

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When our President first announced the lock down and what restrictions would be put in place in terms of movement, social distancing, which business can and cannot be open, we were a united country and all saw the urgency and necessity of the lock down. The call for unity in times of crisis in a biblical principle, in Philippians 2, we are called to unity and not be concerned with only our own interests.  Philippians 2: 1-4 says: 

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mindDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselvesnot looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

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A different perspective

South Africa is now in day 53 of lock down, some services and businesses that are considered “essential services” have been reopened, some exercise is allowed, but overall, the lock down restrictions are quite tight. But, as a country, as a people, the more and more information that becomes available about the virus and about how our government is managing the lock down, the unity we are called to, is being lost. If the members of our own leading political party are not agreeing on topics and how restrictions should be managed and enforced, it will only result in chaos amongst the people they serve. Even the people of South Africa are divided on what they believe is right and what they believe is wrong. We should all be acting in humility, putting the interests of others first, above our own desires.  The supreme example of that is found in our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Prayer for Unity

We pray, through the Spirit, that as a country, as the countries leaders continue to navigate this pandemic, that they, and us, are guided back to unity, to make decisions that are Spirit-led and in the best interests of everyone and in accordance with God’s plan. We pray that self-interest is not the driving force behind the restrictions imposed on us, and if this is the case, that Government’s hearts are softened to the reality that our country is suffering more from the lock down restrictions themselves than from the virus itself. May our Government come to Spirit-led decisions in guiding our country to a renewed and refreshed way of living, that benefits all of it’s people. In Jesus name, Amen.

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The Promise of God from Psalm 91

Okay, so back to why I mentioned Psalm 91.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked
.

9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Verse 3 Psalm 91 mentions one of the problems we face in life and that is pestilence (or a fatal epidemic disease). The encouragement the Psalm promises is that God will save you (Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.). If you trust in the Lord and make Him your dwelling place, you don’t need to worry because no evil will come up on you. That is wonderful news especially since we face such a global pandemic.  

Does this mean that nothing bad will ever happen to someone who has faith in God? Does it mean that you will not be infected by COVID-19 or any other disease because you place your trust in God? Do we assume that people who get sick must not have been trusting in the Lord? Definitely not!

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If you have never read the book of Job, I encourage you to do so. The Book of Job describes a man who went through more intense pain that most of us can only imagine. He was a blessed man in every respect. His wealth was unparalleled. “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). He had a very happy family life with seven sons and three daughters, the love among them was as ideal as any man could covet for his children (1:2, 4). Job was a blameless and upright man, who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:8) and yet  everything changed for Job overnight – literally. Everything he owned and loved was taken away from him.

John 9 tells the story of a man born blind. The disciples assumed that his blindness was the result of either his sin or his parents’, but Jesus said: ““Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3). The ultimate example is, of course, Jesus Himself, who did no wrong and yet suffered, leaving us an example to follow.

so that the works of God might be displayed in him
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How do we receive the beautiful promises of Psalm 91? Do we hold on to the Biblical reality that suffering exists in the world, and that followers of Christ are not exempt from it? How?

We need to see with God’s perspective, through God’s lenses. We, as Christians, are all indeed rescued from the snare and the most wretched pestilence: sin. Sin is the fall of creation that is behind every evil, disease, and injustice in the world. Jesus has defeated and destroyed it, and everyone who comes to Him is liberated from its stronghold.

When we face uncertain situations, like this virus, our attitude should be the same: our God can deliver us, and He will deliver us, and even if He doesn’t deliver us in this life, He will deliver us in eternity, and we will worship only Him. We know that He has already overcome the ultimate enemy, and no matter what happens to us here and now we have the promise of His presence and of resurrection life both now and for all eternity.

The promises of this Psalm apply to those who follow the actions associated to them:

  • The one who dwells in the shelter of the Most high
  • The one who loves the Lord.
  • The one who acknowledges God by name.

Let’s reconcile our hearts to be that kind of person, with our eyes fixed on our Saviour and not our circumstances.

Fix your eyes on Jesus
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When we read the news and the latest statistics, we must evaluate the condition of our mind and heart: are we abiding in God or something else? If we draw close to The Lord in the way Psalm 91 describes, we will be far more impressed with the goodness and power of God than the threat of this virus.

Prayer: Forgive me, Lord, for fixing my eyes on my circumstances, and not on you. Teach me to find my joy and delight in you alone! Help me to live like your word says – in the shelter of the Most High. There, and only there, am I truly safe. In Jesus name, Amen.

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