Pandemic, Plague and Promise

A pandemic like COVID-19 should cause us to step back and consider our lives, our loved ones, and our futures–as they relate to God and His message to us in the Holy Scriptures. While God is not the author of evil, He does design or allow everything for a purpose. This article aims to consider (in brief) a few of the many things that God would like us to learn from a situation like this, as well as verses we can turn to for instruction and hope.

Israel’s Plague

During a situation like this, I am reminded of 1 Chronicles 21 and the plague that killed 70,000 people of Israel in just three days. In verse 1, we are told that Satan provoked David to count the number of men in Israel’s army/reserves. That is to say, God allowed Satan to prey on David’s tendency for pride. It would seem that David wanted to take the census out of pride to see how many people were “under” him, and to determine how strong (in human terms) their nation was. Though we are not told explicitly, I would suggest that David’s attitude of pride and self-reliance was representative of Israel’s attitude as a nation. What we are told is that the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, which resulted in Him allowing Satan to tempt David to sin (2 Samuel 24:1). Thus, the results of David’s sin were felt throughout the whole nation.

What were the results of that sin of pride? God gave David three choices–three options for discipline. David responded, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” Thus, the destroying angel of God was sent to bring a plague upon Israel in response to their sin.

How was the plague stopped? God commanded David to offer a sacrifice, and when David offered the sacrifice, the LORD commanded the destroying angel to sheath his sword (verse 26-27). The Scriptures make a point of saying that this sacrifice was costly to David. He would not offer to God a “sacrifice” that cost him nothing.

Lessons to Ponder

God has given us Old Testament examples so that we can learn from them (Romans 15:4). What can we learn from this event in David’s life?

  1. God is working behind the scenes, and He is in control. Though we do not always understand the reason behind current circumstances, we can be assured that God has allowed it for a reason, and that He is in control.
  2. We are dependent upon God. Pride says I can do it myself. It displaces God. Humility and faith recognize that every living thing is created and sustained by our Almighty God. The glory belongs to Him. Without God and Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5).
  3. God is not the author of evil. Satan was the one who provoked David to sin, not God. James 1:13-14 (NASB) tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”
  4. God is merciful. God administered the discipline, and though severe, it was administered with mercy and compassion (1 Chron. 21:15). The severity of the discipline was meant to teach us how very awful our sin and pride appears before a holy God. While God’s discipline seems sometimes to be harsh, He always disciplines in love, with a purpose for our good and to teach us something we need to know. Hebrews 12:5-6 (ESV) says, “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” It is sometimes necessary for God to go to extreme measures in order to get our attention. In His mercy He speaks to us and is interested in us.
  5. The way in which we respond to God’s discipline is important. David responded with repentance, acknowledging the seriousness of his sin, willingly accepting its consequences even if it meant his own death, praying for those under his care and leadership, and obeying God’s command to offer a sacrifice.
  6. Sin has consequences. God cannot overlook our sin. Sin breaks our fellowship with God and goes against His holy character.
  7. God’s answer for sin and its consequence is a sacrifice. David offered an animal sacrifice, because Christ had not yet come to be our final and sufficient once-for-all sacrifice. But God’s remedy for the consequences of sin has always been through sacrifice, made effectual to us through repentance and faith. Hebrews 9:27-28 (NKJV) says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Christ, at tremendous cost, “by Himself” has already made purification for our sins, fully satisfying God’s requirements for their removal, without any input from mankind (Hebrews 1:3). What God requires of us is our acknowledgement that we are wrong and then the placing of our faith in what the Lord Jesus, His divine Son, has done for us. How wonderful it is that we have a righteous God who is also a merciful and loving God, who desires fellowship with us and also makes that fellowship possible through personal sacrifice!

One word of clarification

While we are told that God was angry with Israel, we are not told that all of those affected were affected as a direct result of their own sin. While we do know that sickness and sorrow in life are a result of the curse that came through Adam’s sin, just because I become sick or something “bad” happens to me does not necessarily mean that it is directly due to my personal sin. Nor can I point to an event in the life of someone else and say it is because of something they have done wrong. Sometimes we are called upon to suffer for the cause of Christ. Sometimes the way we respond to trials can be God’s way of sending a message of hope and assurance to others. God’s ways are “past finding out” and we must trust His character of love and grace, regardless of the circumstance or trial.

