We may not be smarter than we were in February, but we certainly have learned some things.
What I am saying is we have some knowledge that we didn’t have before this outbreak.
A while back I read an op-ed piece with a title something like, “Despite the Gloom, there is Hope.” That’s a word you didn’t here much before this, “gloom.”
Think of words that have been added to our vocabulary and words and phrases which we seldom used before, but are all too familiar with now. Outbreak. Sheltering in Place. Covid 19. Coronavirus. Droplet Transmission. We all know what PPE is now and we didn’t before (except you medical professionals). Drive-thru Testing. Flattening the Curve. N95 Respirator. Hand Hygiene. Self Isolation. Asymptomatic. Pandemic. Hydroxochloroquine. Remdesivir. Epidemiologist (even though we have one in our church – Ellen Idler who has authored many important books and articles on epidemiology – but few could probably define the word before and surely can now!).
Okay, okay! I’ll stop! It is saddening me too! Enough already! It isn’t fun at all but we have learned a lot and substantially boosted our vocabulary.
What verse does this bring to mind? How about before and after names. Especially from 1 Peter.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Before and after. Before we were lost, adrift, mired in sin and hopeless. Now everything has changed. Because of Jesus. Once lost we are found, adrift we now have purpose, up to the neck in sin now pure and hopeless now reveling in a hope that does not disappoint.
Looking at the crisis we might tremble. Looking to Jesus, the sun comes out and we can be certain of our salvation and life forevermore.
Now, those of you reading this who know the Bible are saying, “Surely you will mention Hosea, Fred.” Surely I swill!
In the eighth century, God commissions the prophet Hosea to announce doom to the country. The people are awash in idolatry, worshiping idols and ascribing to objects of wood and stone the power and glory and honor that belongs only to the true God. God orders Hosea to marry an unfaithful wife (putting it mildly). Gomer, Hosea’s wife constantly betrays him. Get it? Like Israel if unfaithful to God? Gomer gives birth to three children and God commands them to be named, Jezreel, Lo-huramah, and Lo-ammi. If you are thinking to yourself, if I have another child I will use one of those “Bible” names, don’t. Jezreel is the kingdom that will overrun Israel. The name Lo-huramah means “not pitied. And Lo-ammi means “not my people.”
Except that even in the gloomiest of times, the times of the worst plague, punishment or peril, hope shines through. Before the first chapter of the book of Hosea is over God promises he will change the name of his people from “You are not my people,” to the name “children of the living God.”
Why? Well if you read chapter 11 you will see that no matter hard God’s wrath burns, and no matter how much his people deserve to lose his love, GOD CANNOT HELP HIMSELF and his love of his covenant people is inextinguishable. Therein lies our deepest hope. The Bible says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13
I hope you will see how radical this is. In First John we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1:9) Do you hear it? When we bow before God and confess our sins he forgives us. Not because we are penitent, but because of who he is. Not because of anything we do, but because God in his very nature loves us and pardons us. You want hope? I can think of no higher hope than this. We cannot shake this God. We cannot rid ourselves of him. We cannot divorce him. Because he will never let us go.
So. With the new knowledge we have of unfortunate things this year and with the new trials we are facing and with the uncertainties about tomorrow, we march into the coming weeks and months as the confident army of God. He is our shield and fortress, and nothing can assail it!
Please pray with me. “You are awesome God. No matter what else we can rely on you. We are so fortunate that your nature is steadfast love and faithfulness. Give us some of that, we pray, we that we may encounter others with some of your godliness and learn to love and forgive and care. Thank you for being the God who sends the Son to save. Amen.”