Many people suffer because of the corona virus. Not only those who got sick, but also those who cannot see their children and grandchildren, those who suddenly have to look after their schoolchildren themselves, those who are overwhelmed by work and can hardly find any sleep, but also those who have lost their jobs, who are wondering how to repay loans now, how all this is supposed to go on, and all those who have real existential fears. I take all this very seriously. And I am convinced that God takes our perceptions and feelings very seriously.
But I also take the Bible seriously. And there we are told that to those who love the one, true, living God, everything that happens ultimately works together for good (Romans 8:28). And then we come from Easter. The message of Easter is: The perspective of God is the only realistic one. Jesus is the One who was, who is, and who is coming (Revelation 1:4,8; 4:8). Everything originates from our Father in heaven. Through Him, everything exists. And towards Him are all things (Romans 11:36), all circumstances, all powers, all forces, all “coincidences”, everything that seems “overwhelming” in some way.
The prophetic message of the Bible
Yes, the Bible foretells us certain events, also terrible and sometimes even horrible developments. Biblical prophecy, however, does not help us to calculate exactly when any event will occur. Its intention is not that we can prepare and then happily retreat to our bunkers when the world around us is desperate or even coming to an end. The Word of God does not even give us answers as to the “Why” certain things happen, which may be quite agonizing when we ourselves are being hit directly.
The Bible foretells what the future may bring, so that we can confidently, courageously, assuredly stay on course, even when difficulties seem insurmountable. We do know who will have the last word, even if we do not understand a lot. The basic message of the Bible to those who live in a relationship with the Father in heaven is: Do not be frightened! Don’t be overwhelmed by fear! – Although realistically, there are actually many reasons to be frightened and scared.
I am sure that there is nothing in this world that my Father in heaven has not created. There is nothing that is not under His control. And there is nothing He might not utilize in some way to reach His goal. From this assurance I personally see three answers, which I would like to pass on here – without any claim to general validity or completeness, simply as food for further thought:
Using the Corona crisis, God has sent the working and busy people home all over the world. Suddenly we have to get along as a core family. We can no longer swerve into our circle of friends, into professional life, into the community. This is a challenge.
The sixth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy is quite a central text in Judaism. With verse 4 begins the “Shema Israel”, a sort of creed of the Jewish people, which is prayed several times a day.
The central theme of this chapter are “the commandment, statutes and rules which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you to practice in the land to which you are going over to accept it as an inheritance” (verse 1). The people of Israel are to live a life that is shaped through and through by the Word of God. “These things which I command you today shall be on your heart” (verse 6).
To implant in the children
And just as important as authentic life in the presence of God, then, practically in the same breath, is the focus on children and grandchildren (verse 2). “Inculcate [these words of God] in your sons by repeating them over and over.” The people of God are told this daily: “Talk about them when you sit in your house, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (verse 7). “If your son asks you… tell him…” (verses 20-21).
The fathers of the people of God are commanded: Figure out how to make the words of God omnipresent in the daily life of your family. “Tie them on your hand as a sign. They shall be between your eyes as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates” (verses 8-9). At no point does Scripture limit the inventiveness of the father of a family who wishes to bring the Word of God to his family.
In biblical thinking the really important things concerning the life and vocation of a person happen in the family. Whatever does not happen in the family does not happen at all.
The New Testament is also shaped through and through by this way of thinking. Therefore, a spiritually successful married and family life of a person according to the Apostle Paul are basic qualifications for leadership in the church (see about 1 Timothy 3:2-5,12-13).
What God had in mind when He created man as Father, what He wanted to communicate when He revealed Himself as Father, no man can delegate to a preacher, pastor, minister or priest.
By the way, this is also a message to the women, to the mothers. A man can only be a father as much and as good as his wife makes him a father. This is true not only in the biological, but also in the psychological and especially in the spiritual. At the very beginning of the history of this world, even before the Fall, the Creator himself made the statement: A man without a woman is helpless (Genesis 2:18).
The secret, the responsibility and the challenge of this first Corona message to the fathers lie in our marriages and families. Only together as spouses, only together as families can we meet this challenge.
When Israelis tell each other in Hebrew that all planes are now grounded, that the economy has switched back, that everything is coming to rest, then the word “Sabbath” constantly rings out in the text. Through the Corona virus God has enforced a Sabbath for the world. The Lord has “sabbathed” mankind.
For the first time in the history of the modern state of Israel, in March 2020 there was a Sabbath on which really everyone was in his family. Bars, cinemas, restaurants, everything was closed. There was no public transport, no possibility to go to the beach. The whole country was stilled and experienced a Sabbath. The question is not whether we like it. The question is what we do with it.