Scriptures of Promise and Hope

  • Nahum 1:7 (NKJV) “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.”
  • Isaiah 55:6-7 (NLT) “Seek the LORD while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously.”
  • Psalm 9:7-12, 17, 20 (NKJV) “But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people. When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble…. The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God…. Put them in fear, O LORD, That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah”
  • Psalm 118:8 (NKJV) “It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.”
  • John 11:25-26 (NKJV) “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.'”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV) “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
  • Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  • 1 John 4:7-10 (NKJV) “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves [e.g. persistently loves, with a love like God’s for God and His people, v20-21] is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested [demonstrated] toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Closing Thoughts

Consider my life

  • Is there anything in my life that needs to be confessed as sin and forsaken?
  • Am I living my life wastefully for this moment, or prayerfully for the life hereafter?
  • Am I depending on God, or myself? Is Jesus my Lord and is God my Trust every day, or just in “emergencies”?
  • The Lord Jesus told us that we can (and should) go directly to God the Father, in His name, with our needs (John 16:23-24). The Father loves to bless those who trust in His Son. (See also Hebrews 10:19-22.)

Consider my neighbor

  • Do I care more about others than myself?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice for the good of others, as Jesus did?

Consider my future

  • Am I right with God? Do I have a loving relationship with God as my heavenly Father? Are my sins forgiven? If they are, Jesus says, “Do not let your heart be troubled” (John 14:1).


God has not forgotten us. He knows, and He cares. May we not forget Him.

Eclipse… light triumphs

Today’s eclipse reminds me of other periods of darkness in this world’s history. God’s judgment on Egypt was seen through a period of darkness over all the land of Egypt for three days. This earth is a land of the shadow of death, a place where sin abounds, destined for judgment. It was into this same world that Christ, the Light of the world, came, illuminating and revealing God to men. Through death, He endured the judgment of God, where in three monumental hours, a physical darkness covered the whole land, silently declaring that the weight of the sin of the whole world was being placed upon the holy Lamb of God. But Christ came out of that darkness victorious; the way into God’s presence was opened and the temple veil rent; and out of death He rose gloriously triumphant on the third day, then to seat Himself at the right hand of the throne of God. Light has triumphed over darkness, and that same gospel light shines into the hearts of people today to bring salvation to all who put their faith in the One who went through that darkness for them.


And the LORD said unto Moses, “Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.” And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days (Exodus 10:21-22)

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is, being interpreted, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” …And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the [spirit]. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the [spirit], he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:33-39)

Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.” Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matt 27:62-28:6)

Gospel Verses

I’ve been enjoying this list of gospel-related verses. Perhaps you will be blessed and more burdened for souls through reading them as well.

Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Genesis 6:8: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
Exodus 12:13: And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 32:29: O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
Job 12:10: In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
Job 14:10: But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
Job 36:18: Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.
Psalm 1:6: For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Psalm 8:4: What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalm 14:1: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Psalm 22:1: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
Psalm 22:16: For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
Psalm 23:1: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

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113. Who is Mary?

A little girl asked me recently, “Is Mary God?”

It sickens me to think that churches today could be giving this impression to little children like this one. Of course, these churches are likely not saying Mary is God. That’s not in their creeds or statements of faith. Yet I know enough to know that actions may speak louder than words, and churches of today treat Mary like a god. This little girl’s question may be evidence for that. From what I have witnessed and heard, Mary is often worshiped, prayed to, and revered in churches of today, even over the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. How tragic! People are placing their faith in a woman who has no greater power or authority than you or me, rather than in the all-powerful, all-wise Creator and Savior of the world! They stand upon ancient tradition rather than the infallible, eternal Word of the living God. It is this Word that tells us who Mary really was. She was Jesus’ mother, who gave birth to the Christ as a virgin. She was godly, but not perfect. She acknowledged her need for a Savior, and that all generations would call her blessed. Blessed by who? We see she was blessed by God to have the great privilege of bringing Jesus into this world. This is the highest honor the Holy Scriptures give to Mary: she is called “favored” and “blessed.”

