Right now, we as a nation and as the church are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic that has some unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances. We are currently mandated by our government to stay at home and practice social distancing. Which, in effect, means no corporate church services. No normal business activities. No hugging our grandchildren or shaking hands with a friend. No picnics at the park, no day trips to the mountains, no shopping at the mall, no having friends over for dinner. All of that has changed.
But so has our culture. Our economy is in a free-fall. Unemployment claims are greater, much greater, than in the time of the great depression. Small businesses are closing at a rate unseen in our lifetime and the future looks dim, at best. Liquor stores and abortion clinics are deemed essential, but churches are not. And since lawlessness has increased greatly, “the love of many,” as Jesus foretold, “has grown cold” (Matt. 24:12).
These are truly desperate times.
But could God be trying to tell us something by all that is happening around us? Is He trying to get a message to us, a warning? And, if so, what is that message and why are we as a people so obstinate and hard of hearing?
We know, from Scripture, that God warns His people primarily in two ways. One, by sending them a prophet, a prophetic voice in their generation to proclaim the words of the Lord. God often sent a Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist to bring His people back to repentance before He chastised them for their sins. Unfortunately, because of our collective pride, we in the West are not particularly open to a modern-day Isaiah or a proclamation of “Thus says the Lord!” from anyone.
So often God warns His people the second way, by a remedial judgment. He allows storms, plagues, war, famine, or pestilence to bring us to our knees and allows us to realize that God is God and we are not. God often humbles us by showing us how much we are not in control.
Could that be what is happening right now? And, if so, what warning are we failing to heed? And what changes do we need to make in our lives right now?
Remember, God is sovereign. That doesn’t mean He is the cause of suffering and death. No, our sin brought that upon us. That blood is on our own hands. But what it does mean is that nothing happens in our lives, good or bad, without His permission. Why? Because He is sovereign. He is good and gracious and holy, but foremost, He is sovereign.
In Deuteronomy, we find a list of promises God gave to Israel that also applies to each of us today, as individuals and as a nation (and church). They are found in Deuteronomy 28. In this chapter, God gives His people one grand if/then promise. If they will “diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, (how) to observe carefully all His commandments” (Deut. 28:1), then an incredible, breathtaking list of blessings will follow. In fact, the Lord says “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake (overwhelm) you, (why) because you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:2). Did you catch that? His blessings will literally overtake them (you can’t outrun the blessings of God), and literally overwhelm them.
Would you like to be blessed like that? Then read the rest of the if conditions in Deuteronomy 28:3-14.
But there is a dark side. It is the consequence of not meeting God’s if/then standard. He says:
“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deut. 28:15).
And as wonderful as the blessings are, the curses are much worse. Much! And we are seeing many of them manifest right before our eyes.
If you are wondering what you and your church can do to prepare your hearts for God’s possible remedial judgments, keep listening. For our days ahead may be dark indeed.