In 1952, Nat King Cole released a beautiful song called “Unforgettable.” And yet it might have been forgotten; Cole’s daughter introduced it to another generation some 40 years later.
It’s true that time passes and history fades – sometimes with deadly consequences.
The Spanish Flu was discussed at the outset of the coronavirus. Spanish Flu? Many scratched their heads. Ah, yes – from Mexico during the Spanish American War fought in Texas, right?
Few could place it.
Yet history, which often has the feel of dusty days gone by, can save lives. According to the History Channel, the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 may have killed 50-100 million people. One of every three people worldwide became infected. Entire families died.
The pandemic didn’t begin in Spain. Newspapers in Great Britain and France weren’t allowed to write about the virus for fear it would harm the effort to fight World War I; the first news came from Spain.
We’re scrambling now to learn from those dusty pages of history, looking at the isolation measures of the Spanish Flu and the mistakes made. CNN recently wrote that a San Francisco parade in 1918, to celebrate the end of the flu, may have led to a second and quite deadly outbreak.
The plagues of Scripture also bring lessons. Remember how one of the most unforgettable epidemics begins? Let’s see. Was there:
1.) A crazed king,
2.) a sorcerer,
3.) the invasion of millions of enemy people,
4.) a killer angel wielding a sword,
5.) a talking donkey, or
6.) all of the above?
As the Exodus from Egypt and the 40 years of wandering come to an end, perhaps two million Hebrews arrive just outside the Promised Land. They encamp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan River.
The terrified Moabites and their king know how the Hebrews have conquered other nations. They say, “The horde is going to lick up everything around us …” Numbers 22:4
Immediately, the king sends for Balaam, a sorcerer, to curse the Hebrews. But God puts a killer angel in his path with a sword to strike him down. Balaam is saved only by his donkey, which won’t go forward.
As Balaam beats the animal, the donkey turns to Balaam and complains about being mistreated. That’s when Balaam sees the angel. God allows him to go to Moab but cautions Balaam to speak only God’s words.
The crazed king desperately tries to get Balaam to curse the Hebrews, but he won’t. Scripture tells us much later that Balaam advised the king to entice the Hebrews into relations with Moabite women as they worshipped their Moabite god.
Because of this evil, Scripture says, “the Lord’s anger burns against [the Israelites]” and a plague sets in. Numbers 25:3,9
The Hebrew leaders who allowed this practice are executed and, in the midst of weeping, the son of a prominent Hebrew brings his Moabite girlfriend and enters the tabernacle.
That’s unbelievable. It gets worse.
Apparently, the two decide to have relations inside the tabernacle, and a priest impales both of them with one thrust of a spear. Numbers 22-25
As I said, the story should be unforgettable. But do we learn from it?
Generally, the laws of a nation show right from wrong. That’s not true today. What’s harmful to us is not illegal in this country. Pornography is readily available. In fact, it’s an acceptable part of mainstream movies and shows. Yet, this isn’t God’s way.
If laws don’t guide us, we have the church. Or do we?
The Roman Catholic Church is a model for its determination to stand with Christ against abortion, but increasingly, the bride of Christ is divided. Many churches accept homosexuality despite Scripture. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13.
And so, does the anger of the Lord burn against us? It’s something to pray about every night before you go to bed: “Does the anger of the Lord burn against me?”
Do this faithfully. Not because of the coronavirus but because Scripture requires it.
Look at your day and ask that the blood of our crucified Savior cover your sin and restore you to God. 1 John 1:5-9
As we dust off history and learn from the Spanish Flu, remember the plagues of the Bible. This is how we’ll know if the coronavirus is from God: It will end when He says so.
Does the anger of the Lord burn against us?
Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved. You may reach her at Letters@RAMathews.com.