A Call for Preparation..

Is God Communicating us something Powerful through COVID-19?

What’s the story behind such pandemic?

These are unprecedented times that we are living in and going through. Each day we look forward with great anticipation of recovery. One thing is very clear, that we are all in this together. Epidemics and pandemics are not new to this world, there is nothing new under the sun. But this is strange because of its magnitude and the proportion of its impact. I believe there is no time in history there was a complete standstill as this. In a time and age of high technology and awareness we are locked down to contain a deadly virus. Nevertheless, as we evolve through every challenge, hope will take us through this and this too shall pass. Certainly there is a time for everything as the writer of Ecclesiastes quips, certainly a time to mourn for those who are suffering in the midst of this crisis. As Jesus said ‘Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted’ . I pray that the God of all comfort will cover those who need comfort in this hour of trial. Especially we remember those who are in the frontlines fighting this deadly virus on behalf of us, they deserve our valuable prayers and our constant encouragement. Whenever I thought of them I was reminded how Aaron the priest stood between life and death with the incense of atonement in his hand when children of Israel was stuck by a plague, secondly the parable of the Good Samaritan who was there for the ailing man and rendered a hand of support to him. Nothing would be apt than dedicating this article of mine to those who are fighting the good fight against the disease in the frontlines.

When was the last time our Church buildings went completely empty on a Sunday that too during Lenten and houses became mini Churches ? When was the last time a robust international trade came to a screeching halt, I was left to wonder. But my imagination relating both these occurrences left me with a less of fact and a more interesting answer, may be back in the early Roman era or the early Apostolic age, and I know that would require some scrutiny! Things are not certainly mundane . Especially many are deriving many positives out of it and why not? What I loved about these lockdowns are the invasion of animals in many prominent places across the world, they even spotted a Civet in Kerala, an adjacent state to ours, the animals could sense a sudden change around, not only that many of us feeling sick because we are breathing fresh air in years with industries, work and travel facing a ban, the pollution seemed to have hit a considerable low leaving us with some fresh air, and what about rare family times and prayers together; something which many have missed it in a long while in this busy world; many are getting to know their families for real for the very first time, some are in to their much missed hobbies or creating one since their teens, but everybody is filled with a sense of responsibility and caution being keen to help somebody in need, it also made many restless minds to rest and think about the purpose and priorities of life. This certainly have unified our world like never before. We have gone through so much of divisions and hate recently around the world, and this has somewhat given a sense of togetherness, it also solidified a known truth that we are united in the midst of a bigger enemy.

There are multiple questions people are asking on why did this happen? Why did God allow this?

When questions multiply and loom large, there are also answers that come up in the form of various responses like it’s a bio war, imaginative stories as well as scary conspiracies. I too in the light of God’s word and the premises it offers kept meditating about this outbreak. Filtering all the others, if I could narrow down to a one single big message from God ,it is “Return to me”. If we flip through the pages of the Bible, and meditate on the different plagues and other disasters, the conclusive message would be ‘Reent of your sins’ and ‘Return to God’. There is also a verse which penetrated deep in to my thoughts.“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you”. Zechariah 9:12.

In a way we all are prisoners of hope wanting to return back to normalcy, especially out of our homes.

There were some thoughts which made me ask some exotic questions..

1. Is this sabbatical with much needed rest enable people to value human life and relationships, especially altar the ambitions of people and give top priority to human relationships? Is it going to cause changes in the budgeting of governments with disinvestment in military and various space programs to investment in healthcare and education?

2. Is this standstill a pathway to the shuffling of old systems to an emerging new system. Is the world going to drastically change with many new way of functioning? Is this going to lead to new world order?

3. Looking at the way in which the necessity of government’s intervention in our day today lives became mandatory, is it paving way to an authoritarian state with minimal rights to citizens with governments controlling the activities of people in the days to come in the name of this virus? Is technology going to play a prominent role in that control? Where will healthcare go from here?

4. Is it going to bring more conflict in to our world with blames already beginning to be exchanged, once the recovery happens will we see a more unified or a divided world? And what would be the process of such a recovery in terms of economy?

But I was also asking a bigger question looking at the nations in which the damage was high, those were the nations from which the Gospel of Christ was once largely heralded. It made me to seriously think that God is giving a bigger message to these nations to ‘Return to him in Repentance’. Since as the word says,

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17.