What words did Mary speak about Jesus? She told some servants at a wedding, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). What did Jesus say about Mary, when she was wanting to speak to Him and the crowds were all around Him? He said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? …whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50 ESV). The Lord didn’t exult His mother above others; rather he emphasized the importance of our relationship with God over physical relationships, including the relationship to His earthly mother.

Oh world, wake up! You stand upon sinking sand, all you who pray to a Mary who cannot save or give you help. Come to Jesus, and live!

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV).

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1Timothy 2:5-6 ESV)

110. Three Mountains in Hebrews 12

I thought I would share with you my contemplation of three mountains in Hebrews 12:18-24.

In this passage, we note two mountains representing concepts of tremendous significance: Mount Sinai, and Mount Zion. Mount Sinai represents law and the old covenant. Mount Zion represents grace through a new and better covenant.

You will remember the experience of the children of Israel when they first received the law at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses went up into the fiery mountain and received the law and the two tablets of stone from God. When he came back down from the mountain, the people were already breaking the very commandments they had just promised to keep, resulting in fearful judgment (Exodus 24; 32). With the intercession of Moses, the nation was spared (Ex. 32:11-14).

But where is Mount Zion, and what happened there? In the Old Testament, the term “Zion” is linked with Jerusalem, the city of David. Many times it is linked with victory, glory, and divine presence and favor. Hebrews 12:22, the term Mount Zion symbolizes the location of “the heavenly Jerusalem.” This is the place God has promised to bless. This is the place to which God’s Lamb will return, and this is the place where the King of kings will reign in all His glory in a future day. The Hebrew writer links it with the church’s position of grace, in contrast to Mt. Sinai’s law.

The contrast in Hebrews 12 is clear, and the physical contrast brings out some spiritual differences between law and grace. Let’s consider them briefly.

At Mount Sinai, we read “Moses exceedingly feared.” It was a place of dread, a fearful place. There was an all-consuming fire, the symbol of the awesome holiness of the God of the universe, a God who must judge sin. A whirlwind and violent earthquake shook the mountain, showing the tremendous power of the unapproachable, unseen God.  A holy God must have holy requirements: thus, at Sinai, duty was demanded. The law brought fear, because it displayed a holy God who required absolute holiness in His people, a holiness which they could not live up to. The character of God was in stark contrast to a sinful people. Lightning flashed, and thunder rolled as God spoke from the mount. The mountain was shrouded in darkness: God was hidden from human view, and death was declared with the blast of a trumpet for any man or beast that would even touch the mountain where God came to meet with one man, Moses. When God commenced to speak to the people, they could not bear to hear the words of such a holy God and cried to Moses for him to speak to God on their behalf.

Come now to Mount Zion, the mountain of grace. What a contrast! If at Mt. Sinai, there was fear and dread, at Mt. Zion we find peace, for Jerusalem means city/foundation/possession of peace. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 8:1). If Sinai brought darkness, exposing the sin of the people, and obscuring God from mankind, at Mount Zion we find light, and access to the very throne room of God (Rev. 21:23). “Now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). “We have boldness and access with confidence” (Eph 3:12). If Sinai displayed the all-consuming fire of God’s holiness and the warning of certain death, Mount Zion displays the all-sufficient cleansing of the water of the Word and the blood of God’s Lamb. If Sinai shook with the power of an omnipotent God as if it could fall at any moment under the Almighty, Zion stands in an unshakable, eternal kingdom. If at Sinai the people were bound by duty to keep the whole law, or die, at Zion there is rest in the all-sufficiency of the work of Christ to cleanse from all sin, bringing eternal life to the thirsty soul (Rev. 21:4). Finally, if at Mount Sinai the people could not bear to hear the words of God, at Mount Zion, the very Word of God dwells with men (Rev 21:3). He spoke and said, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” He speaks the words of eternal life. To receive His word is to receive life, and in place of a whirlwind of divine fury, we receive, within, the Spirit of God in all of His transforming power.

Two mountains. Two stark contrasts. “But,” you say, “you spoke of three mountains.” And that I did. For without the third mountain, we would have no way of getting from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. The valley is too deep. The passage is impossible. We need Mount Calvary.

