The Noisome Pestilence

Psalm 91:3

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

I am sure you are aware of the current outbreak of a new virus, which originated in China, but which is rapidly spreading to the rest of the world. When what we call “natural disasters” affect our lives, and the lives of the people around us, what do we do? 

Do we put our trust in men? There are two problems with that:

Firstly, anyone without faith is going to be afraid to die. Death is their great enemy. This life, to them, is all there is. They’re so scared of their life ending abruptly, “before their time” (as they say). So they would go over the top to try to protect themselves from any danger.

Secondly, men without God always think they are the only ones who can deal with the situation they find themselves in. So, when a disaster comes, they mobilise themselves. They’ve just found a new religion, something to live for. Their meaning to life becomes the defeat of the common enemy, whether it’s a plague or the aftermath of an earthquake or whatever. So, when their efforts are over, all glory goes to them, regardless of whether they actually made much difference or not 

No. The Christian doesn’t put his trust in men. Men can’t do all they think they can do:

Isaiah 2:22

Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

Psalm 146:3-4

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 20:7

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

On the other hand, do we behave like many muslims here, who aren’t bothering to wear masks or take any precautions at all? They think Allah will protect them. And if he doesn’t, it’s his will anyway. No 

Luke 4:12

And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

We are Christians, and we have the one true living God as our help in time of need:

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

Psalm 124:8

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

And the good news is that anybody else can freely come to know the Lord and have Him as their help too, if only they repent and put their trust in Him:

Psalm 37:3

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

Isaiah 55:6-7

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

But men will not naturally seek Him. We were told recently that there can’t be a God because the virus has stopped everyone enjoying their Chinese New Year festivities this year. And many Christians, maybe inadvertently, confirm people in such an attitude because they have a wrong view of God. They think that all the unpleasant things in life, such as plague, illnesses, famines and earthquakes must come from Satan. And all the nice things, things we like, such as healing, prosperity, success and gooey feelings in the heart, they must all come from God. So, in that view, the virus is from Satan, and the parties, which were all thwarted this year, would have been from God, after all, He....

1 Timothy 6:17

....giveth us richly all things to enjoy... 

Such an idea about the world is nonsense. Not only does it imply that there are some things that God is not in control of, but it also confirms atheists in their pleasure-seeking.

In order to understand the truth, we need to find out what Satan can and can’t do. Satan is a spiritual enemy. He is primarily the accuser of the brethren:

Revelation 12:9-10

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Psalm 109:6

Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.

Zechariah 3:1-2

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire 

Satan also tempts with evil:

Matthew 4:1

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Luke 22:3

Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve 

Acts 5:3

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land 

1 Corinthians 7:5

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

God tests us, but never tempts us with evil:

James 1:13

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man....

And notice, Satan only tempts. He doesn’t force us to do anything. He didn’t stuff the forbidden fruit down Eve’s throat against her will. We only sin when we give in to the temptation. We can never say “The devil made me do it, so I’m not responsible”:

James 1:14-15

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Satan takes away the Word from people’s hearts:

Mark 4:15

And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts 

Satan keeps unbelievers in darkness 

Acts 26:18

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Satan deceives:

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Revelation 20:7-8

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

Satan forms churches:

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Revelation 2:9

I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 3:9

Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

Satan hinders movement 

1 Thessalonians 2:18

Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

In all of these examples, Satan is a spiritual enemy. We shouldn’t take him lightly, he’s more powerful than we are. We should be wary of him, he is very crafty:

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour....

But the fact remains, his domain is purely spiritual. He can’t cause physical things such as plagues, famines or earthquakes. He hasn’t got the power to do that.

