I’ve been thinking about parallels between the Exodus account in the Old Testament and the Covid-19 pandemic today. A question may come up in people’s minds, “Is the Corona virus pandemic a judgement from God?” I think the answer is no, though I can see how some could think so. It affects people all over the entire world! We’ve never experienced anything like it. Many Americans are inconvenienced in ways for the first time in their lives. And people are dying. It is astonishing to me how it has turned a very mobile modern society into a very immobile society! But there are things we can do to lesson the deaths and the suffering. I think Psalm 25:8 is an important clue for understanding our current situation. I think the Corona virus is more of a test, it is more of a hard lesson, not a judgement. The God of the Bible does hold in his hands the lives of every human being. Psalm 25:8 says
“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (NIV, 1984)
I say God is not judging, he is instructing. But there are hard lessons in this time. God does not just instruct his own people who believe in him. He sometimes instructs sinners who do not believe in him, using action in the world. The account of the Exodus does have some parallels to today. I would not equate the plagues of Egypt to the Corona virus, mainly because the Corona virus does not discriminate. The plagues of Egypt for the most part did discriminate between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Starting with the third plague in Egypt (see Exodus 8) it says the plague would not affect the land of Goshen where the Israelites were. Also it seems to me from descriptions of God’s judgement in the Bible, such as Noah’s Flood and the book of Revelation, that God’s judgement would be even more severe than the virus outbreak we are experiencing. Also, we think of viruses as a bad thing because of all the attention that has focused on those viruses that threaten our health. But there are also many beneficial viruses that fight against harmful bacteria in our bodies. Viruses such as Covid-19 are examples of viruses that likely no longer serve the function they had in the beginning. We live in a fallen world that is corrupted by sin, and that includes corruption of viruses. But we can use science to fight corrupted viruses.
The Egyptians were prosperous and they were one of the most powerful nations in the world at the time of the Exodus. They had their own beliefs, their own religion with multiple gods that they worshiped and served. But Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and told him to obey God. Pharaoh was told he would see that there was no god like the God of the Israelites. The plagues demonstrated miraculously that the God of Moses was really in control of what was happening. There are a number of specific ways that the plagues of Egypt specifically refuted the beliefs in the gods of Egypt of the time. But that is another story.
Today many people, including many scholars, would not think of the biblical account of the Exodus as a description of real historical events. But there is now some new evidence coming to light through the “Patterns of Evidence” video programs that make a good case for the Exodus being a real historical event. There is good evidence for the Israelites being in Egypt and good evidence that they moved to Canaan. What happened in between Egypt and Canaan is controversial when you deal with the historical evidence. But in Scripture we have an account of what actually happened to real people.
What are the parallels between today and the Exodus? First, the God of the Bible is still in control, though this is something not everyone would acknowledge. We may not have as much miraculous evidence of this today as like what happened in Egypt in the past, but there is all the evidence of good in people’s lives from faith in the God of the Bible throughout history. Many hospitals actually had their founding from the efforts of Christian organizations. Christians have built hospitals for the treatment of all people because of the Christian concept of the uniquely high value of human life! We are glad to have those hospitals today, regardless of who owns or manages them. Christianity also had a role in the founding of modern science and the discovery of principles that are very important today in dealing with the Corona virus. Like the work of Luis Pasteur and Joseph Lister for example, who were both Christians. Science has come a long way since the work of Pasteur and Lister but that is also thanks to God I believe.
In a time like this I think it is key that people put aside differences and cooperate with each other and with authorities. So I think the virus outbreak is for teaching people good lessons about good health and about cooperating with each other. It is also a challenge to people who are first responders and who work in health fields, to treat all types of people equally according to their need. Doctors and nurses and other health care workers are real heros right now. There is another passage in Psalm 32:8-9 I like very much that seems relevant right now. We should learn the lessons we need to learn from times like these.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” (Psalm 32:8-9, NIV, 1984)
Another parallel between the Exodus and today is about what the ancient Israelites experienced compared to people today. The biggest challenge for the ancient Israelites was not so much about surviving the plagues, because God protected them. It was about their journey to the promised land. They couldn’t see what was ahead or know what would happen next. They were given manna and quail in such a manner that it forced them to trust and obey God in a daily manner. They could not horde manna. They had to collect only one day’s worth, except the day before the Sabbath. It was a lesson about trusting God every day. You can’t horde enough for your whole life, or even for all you need for a couple of months. The way to face it is to trust God for every day. Jesus taught something very like this as well in Matthew 6:34.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NIV 1984)
So, we are told we should live with more understanding than a horse or a mule. But Scripture gives a lot more guidance than just this. Trusting God for every day does not mean you don’t make reasonable plans and preparations. But we should be able to be content and not anxious. We feel like asking, “What’s going to happen next?” But perhaps we should be asking the question, “How can I help?” At the very least, we who believe in God can pray.