God’s Hand Behind the Virus?
F. LaGard Smith

Is God punishing us with COVID-19? Anyone who takes the Bible seriously knows that God has a long history of bringing punishment on sinful humankind—even his chosen people—through floods, disasters, earthquakes, wars, persecutions, hail, blight, famines, droughts, and, yes, plagues. Yet, given a perpetually sinful world, not a day goes by that God wouldn’t be justified in bringing some punishment or another. So, when do we see God’s discipline, and when not? Is God the cause of this virus, or simply letting it take its course?

If you’re looking for reasons why we jolly well deserve divine punishment, you needn’t look far. Were it to turn out that a million Americans died this year from coronavirus, plus millions more souls around the world, we’d be horrified. Yet every year, year in and year out, millions of unborn souls die from abortions (a million in the U.S. alone). Think God isn’t outraged? And how could God not be incensed when secularist “virtue signalers” have become culture’s guiding lights by whose “woke” standards those who stand against unrighteous behavior and lifestyles have been deemed hateful and unloving? Should we be surprised if he who rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah let loose a deadly virus to bring us back to our senses?

Yet, at times, God simply “gives us over” to face the consequences of our own actions (Job 8:4; Rom. 1:26). While “righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). Sin—all sin—bears the seeds of self-destruction. God needn’t lift a finger. Merely consider how our nation is reaping a riotous whirlwind in the wake of unrighteous cultural winds we’ve sown. And in light of increasing evidence that COVID-19 may have escaped a lab to plague us, a case could be made that our near veneration of science has created an idol that is as potentially destructive as life-saving. Has God “given us over” to our hubris in “playing God”?

The biblical poem we know as Lamentations (likely written by Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet”) speaks powerfully to our time. Plagued by famine, drought, and pestilence from within and besieged by the Babylonian hordes from without, a once-proud Jerusalem falls. “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people. I have forgotten what prosperity is.” But if we think times are bad now, just imagine: “With their own hands, compassionate women have cooked their own children!” It begs belief! And what caused this unthinkable nightmare? Quite simply: “Jerusalem has sinned greatly…and the Lord has given full vent to his wrath. He has poured out his fierce anger.”

At this time of bewildering social upheaval, Jeremiah’s questions take on added urgency. “Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? Then why should we complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord.” Whether or not COVID-19 (or even social chaos) is punishment for a sinful world, there could hardly be a more opportune time to test and examine our ways, and to turn back to God.

The good news? As Israel learned to their amazement when they turned to the Lord and sought him (2 Ch 15:4), “He let them find him!” Wow! Not so angry a God after all, but a loving Father running with open arms to forgive his prodigal son. Now that he’s got our undivided attention, could a gracious God be eagerly shouting and waving his hands in the midst of these devastating times to make it easier than ever for us to find him?

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