by Rev. David Robertson
We all feel as though we are living in strange times. Who of us has ever known fear of the plague with all the consequent economic, social and political consequences we are currently facing? Actually we have returned to normal times. For most of human history we have faced famine, war, plague and death. The Christian church has flourished in those times. In modern times those of us in the West have largely lived free of the plague – not for us the black death which killed up to 50 million people in the 14th Century, or the small pox that killed McCheyne – although we need to remember that last year 1.6 million people in the world died from TB.
In 2 Samuel 24:13 we are told of a plague that hit the people of Israel. It lasted three days and killed 70,000 people. Many commentators believed that Psalm 91 was written in response to that plague. It is a beautiful psalm which is often misunderstood. The devil even used it to tempt Christ. It’s not a psalm which promises us immunity from plague, suffering and death – but rather it is one which enables us to trust in God in the midst of crisis – because it focuses on the character of God. The psalmist is assured that God knows us, takes care of us and is in control. At a time of general panic and fear it is important for us to remember that faith in Christ is not a vaccine against evil but rather a guarantee of eternal security. Having that knowledge doesn’t mean that we don’t care…but it does mean that we do not fear what they fear. That impacts how we behave.
In the year 165 AD the Antoine plague reached Rome. It lasted for about 15 years and at its height killed 5,000 people per day. It was a plague which had originated in China and spread along the Silk Road before devastating much of Europe. The Christians in Rome did not flee – instead they stayed to minister to the sick and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. As a result the Christian Church flourished.
Our world is being shaken. Scotland is being shaken. The people are being shaken. This is a significant moment. We do not just stay calm and carry on.....we learn the lessons of what is happening. Learn that we are helpless in the face of natural and spiritual enemies. Learn humility. Learn that we cannot save ourselves and then know that there is a Saviour. And trust him. Not that things will work out as we want. Not in our own ability. Not in our politicians or scientists. But in the God who is worthy of trust.
And tell others – there is good news for you. The virus is not in charge. Christ is. The Christ who is dead for you. We have good news in the midst of the bad. We can praise in a time of plague.
You can hear a beautiful version of Psalm 91 here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUZhTMZF_1I&t=40s
Rev. David Robertson is a Free Church minister currently Director of Third Space, an apologetics and evangelistic ministry based in Sydney, Australia. He was formerly minister at Clyne Free Church, Brora and then St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, he is a former Moderator of the General Assembly.