Events & News Archive
From the desk of Synod Moderator - Discerning God's Purpose in the Present Pandemic
"ONCE-IN-A-CENTURY EVENT AWAKENING"
"The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak may be another "ONCE-IN-A-CENTURY EVENT" (The ATLANTIC) as it captures the world's attention. Globally, to fight the deadly contagion, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is giving daily updates and advisories to nations. Far worse than the 2003 SARS, whereas the impact was mainly felt in the financial sector, today's global pandemic is hitting every sector of the nation and economy. No sphere of life is left unaffected. Indeed, life comes to a halt, from closure of shopping malls, restaurants, theatres, airports to national borders, and even mass gatherings of religious worship. Economically, it is said that we are already on the brink of a GLOBAL DEPRESSION. "Extraordinary times require extraordinary action" says the head of the European Central Bank.
We are indeed, living in unparalleled times.
How then do we as God's people discern such extraordinary times? What is God's message to us in the midst of this Global pandemic?
It brings to mind another parallel, in biblical times of Joel, where the plague of calamitous locusts ravaged, destroyed and devastated his homeland on an unprecedented scale. Similarly, the Lord's message to Joel son of Pethuel can become a modern day warning call and teaching moment for future generations.
The warning call is to awake from our "drunkenness" (Joel 1:5). Although we may not be drunk with wine, but we can be drunk with the wine of materialism and intoxicated by our prosperity and successes. In so doing, we are obsessively influenced by worldly values and opinions. Unknowingly, we become controlled by the world's definition of the "good life". Indeed, we have lost the sense of what is the "GOD-LIFE".
Joel calls for 3 awakenings.
A. First, We Need To Be Awakened to God's Judgment.
After describing the scale of the damages caused by the locusts (Joel 1:1-12), Joel named the source as the Almighty. For the LORD HIMSELF is the Command-in-Chief of the locusts and leading the charge!
John Calvin gave this pointed and blunt commentary on Joel:
Rather than seeing such pandemics as random interruptions, we need to recognize them as Kingdom intrusions. "God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will". (Eph 1:11). When we recognize God’s hand in the present pandemic, it will change the way we pray. We do well by reflecting deeply on the doctrine of God's Providence.
Avoidance of pain and "difficult times" is a natural expected reaction from all of us. Philip Yancey was asked once to the effect: "What have you learned, bottom line, from the three books you wrote on pain?. The three primary lessons Yancey gave were that: "Pain was either Good or Bad and Pain can be Redeemed." "...some things are more awful to God than the pain of God's children ...and furthermore, there are more important things to God, than a suffering-free life for even His most loyal followers."
Are we unknowingly praying away the "pain" and missing the "more important things" and lessons that the LORD wants us to lay hold of? What could these "more important things" be?
B. Secondly, We Need To Be Awakened to Godly Sorrow.
In the 19 imperatives found in Joel 1:1-14, nine of them have to do with sorrowful remorse including wailing, mourning, being clothed in sackcloth and grieving.
Why then is there such a significant emphasis on wailing, lamenting and mourning? Our instinctive reaction to the current outbreak of the respiratory virus 2020 is to pray for it to be eliminated instantly. Of course it is not wrong to pray for its instant cessation or elimination. However, in the process we may miss what God is saying about the need to enter into a season of remorseful soul-searching. Remorse is not just about feeling bad about our sin. It is feeling the pain of our sin that is more important to God. This is something most of us probably fail to experience.
God's desired response from his people during such crisis is a "heart-felt repentance" -- "returning to the LORD with all our hearts, rend your heart, and return... with fasting." It's a call to "wholeheartedness" and "brokenheartedness". J.I. Packer in his book, "Keep In Step With The Spirit", sees revival as a time when "God is stirring the hearts of his people, when conviction of sin becomes intolerable, repentance goes deep."
C. Thirdly, We Need To Be Awakened To God's Mercy.
While the judgment is real and severe, there is also a gracious invitation to lay hold of His severe mercy with a responsive and penitent heart.
John Piper reminds us that, "Destructive calamities in this world mingle judgment and mercy." The most powerful demonstration of this truth is the death of Jesus. "It was both judgment and mercy. It was judgment on Jesus because he bore our sins (not his own), and it was mercy toward us who trust him to bear our punishment and be our righteousness."
YAHWEH is GOD
Joel's name captures and embodies for us a robust and comprehensive theology that can sustain us in times of crisis and disasters. May we have the same GOD-centric response as we face the onslaught of calamities and sicknesses in our time.
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