He is certainly expecting the return of his sheep to the fold, his children to his presence!!

The Bible shows that God gives signs before doing something, and its found all throughout the Bible. Even his birth was filled with signs. In Matthew 24, when the disciples were asking him about the signs of his second coming or his return to this world. He was willing enough to elaborate with sufficient details on the signs that would take place in the world before his return. He said ‘These things must happen’ .Especially plague was one of them…

“Nations will go to war against each other and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be terrible earthquakes—seismic events of epic proportion, horrible epidemics and famines in place after place This is how the first contractions and birth pains of the new age will begin! Matthew 24:7,8.

I like the way the word birth pains is used, and I want to righteously quote Apostle Paul from one of his epistles,

“ I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”. Romans 8: 18-22.

Lord Jesus relates the signs of his coming to a birth pain, to a carrying mother birth pains are indicators that the baby she is carrying for months is to be delivered. Same way these signs would be an indicator that his coming would be near. Apostle Paul calls it a day of redemption which the whole creation is eagerly waiting for to be justified by the one who saved us. So the coming of the Lord is not only a judgement, but also a justification for those who believe in him and eagerly wait for him. He calls it Hope. The birth pains or signs are clearly suffering in the end times before the return of the Lord Jesus to this earth to judge all creation and justify his faithful. And I believe this Corona virus is a big indicator that we are moving in that direction of seeing the Lord soon and living in the times of his return. Since Jesus has warned about such epidemics before his coming. I would say that if God is communicating something it is this message of his return, and he calls us for preparation. In other words it is ‘Preparation Time’ or a ‘Call for Preparation‘.

In the final hours of last year as I was seeking for a word of promise, and a promise message for the congregation. The Lord spoke to me through Micah 7:15,

“As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.”

And I was delivering sermons based on this verse throughout the last few months. In the wake of this corona virus, as I was meditating on its reasons, the Lord pointed me to the same verse and enabled me to derive my conclusions about this pandemic. First of all I was able to see the word ‘ Wonders’ as ‘’Signs’ and it made more sense to the meaning of my subject.

Second ‘in the days when you came out of Egypt’ caught my attention more deeply, what happened in the days when Israelites came out of Egypt, there was severe plague in the Land and I meditated on what happened because of the plague and Israel’s deliverance to bring out God’s word through this write up. It all came to four points on what God is trying to convey to me during this pandemic.

1. A time of deliverance:

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians”. Exodus 6:6-7

When Moses was sent to deliver the people of Israel, one of the signs was a disease in his hand. Especially at the time of deliverance God struck the whole Nation of Egypt with plague, and through Moses he informed the Israelites there will be mighty acts of judgement or warnings. So before the deliverance of his people came the mighty acts of judgment in the form of plagues. God says “ I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’. It was not just to set them free God delivered them. But to be their Lord and God. Till then the children were ruled by the burdensome yoke of Pharaoh and he enslaved them and controlled them. Now God sends his acts of judgment to deliver them so that he can give his righteous rule over them. May be this pandemic has caused so much pain and suffering but it’s also a time of deliverance from the control and oppression of this world .When Jesus returns, our redemption comes with him, our deliverance comes with him and he is going to rule over us, and his kingdom doesn’t have end. After the plagues came the deliverance, so this plague is an indicator that our deliverance draws near and Jesus going to return and rule over all the earth. Even in Revelation the same words are used. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”. Revelation 21:3. After the plagues came the deliverance and even now after these birth pains will come the deliverance of God when he returns.

2. A sign for the Chosen:

“But Moses said to the Lord, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips” Exodus 6:12.

Plagues all through the Bible was a sign for the God’s chosen to return to him. It’s a sign that God wants a revival among his people. The children of Israelites were not willing to listen to Moses who was sent to share the words of God, because of their much burden. I believe God allowed those plagues not only as an act of judgement, but also as a sign for his people to seek him and put his trust on him. They even though who were chosen were not a obedient group of people, there were sins of Egypt in them and they were willing to remain as slaves, but when the plagues came, they were filled with the fear of God. Its important to note that in the first nine plagues they had an automatic protection from God, but the final plague required their obedience in order to be saved, they had to put blood in the door posts. I believe that God was preparing and turning their hearts towards him during the plagues. And Passover is also a symbol of Revival where they feared God and turned to him to obey him. In the same way this is a sign for God’s children to put away the sins and pleasures of the world and return to God, so that we can see a revival among us. As Apostle Paul says, “reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. 1 Thessalonians 5:22,2.God wants to prepare the Church first to sanctify it and make it worthy during his return and redemption, and these are the times God is giving to the Church to amend their ways.

