Nine Scripture Passages for a Time of Coronavirus
“Dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). The coronavirus is a sharp reminder to us of our human mortality. These words of God to Adam, used on Ash Wednesday, now speak to us forcefully. The pandemic has reminded us that for each of us, our time on earth is limited.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Although Job lost all ten of his children in one disaster, he responded with faith, recognizing that everything he possessed had come from God. The Lord had given him ten beautiful children, and now for some inscrutable reason had taken them away. All he could do was to acknowledge God: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10). When Job experienced the loss of his health, he initially responded with an attitude of acceptance. God gives us many good things, and sometimes he gives bad or unpleasant things. Today we can find it hard to understand why God allows so many people to suffer from the coronavirus, but Job’s words may help us gain a positive attitude.
“On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day” (Gen 2:2). The first creation story in the Book of Genesis describes God creating the world in six days, and then taking his sabbath rest. However, until a few weeks ago, our society tended to operate 24/7, without taking time for resting. Does God have wisdom that we overlook at our peril?
“As long as the land lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it” (Lev 26:35). The Book of Leviticus issues a warning. If God’s people go astray, he will remove them from the Promised Land and allow it to remain fallow. Today, sometimes it feels as though nature has pressed the Pause button on our human lives. Blue skies have once again been visible in Chinese cities, and fish have returned to the canals of Venice.
“King Nebuchadnezzar took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, until the land had made up for its sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath” (2 Chr 36:20-21). For their sinfulness the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon, leaving the land free to enjoy its sabbath rest. For us today, the shutdown because of the virus often feels like a home exile, while we are away from our normal workplaces. Yet this time can allow us the space to reflect on our lives and rediscover what is truly important.
“If they sin against you, and they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, and if they come to their senses in the land of their captivity, and repent, and plead with you, then hear their prayer, and forgive your people who have sinned against you” (1 Kings 8:46-50). King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple looks ahead to a time when the people may end up in exile after being forgetful and neglectful of God. He urges God to be forgiving if the people acknowledge their previous faults. During this time of shutdown, we may realize that we have sometimes forgotten what is most significant in life. During this time of enforced idleness, we can rediscover God and turn back to him.
“Call a solemn assembly. Gather the people. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say: Spare your people, O Lord” (Joel 2:15-17). At a time of national crisis, the prophet Joel once called the people to gather together physically in heartfelt prayer. During this time of the coronavirus threat, we can only gather spiritually with a united plea to God. Faced with a disease for which no medical cure has yet been discovered, we ask God to spare us and all his people.
Finally the 23rd psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps 23:1, 4). In this time when there is fear, we are invited to trust in divine providence. We need no fear evil, because God is with us, even in the darkest valley. If Jesus has walked through suffering, even to the point of death, he is with us throughout our lives. Let us trust him to deliver us.