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What Holy Scripture teaches about plagues

R.A. Mathews Special to The Star

The brochure offered a “treasure trove of exceptional delights.”

The passengers of the Diamond Princess got far more. Of the more than 3,700 aboard the luxury cruise ship, over 700 have contracted the coronavirus.

Remember that the Diamond Princess isn’t the Grand Princess. A man who cruised on the latter ship has died, and all of those on board now face a 14-day quarantine at military installations.

As you know, the coronavirus is now a pandemic. But you may have forgotten how fast it’s spread. The first case was reported in China on December 31, 2019. The first U.S. case was on Jan. 20.

In other words, we’ve come to a worldwide crisis in mere days. The nation’s talk has changed from such explosive topics as impeachment, climate change, and gay rights to a focus on preparing for the worst. How much food and water do we need? Where can we still get sanitizer and toilet paper?

The ratio of deaths among those infected has stayed at roughly 3%, but it’s rising. If 3% of the world’s population were to die, that’s 228 million people.

Most will recover, but what about new strains and reinfection? A man, released from a hospital after being cleared of the coronavirus, returned two days later and died.

Bill Gates of Microsoft fame wrote that the coronavirus may be the “once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about.”

Christians know that plagues will come before our Lord’s return.

"There will be great earthquakes,” Jesus said. “Famine and plagues in various places and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21:11

Revelation explains that Christ will open seven seals before His return, and the Fourth is a Horseman who brings plague.

“I watched as the Lamb opened…seven seals…and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death…given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague...” Revelation 6:1-8 NIV

In Revelation alone, there are 10 passages about plagues. In fact, the last verses of the Bible contain two warnings—one concerns plagues. Revelation 22:18

Altogether, Scripture has over 100 passages and many stories detailing plagues. They begin in Genesis and span the entire Bible. This weekend, I’ll begin a series at 247Christian247.com and walk you through those narratives and what they mean.

For instance, some 4,000 years ago, Abraham (Abram) flees the Promised Land in search of food. He journeys to Egypt with his beautiful wife.

“Say you’re my sister,” he tells her, afraid for his life. Genesis 12:13

When Pharaoh takes Sarah (Sarai) to marry, God throws Egypt into turmoil with a plague. Perhaps you've read that passage before, but only now understand their crisis. As soon as Pharaoh figures out what’s happened, he gives Sarah back and tells the two to get out of his country. Genesis 12

See what happened there—Pharaoh is innocent, but God still uses a plague against his nation. The Lord wanted Pharaoh’s attention and got it!

Abraham’s grandson also journeys to Egypt because of famine. Centuries later, after God’s people are enslaved there, the Lord breaks Pharaoh’s iron will with a series of plagues. Exodus 5 ff.

God is not to be treated with disregard—the Egyptian ruler learned that the hard way.

There’s a thankless spectacle in the wilderness among God’s people, and the Lord meets it with a plague. Another vividly described scene is over immorality.

But God’s promise to the faithful is sure: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

In the midst of this coronavirus, this is where we put our trust.

It can be hard, especially when you’re afraid. Remember Saul; Scripture teaches that music can calm a troubled heart. Choose a great piece like Handel’s Messiah. Let it still your soul. 1 Samuel 16:14-23

God will feed and protect you as the Psalmist says. He will surely walk with you and guide your paths. But before all else, what does the 23rd Psalm say?

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2

This is first.

God wants you to rest with Him. Every day, place your head on the heart of Jesus and quietly be with the Lord.

In all things, Christ is where we begin.

Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved. The Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist, and the author of “Reaching to God.” Write to her at Letters@RAMathews.com