3. An opportunity for the lost:

“And a mixed multitude also went up with them, along with great droves of livestock, both flocks and herds”. Exodus 12:38 .

The plagues were not only a sign for the elect to repent and revive. It was also opportunity given for the lost to turn back to the living God. The Lord showed his mighty deeds for Israelites to trust but also other people who have not known the living God to believe him and his plans. Its not only ten plagues but ten opportunities for them to surrender and come to the Lord. Pharaoh was seen as God in that culture, and he had pride in his heart. His heart was hardened by God because of his pride and he stood against God and his plans, every time God gave an opportunity but his pride made God to harden his heart and God showed his might. He had ten opportunities but he didn’t use it and he finally perished with his mighty army. He didn’t seek the Lord’s favour when it was available. But those mixed multitudes were delivered along with the Israelites because they put their trust on the living and almighty God. There could be Egyptians, Ethiopians and people from other nations who lived in Egypt could be part of that mixed tribe. All those who believed in God’s power, and his word were saved and was delivered because they were watching closely the signs God was performing among them and used the opportunity to believe in him. Pharaoh and his army because of their pride and negligence ended up being destroyed. In the same way, these pandemics and other signs which is to follow are opportunities for those who have not believed in Christ Jesus to turn to God before he returns. “This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.1 Timothy 2:4. He is allowing this because he wants them to be saved, those who are proud, unwilling and hardened in their hearts will miss his rescue. He came save the world and not condemn it.That’s why Jesus stressed in Matthew 24, that this Gospel will be preached to everyone then the end will come, the Gospel of end times and his final redemption has to be preached all over.

4. A Journey towards the Promise:

“And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’ Exodus 6:8.

Finally, it was after the plagues came the promise. Plagues were actually the door to the promise, as the birth pains are the door to the actual birth, as sufferings is the door to glory. God had designed it that way, he knew people will not relent and repent unless extraordinary things happen, extraordinary things reveal the presence of an extraordinary God. For us its suffering, for God it’s the revealing of the truth. When Jesus was saved and rescued from Bethlehem many children’s lives were lost, it was suffering because of one man’s sin, but God rescued his chosen to fulfill his promise. The plagues enabled the Israelites to walk in to the promise he swore to their forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey. In Jesus God has promised us eternal life, and his return or his second coming is the assurance of that eternal life with him, and that we rule with him as co- heirs. So these signs through these plagues is a way through which we receive God’s promises through his son Jesus Christ. There will be even more terrible occurrences in the days to come as the plagues became more severe in Egypt, even more dangerous signs, and for God’s people it will be like a hard wilderness journey but we have to remember that after the wilderness cones the promise. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10. So we must see the sufferings through these different signs of his coming as means to enter the promise, these are not circumstances to lose hope but filled with hope. As the scripture says “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:22.

God has graciously given us these days to prepare us and others to meet him. We are approaching Passover according to Jewish traditions in the days to come, and we must remember one important truth that God has revealed all these to us through the scriptures so that we will be prepared. A wonderful example is found in the same Exodus story itself . During the final plague, God instructed them specifically on how to prepare for their deliverance and their rescue.

He instructed them to eat the Passover in this way,” This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. Exodus 12:11. What God meant by it is a truth we all need to hold on to these days, God asked them to eat that way is to show them the urgency in which they need to prepare. They have to be in all readiness to leave. It is the same way God wants us to prepare to meet him in all readiness and urgency, enough are the days of complacency and lukewarmness, God wants us to be alert and act to prepare him the way. Apostle Paul instructs in the same line in Ephesians 6:4 “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”. In all readiness that we must prepare ourselves and others to meet the Lord. I believe this is God’s strong message through this COVID-19 that all must return to him in repentance and that we must prepare ourselves and others for the things that is going to take place in the days to come.

Especially our prayers are important as Moses and Aaron prayed for Pharaoh and Egyptians in the midst of the plagues, when his people pray God will remember and have mercy on people as he heard the prayers of Moses.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 1 Chronicles 7:14

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