The year 2020 has certainly been one that will be remembered.
The numbers themselves suggest a year of clear vision; an ability to see ahead with perfect acuity.
However, what has happened this year demonstrates just how deficient every one of us is in this matter of predicting what the future holds.
Imagine, for a moment, if someone told you on New Year’s Eve, moments before 2020’s inauguration, that the following events would characterize the next year:
- Animal shelters all across the nation, normally glutted with lonely dogs and cats, would be emptied for the first time in memory.
- A roll of toilet paper would cost more than a gallon of oil.
- South Lake Tahoe, a resort city in California, dependent on tourists for its livelihood, would be citing out-of-town visitors for even being in town.
- Some of the smoggiest places in the world, like Delhi, India, and Los Angeles, California, would be experiencing unprecedented numbers of clear days and blue-bird skies.
- Nearly 100% of America’s churches would be closed on Sundays for weeks at a time by government orders.
- The epidemic of mass school shootings, at least a weekly reality in 2019, would suddenly be halted in its tracks.
- A couple on honeymoon in Hawaii would be arrested for leaving their hotel room.
- The booming economy in the U.S. would suddenly experience a 25% unemployment rate, a rate not seen since the Great Depression.
- Several major U.S. car insurers would voluntarily repay 15-25% of their premiums to their customers.
- The presumptive Democratic candidate for President of the United States would be conducting his campaign exclusively from his basement.
I’m sure we would all have been incredulous at such predictions. And I’m sure we would ask what in the world could account for all these strange events? There must have been a major interruption to life as we know it—a cause of some sort. We might well ask questions like these: “Would North Korea’s crazy dictator Kim Jong-un have actually nuked San Francisco? Would Congress actually have passed AOC’s Green New Deal? Would there have been an alien invasion?
Now listen to this:
Hear this word, people of Israel, the word the Lord has spoken against you—against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt:
“You only have I chosen
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your sins.
Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?
Does a lion roar in the thicket
when it has no prey?
Does it growl in its den
when it has caught nothing?
Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground
when no bait is there?
Does a trap spring up from the ground
if it has not caught anything?
When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the Lord caused it?” (Amos 3:1-6)
As China has suggested U.S. was the real source of the Coronavirus, and the U.S. has blamed China; as scientists try to determine whether it came from a poorly-run Chinese lab in Wuhan, or a wet market in that same city, everyone might be surprised that there is Someone who is willing to take full responsibility.
He’s saying every effect has a cause. And He’s saying that when a great disaster comes to a city, much less to the world, the cause is not merely an invisible virus, but the Lord God Almighty. He’s also saying it’s time to blow the trumpet—a trumpet that sounds a call to repentance.
Now, I have never been a fan of the Bible-thumpers who have been predicting God’s judgment upon America—saying things like if God doesn’t judge America, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. Maybe it’s because they often sounded angry themselves as they pronounced God’s judgment.
Certainly, God is a God of justice, and He is offended greatly by our sins. Clearly, in Amos 3:1-6, He promises judgment upon His people Israel, especially the unrepentant Northern Kingdom which ignored Him in a time of great economic prosperity; a time also characterized by persistent idolatry and a lack of love toward others.
However, so often in the Bible, God’s judgments have a merciful purpose. It’s to awaken people spiritually—to bring them to their senses before Him. II Chronicles 7:13-14 certainly reflects this motivation as God says, “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Even in the book of Revelation, following the great world-wide judgments that wipe out great segments of the world’s population, the Lord’s interest is in bringing men to repentance through the judgments. Initially, many will repent through the 144,000 Jewish witnesses. However, those who remain will be so hardened in their sins that they will refuse to repent regardless of the hardships. But even then, the Lord’s purpose is reflected in His repeated refrain following these kinds of judgments, such as the one found in Revelation 9:20-21: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts” (See also Revelation 16:9, 11).
As we are in the grip of a world-wide crisis, it’s important for those of us who do know our God to recognize this is no accident of nature. It is rather a severe mercy sovereignly brought upon our planet by a just and merciful God to bring those who are lost to repentance and a saving knowledge of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And once we have been reminded of His purposes, it’s all the more important for us to align both our prayer lives and interaction with others so that we don’t miss this opportunity to reconcile people to Him.
May I suggest you begin by joining us in prayer for revival on Sunday nights?
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).