Did God cause COVID? (August 16, 2020)

Did God cause COVID? (August 16, 2020)

August 20, 2020
Benjamin Ehlers

Did God cause COVID?

Genesis 41:41-49

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I was recently asked, “Did God cause COVID?” A valid question. In fact, I think it’s a question that we often ask throughout life. Is this from God? Is he causing this hardship? But far more important than answering the questions, “Did God cause it” is considering, “What can God work through it?”

There are a number of people in the Bible whose stories span a number of chapters – sometimes even a number of books. One of these people is Joseph. Not, Mary and Joseph – parents of Jesus – from the New Testament. But the Joseph of the Old Testament – one of the 12 sons of Jacob (later known as Israel). Many of you are familiar with some of the accounts from Joseph’s life. He had the coat of many colors. He had the dreams of the sheaves bowing down to his; and the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him. He even interpreted dreams for Pharaoh later in his life. But rather than just taking little snippets from their lives here and there, sometimes reading their whole story really gives you a whole new perspective. A big picture perspective. A perspective that I think we fail to see in our own lives at times.

If Joseph were counting the triumphs and failures of his life – the highs and lows – I think the lows would really dominate his list. There were some highs, yes. Often, they came after long years of faithful work. But then they would immediately be overshadowed by the crushing lows that would take everything away from him and shatter his life to pieces.

He didn’t know his life would be violently thrown off course that one sunny afternoon he went to check on his brothers in the field. But their loathing of him had been slowly growing for a number of years. And today they would finally act on it. They originally plotted to kill him. A muddy cistern seemed like a better option at the moment. But when a trade caravan was seen in the distance the jealous brothers decided to act on their hatred and satisfy their greed at the same time. Joseph was brought up from the pits only to be sold as a slave.

As a slave in Potiphar’s house, however, Joseph slowly worked his way up the ladder until he became Potiphar’s attendant – in charge of his whole household! With faithful service and a lot of hard work, things were finally looking up for Joseph! That is… until his master’s lustful wife falsely accused Joseph of making a pass at her and he was thrown, once again, into the pits – this time, the place where the king’s prisoners were kept.

So, Joseph went at it again. He was a respectful prisoner and gained favor in the eyes of the prison warden. Again, Joseph was put in a position of authority – in charge of all of those in prison. It certainly wasn’t Potiphar’s house of nobility, but it was something. Things continued to look up when Joseph met Pharaoh’s own Cupbearer and Baker. (And I know, these might sound like fairly measly positions, but they were in charge of making sure Pharaoh’s food wasn’t poisoned – a pretty important position). They somehow landed themselves in prison, but Joseph interpreted their dreams and asked the Cupbearer to make mention of him when he was released from prison in three days. Those days turned into weeks, and months, and years. The Cupbearer forgot all about Joseph who remained there in that prison.

All his problems were quite clear. It seemed any time he worked hard for something, it would slip through his fingers. Was God the cause of all Joseph’s trials?

It’s easy to see our troubles. Easy to count our burdens. I mean, what is it that often fills our conversations? It’s easy to complain about this going wrong. Or grumble about when this is ever going to get better. How often are our prayers filled with all the things that God needs to change in our lives or all the things he needs to do for us rather than overflowing with thanksgiving for all that he has done for us? It’s easy to count our problems. It’s easy to wonder, “Did God cause this?”

We see all the problems and none of the possibilities. I’m not saying your estimation of your circumstance is wrong. You may be in the pits. Life may have been particularly hard. You may meet roadblock after roadblock. And no doubt it’s hard. No doubt it knocks you off your feet. But it’s not cause for despair. It’s not cause to doubt God. It’s not cause to turn away in rebellion. Rather, it’s a time to cling to him and trust that even in the worst of situations, he could be working something beautiful. Strive to peer through the fog of pain and hardship – to see what God might be accomplishing.

