Everybody is talking about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I am writing this from my bedroom where I’ve been self-isolated, separated from my wife and child for four days, due to certain symptoms. The existence, spread, and devastating effects of COVID-19 over the last couple months are causing many people to ask a lot of questions.
The first question is, “Where is God in all of this?”
The short answer is: where He’s always been. God is currently seated on His throne, exercising absolute, comprehensive, and meticulous sovereignty over the affairs in His created universe. “Yahweh has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). Even when the worst global disaster in human history struck, wiping almost the entire human race off the face of the earth, God sovereignly presided over the world-wide flood in Noah’s times. “Yahweh sat as King at the flood; Yes, Yahweh sits as King forever” (Psalm 29:10). Take time to consider the implications this has for how we think about our current circumstance.
But a second question also arises: “What’s going to happen in the future, as a result of COVID-19?”
Many are wondering what effect there will be on our country, economy, government, health-care and education, travel, freedoms, churches, families, or on us as individuals. This isn’t the first time questions like this have been asked by God’s covenant people in times of national crisis.
It was the 6th Century, BC. The southern kingdom of Judah had been conquered by the Babylonian Empire, led by King Nebuchadnezzar. Israelites had seen their walls torn down, their city set ablaze, their temple destroyed and plundered. They had been taken as captives and led out of the Promised Land, into exile in Babylon. As they sat there, they too had questions about the future, about their future. To them God spoke these words through the prophet Isaiah:
“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind you transgressors, remember the former things of old. For I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:8-11).
The answer to questions about the future, in the broadest sense, depends on how a person defines the future. How does God define the future from the passage above? Do you see it? He refers to the future (“things not yet done”) as “My counsel” and “My purpose.” These are references to His eternal plan by which He has predestined, before the foundation of the world, all things that come to pass in human history. He then says that He will actively work to guarantee that His purposes unfold exactly as He has planned them (“I will accomplish all…I will bring it to pass…I will do it”).
So, biblically speaking, the future is: God’s eternal decree guaranteed to happen exactly as He has planned.1This concept originally came from John Piper’s exposition of the Isaiah text above in his message, “The Sovereignty of God: I Will Accomplish All My Purpose.” Let that sentence sink in. Do you often think or talk about the future that way?
In the light of His benevolent sovereignty over all things that concern us, perhaps here would be some better questions to consider during this difficult time:
Why doubt? Why fear? Why worry?
“But I trust in you, O Yahweh; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand.”
Marco Scouvert is a missionary in Johannesburg, South Africa.