2020 has been quite the year. As we start a new year, many of us thought that the dark days of the pandemic would have been behind us by now, not that we would anticipating many months (at least!) before it’s over.
I have been thinking something a physician said to me days before our region’s first COVID-19 lockdown last March. He said, “This is a secular society’s response to a crisis like this.” A secular society is one in which the things of God are confined to the personal sphere, having been deemed to be irrelevant to the public realm.
A secular society is a closed box in which outside forces are not welcome.
A secular society has no hope outside of chance and human ingenuity.
A secular society is alone.
I have watched as political leaders assert that it is ultimately their responsibility to keep people safe. I have seen how the doctors and scientists are the new clergy, while the media are their prophets of doom. I have been struck (pun intended) by how messianic expectation has been placed in vaccines. The response of a secular society to such a crisis indeed!
The Bible gives us a different perspective—not that we shouldn’t use our intelligence and tools to alleviate suffering—not that we shouldn’t respect those in authority within reasonable limits—not that we shouldn’t do our best to keep people safe from dangerous threats—but the Bible’s perspective is that we are not alone. Therefore, we shouldn’t live as if we are alone.
The Bible’s perspective is that COVID-19 is but another symptom of our broken world. The Bible’s perspective is that we are to be wise, but without fear, as we trust in the One who has destroyed the power of death. The Bible’s perspective is that the cause behind pandemics is that which has caused every other ill, be they medical, relational, or societal. Human rebellion against God, resulting in living in a cursed creation is at the root of it all. The Bible’s perspective is that the curse has been broken through the resurrection of the Messiah. If we put our trust in him, we can live life free from the curse’s effects, including COVID-19. That doesn’t mean that you and I won’t get sick or die. What it does mean, however, is that our lives need not be controlled by COVID or anything else, except for God.
This freedom doesn’t come easily. Everything around us shouts at us to surrender to the threat of the curse. Every fear or distraction reminds us that we are part of this world. It can take all our energy to focus on God’s truth in these dark times. This is why we need to engage God’s word, as it is written: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The Bible inoculates us from the infection of deceit and the sickness of despair. But for the Bible to work, we need to ingest it on its own terms. This includes fully embracing it.
Sadly, the foundations of biblical truth are too often neglected by too many people. When Paul wrote Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and equips us to live effective godly lives (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17), he was referring to the Old Testament. Without good understanding of this essential part of Scripture, we are ill equipped to navigate the deceitful and sin-sick world in which we live.
This is why, as we begin 2021, I am offering my Old Testament Survey course online for the first time. Each Wednesday starting January 13 at 7 pm Eastern Time for twenty weeks I will help you understand the Old Testament’s purpose and how it informs our relationship to God, each other, and the world.