It’s true, there are evils in life. It’s true too that Satan and sinful people – us included – actually cause many of the evils in life. Who was it, after all, that planted seeds of doubt and mistrust for God all the way back in the garden of Eden? I look at more recent events too. When COVID first hit and businesses everywhere were closed – when churches too were closing their doors. How could God allow this? How will his Word be heard if people can’t even go to church. But then, what I saw, was churches immediately going to a new medium. Churches everywhere were livestreaming their services and reaching a larger audience. And in the home too, there were positive changes. Churches were open in Christian homes across the globe. Fathers and mothers took an active role in sitting down with their children to worship online or read the Bible. Parents could explain things in greater detail to their children without interrupting other worshipers. And Christians gained a healthy longing and appreciation for gathering with fellow Christians when things open again.

Or, you could turn to the greatest evil this world has ever known: When wicked men spat in God’s face, tore open his flesh with the scourge, mocked and crucified God. God was killed by wicked men. “Did God cause this?” “Was this God’s plan?” I’m sure the disciples would have loved a quiet evening with their Lord on the Passover. Jesus even prayed if there was another way. But if that were the case, if God did not use the evil plotted by wicked men for his good purpose, then the disciples would forever remain a stone’s throw from God – never measuring up, and never free from their sins. Then you and I too would be forever in darkness and despair – destined only for the pit of hell.

“Did God cause this?” A better question is, “What was God doing through this?” And when you shift your focus on what you are tracking – what you are counting – then you see that the world’s greatest atrocity is also the world’s greatest joy! It was by following that road all the way to the pain and suffering of the cross, by facing the wrath of God against every one of my sins and your sins, that you and I are saved! He drank deeply from the cup of suffering so that your cup would overflow with grace beyond measure!

Sure, we could try to count the injustices against our Lord. Or we could try to count our own wrongdoing, weigh our own guilt and wonder if God’s grace is enough. But asking that question, wondering if we are forgiven, we are doubting if God is enough. Because it is God who forgives. It is God who earned your salvation. It is God who suffered hell in your place, really died, and then rose victorious! Brothers and sister, let me tell you there is enough! God is more than enough to cover a multitude of wrongs. In fact, once you shift your focus and begin counting God’s graces, it isn’t even worth counting anymore. “How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rm 5:15).

There were plenty of problems that Joseph could have been counting – front and center was the immense weight of bringing Egypt safely through this great calamity – but God would see him through it. In fact, throughout Joseph’s life the same phrase keeps popping up. “The Lord was with him” (Gen 39:2, 39:21). The Lord was with him as a slave in Potiphar’s house. The Lord was with him as a prisoner in the king’s prison. The Lord was with him through the 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. In fact, the Lord provided in such great measure that “Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure” (Gen 41:49).

God brought Joseph through all the trials and struggles he faced in life so that he could be exactly where God needed him at exactly the right time. Not only did God have Joseph in place to feed an entire nation during a severe, seven-year famine, but God had Joseph in that place at that time to feed the world. “When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was so severe everywhere” (Gen 41:56-57). But it’s even more than that. God had Joseph in exactly that place, to bring Jacob and his 12 sons down to Egypt. To preserve this line, the line of the Savior. God brought the infant nation of Israel down to Egypt, where they would grow and multiply, where God would one day bring out the Israelites – a great nation – from Egypt and into the Promised Land.

The Lord is with you too! And it’s only when you realize this, understand what it means, and take it to heart that you will start counting the right things – that is…. If you even can count them. Not the hardship, the trials and adversities that so often worry and distract us, but the overflowing blessings from God! Trust that God will provide – even when the plan makes no sense. So great was God’s blessing in Egypt that they stopped counting the grain!

At the end of each day, as you are lying in bed, I want you to reflect on the day and count some of the blessings God has given you. As you say your prayers and bring requests, balance out those requests with thanksgiving. It may be hard at first, to find and identify these blessings in life, because we are so used to counting the wrong things. But I’m pretty confident that once you start identifying and counting your blessings, pretty soon they will be beyond measure. And it will become natural for you to see not only where you need God’s help, but also where the Lord was with you providing gifts beyond measure. His abundance will fill your heart, your mind, and even overflow from your mouth when you count the blessings.