Exodus 8:17-19 (English Standard Version)
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Our featured Scripture is Exodus 8:17 through 19, describing the third of ten plagues upon Egypt that God sent by Moses and Aaron to free the Israelites from many years of slavery. This third plague, according to the English Standard Version was “…gnats upon man and beast…”!
...Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. The magi- cians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.
With permission from the author, Stan Key, president of Francis Asbury Society, I am reproducing a booklet he wrote, The Finger of God, Who’s responsible for COVID – 19? Here is the second half:
But if the Lord God has indeed permitted this global crisis and if He is the One responsible, then the question naturally arises: What are His purposes? Why is He letting this happen to us? What is He seeking to accomplish?
I know no better place to find an answer to questions like these than the verse we often quote when we pray for revival:
...if My people who are called by My name humble them- selves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will for- give their sin and heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14).
We often forget the context of this verse. These beautiful words are spoken by God as a sort of invitation, calling us to turn from our sins and pray for His favor. But the context tells us the kind of circumstances that will provoke the response for which God is looking. While the verse just quoted is well known, few are aware of the verse that precedes it:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will.... (II Chronicles 7:13, 14).
Did you hear it? God said He sends drought, famine, and pestilence so that people will humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their sins. That’s the point! Our international crisis is not some random, pointless act of chance. God has a purpose in all this, and it is good! The pestilence of contagious disease is permitted so that we will humble ourselves, cry out in prayer, seek God’s face and repent of our sins. When we do, God stands ready to forgive our sins and heal our land.
This was God’s purpose in Egypt so many years ago when he sent the plague of gnats. The magicians understood; “This is the finger of God.” Unfortunately, Pharaoh’s heart remained hard (see Exodus 8:19). His refusal to humble himself and turn from sin meant that he and his nation would experience God’s judgment and wrath.
Albert Camus’ novel The Plague (Camus, Albert. The Plague, Trans. Stuart Gilbert. New York: Random House, Vintage International, 1991) is one of the classics of existentialist literature. The story is set in a coastal town in North Africa, a walled city named Oran. When plague breaks out, the gates of the city are shut, and the citizens begin to find ways to cope with the tragedy that has befallen them. Camus’ existentialist belief in the absurdity of the human condition means that his book offers no real hope to its readers. The power of the book is found not in its prognosis, but in its diagnosis. It paints a powerful picture of the human predicament: we are all locked in a quarantined city, waiting to see who next will catch the plague and die.
Most of the inhabitants of Oran are just annoyed by the plague. Many deny its existence and treat it as a bad dream or an unwelcomed guest. They make minimal adjustments to adapt to the new realities, hoping that the plague will soon just go away and they get back to business as usual, life like it was before. “Alarmed, but far from desperate, they hadn’t yet reached the phase when plague would seem to them the very tissue of their existence.” (93).
Though writing as an unbeliever, Camus paints a powerful picture of the human situation. He speaks truth when he reminds us that we should not be so naive as to think of the plague as an aberration, an interruption, and unwelcome visitor who will soon go away. The plague defines us. It describes the human condition. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). All of us have already been infected by the sin virus; we all will die. There are no exceptions.
The Good News!
It is only when we fully understand the tragedy of the human condition that we are ready to receive the Good News of the gospel. Yes, the finger of God is moving in our world, confronting us with the reality of sin, death, and hell. This is not some abnormal condition, some unpleasant interruption, that will soon pass away so that we can return to “normal life” as before. This is the human condition. This is what life is all about. The virus of sin defines the very tissue of our existence. “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4).
But Jesus Christ has come. And He too has a finger in what is happening on Planet Earth. “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:20). Jesus steps into the human condition, exposing Himself to the deadly contagion, so that He can touch us with His mighty hand and heal us through His saving grace. He has come to forgive sinners, to heal the broken, to find the lost, and to give hope to those in the grip of despair. “For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.” (Jeremiah 32:42).
Dear friend, are you hurting? Confused? Discouraged? Jesus calls you and invites you to humble yourself and come to Him. Let Him forgive your sin and bring healing to your troubled soul. He wants to touch you not just with His finger but with His whole hand — and to embrace you in His arms.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10).
I, as the author and editor of Gems For Living, will emphasize again an important perspective on the COVID-19 virus! The context of II Chronicles 7:14 was highlighted earlier in this Gem: II Chronicles 7:13 must be taken into account with verse 14:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will for- give their sin and heal their land.
The Lord is calling Christians (those of us who are called by His name, who carry the very name of Christ when we identify as Christians), to be on our face before Him to seek His face! And if we truly turn to Him, we will turn away from anything that displeases Him – our wicked ways! It is called ‘revival’! And we desperately need God’s heaven-sent revival in this country and around the world! By this pandemic crisis, He is calling us to seek Him – heart, soul, strength and mind! May we Christians respond as did the psalmist centuries ago in Psalm 27:8, “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, LORD, do I seek.’ ”