Created, liberated, sanctified
The Sabbath commands us to make a distinction between “ordinary” and “holy”. It reminds us of the Exodus from Egypt and that there is a Creator. Every seven days we are called to pause and realize that it is not our own efforts that keep us alive. There is a Father in heaven who even led us out of the land of slavery and death. Our lives should be dedicated to Him alone.
He who keeps the Sabbath testifies that there is a Creator and that he is conducts his life in the face of this Creator. Whoever disregards the Sabbath shows that he is indifferent to the Creator.
The Sabbath as day, as year and as “semi-century”
Now in the Bible there is not only the “Sabbath” as the seventh day of the week. In Leviticus 25, commissioned by God Moses explains to the people of Israel: “When you come into the land that I am giving you, the land shall keep a Sabbath unto the Lord” (verse 2). Every seven years the land should observe a “Sabbath Year”. It should rest and not be worked on.
And in the same chapter we are then confronted with the concept of the “Jubilee Year” (from verse 8 onwards). The basic message of the Sabbath, whether as a day, as a year, or as the crowning of seven weeks of years, in all cases remains the same: It is about the Creator, about liberation and sanctification. It is interesting that in verse 10 we encounter our first “Corona message” again: “Everyone should return to his family” (verse 10).
So what happens next?
“What are we gonna eat?” (Leviticus 25:20), the Hebrews already asked when Moses explained the Jubilee. Surprisingly up-to-date, the Bible picks up the reaction of many people on whom the Corona virus imposed a sabbatical. Worried, they wonder: “What now?”
The answer of the God of Israel to this question is, “In the sixth year I will command my blessing to produce the yield of three years, so that in the eighth year you will still have enough to sow” (Leviticus 25:20-22).
The Sabbath as a day, year or “semi-century” should initiate a return to the Creator, to the God of Israel, and to the recognition that He is the One who provides everything we need. The Sabbath is the end of the dream of self-sufficiency. We are and always will be completely dependent on our Father in heaven.
You will inhabit “great and good cities that you have not built”, “houses filled with all kinds of good things that you have not filled,” Moses had declared to the people before entering the land. Your water comes “from cisterns hewn in stone that you have not hewn”, and “vineyards and olive trees that you have not planted” will provide your livelihood: “You will eat and be filled” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11).
A red thread running through our two texts, Deuteronomy 6 and Exodus 25, is the call: “Fear the Lord your God” (Genesis 25:17,36,43; Deuteronomy 6:2,13), often combined with a warning about “other gods”. Actually this is a basic message of the entire Bible. Behind this is the insight: Whoever we fear, that is our god.
The corona crisis causes fear – and thereby reveals who actually is “god” to us, who has the last say in our lives. The Epistle to the Hebrews (12:26-29), with reference to the prophet Haggai (2:6), declares that God will once again shake everything that seems solid and reliable to us humans, “that what is unshakeable may remain” and we “may serve the one, true, living God acceptably with reverence and fear.”
Security, control, recognition
We humans have three basic needs: The need for security, the need to control our destiny and the need for appreciation. All three needs have the tendency to compete with our Creator’s claim to be the sole master of our lives.
God wants us to seek our safety in Him. He wants us to understand that He alone has everything under control. And He wants us to look for appreciation exclusively with Him. Everything else the Bible calls idolatry – every fear of man, every apprehension that totalitarian rule might be on the horizon, and also the fear that our economic growth could now suffer a dent.
A prophetic voice from the world
The German Jewish publicist Henryk M. Broder, as he himself writes, for a long time thought nothing of faith in God. But now he confesses: Recently, I have come to believe that God exists. I can even prove it. Until now, God seemed like a cool guy who couldn’t be bothered…
But now God is tired of the shenanigans… We have come too close to God. We started playing God ourselves. We violated his global policy authority. We’ve grown arrogant. And pride comes before a fall.
We have abolished chance and replaced it with “planning certainty”… Europe is to become the first climate-neutral continent by the year 2050. Mrs. von der Leyen wants it that way, and her will is law. We do not say grace, but we worship Greta and “science”. Our churches are empty, our highways are full.
One day God decided that it could not go on like this. “On every ship that steams and sails, there’s one who sets things right – and that’s me.” A little later the municipality of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia was quarantined, the International Tourism Fair in Berlin cancelled, the Louvre closed. God has a sense of humor, but he is not to be trifled with.
 Henryk M. Broder, „Das Coronavirus ist der Beweis, dass es Gott gibt“, Veröffentlicht am 02.03.2020: https://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/plus206263517/Henryk-M-Broder-Das-Coronavirus-ist-der-Beweis-dass-es-Gott-gibt.html (24.04.2020).