by Rev. Dr Fergus Macdonald
COVID-19, which has so spectacularly brought the world to its knees, is a particularly deadly member of the Coronavirus family. Corona is Latin for garland. In Spanish it means crown. It is also the brand name of a globally successful Mexican beer. But the present crisis has stripped corona of every regal vestige conferred on it by the Spanish language. Now it resonates more with its ancient meaning of the short cape worn by captives up for sale in Roman slave markets signifying that the seller gave no warranty.
As we look out on the strange new world around us – empty streets, closed cafes, shut schools, and banned public gatherings, we are all trying to make sense of what we see. Estimates of 250,000 Brits dying is creating a popular mood of apprehension and fear. Christians wonder if the ‘Day of the Lord’ may be just around the corner.
How can we ‘understand the times’ and know ‘what we should do’ (1 Chron 12:32)? Media pundits or social media cannot help us see why God has allowed coronavirus to flourish. There is always an element of unfathomable mystery in the outworking of God’s sovereignty. But reading God’s Word with help from the Holy Spirit, and laying our concerns before God in prayer, will enable us to view the situation from a new perspective. We can do this individually and together.
David offers a special prayer to all in danger: Fearful for his own life, he prayed: ‘Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed’ (Ps 57:1). As you face the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19, why not make this prayer your own?
Another psalmist offers us a corporate prayer for the nation. With others, he prays Psalm 126 at a time his country was facing severe problems, perhaps during Nehemiah’s governorship. The community was threatened by vested interests (Sanballet and Tobiah), and was enduring a severe drought (Haggai 1:6-11; 2:16-19). References to ‘sowing in tears’ and ‘going out with weeping’ could be metaphors of the crisis. As the Coronavirus curve rises exponentially and as tears multiply, here is a psalm to become our prayer for the nation. The key petition (v4a) can be rendered: ‘Our Lord, we ask you to bless our people again’ (CEV).
As we pray individually and in groups, may God give us the faith of the psalmist that joy will follow the weeping (vv 5-6). May he also give us the confidence of David in Psalm 57. There he goes on to say: ‘I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfils his purpose for me.’
Confidence in praying for victims of Coronavirus is possible. For we are praying to ‘God Most High’ in the name of One who is ‘crowned with glory and honour’ (Hebrews 2:9). Remember, Jesus wears the CORONA of all coronas!
Rev. Dr Fergus MacDonald was minister at Drumchapel, a missionary in Peru, minister at Cumbernauld, General Director of the National Bible Society of Scotland, and finally General Secretary of the United Bible Societies.