Is this pandemic God’s judgment against us? This is a difficult question to ponder. To ask it, I do not presume ourselves to be under either the blessings and curses of theocratic Israel or the apocalyptic doom of Revelation. However, I do see patterns of biblical teaching indicative of God’s ongoing engagement in the affairs of human life and his willingness to use extreme measures to accomplish his purposes.

When confronted with disaster, Scripture calls us to look to God for both comfort and self-censure. Prophets from Moses to Malachi point to sin and the need for repentance as reasons behind various disasters. Likewise, John the Baptist and Jesus launch the New Testament with prophetic warnings and calls to repentance.

Early in Romans, the apostle Paul observes, “the wrath of God is being revealed … against all ungodliness and unrighteousness” (1:18, ESV). To the Corinthians, Paul holds up Old Testament patterns of judgment as “types,” “examples to us”—historic precedents to heed (1 Cor. 10:1–12; Rom. 11:20–21). When chastising the Corinthians for desecrations of the Lord’s Supper, Paul warns, “why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [have died]” (1 Cor. 11:30). Paul labels sickness and death as a “judgment” (v. 29), even for these New Testament believers. Hebrews 12, citing Proverbs, tells believers in the same vein, “‘do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, ... for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Heb. 12:5, 11, ESV).

It is important to clarify that God’s wrath comes with mercy (Hab. 3:2; 1 Chron. 21:13). We can discern ...

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