I have been looking through the Bible to try to find an example of Satan causing some kind of physical disaster like this, and I can’t find one, with the possible exception of when the Lord allowed him to test Job. If you know of other places in Scripture, let me know, I haven’t checked absolutely everywhere and I stand to be corrected on this 

Satan was given power by God to afflict Job:

Job 1:12

And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

So, Satan brought the Sabeans and Chaldeans to take away his sons’ property. And we can understand that. Satan persuades people to do evil. That’s what he does. That’s all in his spiritual domain. But it also seems that he was given power over the lightning and the wind:

Job 1:16

While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

(Although, notice, it was the “fire of God” that came down, not the fire of Satan).

Job 1:19

And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

And in chapter two, it seems that he was given power over illness too:

Job 2:7

So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

But I don’t think we can truly attribute these things to Satan. This whole passage in Job clearly shows that Satan can only do what God allows him to do. Satan controls nothing. The Lord is in control of everything:

Matthew 10:29-30

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Job 23:13

But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.

Psalm 135:6

Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. 

Satan is allowed to go so far, but no further. And we’re told that, although Satan was given such power, the Lord was behind everything all along:

Job 2:3

And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.

Job 2:10

But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

There are two other places in Scripture where Satan seems to have power over illness, but I’m not so sure he has:

Luke 13:16

And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

Here we have the idea that Satan has “bound” this woman, and Christ “looses” her. The problem is spiritual, not physical. She had a “spirit of infirmity”:

Luke 13:11

And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself 

She was physically disfigured in some way, bowed down and not able to lift herself up. But spiritual problems can exhibit physical manifestations. Christ healed the spiritual problem that Satan had caused, and the physical manifestation corrected itself.

And then we’ve got Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was, which is called in Scripture a “messenger of Satan”:

2 Corinthians 12:7

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

But notice Paul beseeched the Lord, not Satan, to take it away from him:

2 Corinthians 12:8-9

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

His “thorn in the flesh” was from the Lord. Maybe he called it a “messenger of Satan” because it was the source of spiritual battles within himself that he had to overcome.

So, if Satan can’t produce earthquakes, famines, plagues, extreme weather events or any other kind of “natural disaster” as we call them, then who does produce these things? Who is the only one who can? The Lord Himself 

Deuteronomy 28:27-28

The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart....

When we say this, the immediate question we are going to be asked is: “Why on earth would a loving God bring such things upon anyone?” He has three purposes:

Firstly, to shew His power:

Romans 9:17

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Secondly, as judgments:

Ezekiel 5:15

So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee, when I shall execute judgments in thee in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I the Lord have spoken it.

And thirdly, to persuade people to repent:

2 Chronicles 7:13-14

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land 

Amos 4:9-10

I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.

So, what hope can we give our neighbours when a “natural disaster,” like the current plague, appears? We can tell them the Lord is in control. Satan didn’t cause it. It’s not a “devil virus” as the (atheist) leader of this country has called it. And if the Lord did it, then there must be a reason. And that gives us a more pressing message:

To the nation: REPENT! This is from God, and it’s a judgment. Stop persecuting the church. Stop trying to retranslate the Bible to suit your own ends. Stop putting your “Yes” men into pulpits to try to change the church’s message. Stop trying to eradicate true religion and force people to worship you instead:

Psalm 2:10-12

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

To the unbeliever: REPENT! Whether you’ve caught the virus or not. The virus doesn’t single out the greater sinners. The call is to everyone: Stop pursuing your god of money and your empty superstitious practices that cannot save. Turn to the One true God and worship Him only:

1 Samuel 2:3

Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

Acts 3:19

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord... 

And to the believer? REPENT! We Christians need to repent more than anyone else. We’ve been too comfortable. It’s quite remarkable that the Lord uses such events not only as judgments and warnings to unbelievers, but at the very same time, those very same events He uses to glorify Himself in His people. Maybe it’s a chastisement, maybe it’s a test. Whatever the reason, the Lord will show His people His purpose. Only when our comfortable life is disturbed, are we really going to see our need of the Lord. Let’s make sure we put all our trust in Him:

Psalm 4:5

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.