A good friend of mine is sitting at home, day after day, with a burning question. She wrote me a note and asked, “What do you think is God’s message for the countries of the world today? Surely there is one.” I have always believed that God has something to say. So I agree with my friend. Surely God has a word for us these days. Maybe God is saying, “Don’t be afraid. I will protect you from this pestilence.” Or maybe, “Don’t be afraid. Death comes to us. I will be with you.”
The world as we know it has always been a mess. Even at the very beginning, when God spoke beautiful words into the ‘formless void,’ it wasn’t long until the good creation was messed up. I wonder what God thinks about the current state of things. I know some people wonder if this whole thing is God’s doing. The Exodus journey began with plagues, and Moses said it was God’s doing. George Thompson sent me an interesting article from a bunch of archeologists discussing the different ways one can interpret the Egyptian plagues. I thought this one was interesting:
The most sophisticated attempt to relate the Egyptian plagues to natural phenomena does so in terms of Egypt’s ecosystem. According to this interpretation, the first six plagues can even be explained in their sequential order: The naturalistic account is connected initially with the violent rainstorms that occur in the mountains of Ethiopia. The first plague, blood, is the red clay swept down into the Nile from the Ethiopian highlands. The mud then choked the fish in the area inhabited by the Israelites. The fish clogged the swamps where the frogs lived; the fish, soon infected with anthrax, caused the frogs (the second plague) to leave the Nile for cool areas, taking refuge in people’s houses. But, since the frogs were already infected with the disease, they died in their new habitats. As a consequence, lice, the third plague, and flies, the fourth plague, began to multiply, feeding off the dead frogs. This gave rise to a pestilence that attacked animals, the fifth plague, because the cattle were feeding on grass, which by then had also become infected. In man, the symptom of the same disease was boils, the sixth plague. (Exodus and the Egyptian Plagues, biblicalarchaeology.org)
Later on the wilderness trail, after the golden calf fiasco, Exodus 32:35 says, “The Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.” If you’re anything like me, you struggle with passages like this. Did God really do that, or was this just their interpretation of what happened? They were trying to make sense of it. I believe that God is an active and very present force in our lives, but I don’t believe God is punishing the world with a deadly virus. Viruses happen. A lot of bad stuff happens. Sometimes the mess rattles our faith. We wonder where God went or why God allows us to suffer. It’s a mystery for sure. Even Jesus had doubts. From the cross he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
So what word is God speaking to a frightened creation?
I crawled out of bed before the world was awake. After making the coffee, I slipped into a comfortable chair, slid on my headphones, and began to pray in this online place: https://pray-as-you-go.org/player/prayer/2020-04-03. I would love for you to listen to the song I heard. When I escape to a quiet place and seek God’s face, God will often speak a word into my own personal mess—but not today. Today, there was not a clear sense that God was saying anything at all. The moment was ours, and God just held me close. I knew that I was forgiven and loved. I knew that I wasn’t alone.
And the silence was enough.