Was Calvary truly a mountain? Christ was crucified outside of Jerusalem, and we have already considered Jerusalem as being located on Mount Zion, so I think the term is appropriate. It is the mountain of divine provision and substitution, where Abraham gave up his only son to God and God provided a substitute for his Isaac (Genesis 22:2). It is the mountain of divine sacrifice, where David offered to God a sacrifice to put away the plague of sin (2 Chronicles 3:1). It is the mountain of the divine presence, where Solomon built a sanctuary in which the LORD dwelt (2 Chronicles 3:1).  (More on that here.)

Mount Calvary takes us from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. It is the bridge between sinful mankind and a holy God. At Mount Calvary we find the answer to man’s problem that he has had ever since Adam’s fall: the problem of his sin.

Calvary’s dread purchased our peace (Luke 22:44). Calvary’s fire purchased our healing (Lam 1:13; John 19:28; Isaiah 53:5-6). Calvary’s dark separation purchased our union to God, bringing us into His marvelous light (Psalm 22:1-2; Mark 15:33-34; 1 Peter 2:9). At Christ’s death, the earth shook and the rocks were split (Matt 27:51) as the Author of Life went into death to take our place and offer us life. Calvary’s duty purchased our deliverance from the bondage of sin and provided eternal rest (John 19:30; Titus 3:5; Heb 4:10). We hear unforgettable words from Mount Calvary: words of distance–“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”– and words of grace, “Father, forgive them.” Yes, Mount Calvary transports us from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. This Mediator had the power to deliver us from judgment (Heb 12:24). What grace! What love!

The character of our God has not changed. He is still a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). But thank God, by His infinite grace the veil separating us from God was rent at the cross. We can now enter into a relationship with Him in which we are enabled to serve Him acceptably, not now out of duty, but out of devotion as our hearts overflow in love to the Savior who did so much for us.

Have you arrived at Mount Zion? Have you been to Mount Calvary? Sinai’s terror is the lot of all those who reject the Savior and refuse to hear His voice. Mount Zion’s rest is the bliss of all those who bow to Him as Lord and accept Him as their own Savior. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).

96. A Tremendous Contrast

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matt. 4:8-10)

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

The devil offers the world and its pleasures in exchange for a person’s soul. He’s always ready to make a deal if it will lead to mankind’s demise. In contrast, Christ offered Himself to save our soul. His going was not dependent upon our receiving His gift, but those who do receive Him, share in His glory forever (John 17:22).

Satan’s motive is pride: he has absolutely no care for those he has enslaved. In contrast, Christ’s motive is love: He was willing to give Himself for those who were enslaved by sin and take their place.

Satan desires glory out of pride. He wants to be like God (Isaiah 14:14). God has intrinsic glory– that is to say, it is His by virtue of who He is. He desires glory from mankind because it is His own and He will let none steal it (Isaiah 42:8), and because of His love. He longs to bless us and feel the appreciation of our hearts for all He is and does for us, as a Father who cares for His children.

Satan promises a moment of pleasure. God promises an eternity of abundant life.

87. Who touched Me?

Luke 8:40-48

The crowds were surrounding Him, jostling Him, constantly bumping into Him. Yet suddenly, the Savior says, “Who touched Me?”  The crowd denies it, though just seconds before they had obviously been coming into contact with Him. Yet this was not the Savior’s interest. Someone had touched the hem of His garment, and she had been instantly healed of her illness. She is unnamed, but singled out in the Word of God as one who had the touch of faith.

Millions today go to church every week. They chatter about this, that and the other thing, and perhaps hardly listen to the message that is given. They crowd into the pews and enjoy the entertaining music. They jostle the Savior and bump into Him religiously, even giving generously. Yet among the crowd, the Lord’s voice can still be heard, centuries after that occasion near the Sea of Galilee: “Who touched Me?

Many deny it. They deny it in their unholy thoughts, in their daily talk, in their fruitless walk. Yet one by one, the Savior is still saving those who reach out in faith to receive the forgiveness that they have for so long longed for. The church’s doctors couldn’t cure them, the crowd certainly didn’t help them. Only the Son of God could bring light and life into their souls. Yes, still there are those who place their faith in the Great Physician; who simply and solely reach out and receive the gift He has offered, surrendering to His Lordship and acknowledging His grace to an unworthy sinner.

Who touched Me?

Have you?