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Noah Confronts a Worldwide Catastrophe Part 1

Our world is facing an unprecedented crisis with the Coronavirus outbreak. Currently, close to 1,911,407 people have been confirmed to have developed the virus; 118,623 have died and 446,366 are recovered. By the time you read this article, the figures will have changed.

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While the confirmed cases of COVID-19 exhibit tragic numbers along with the subsequent deaths, the responses to the virus by different segments of society are extremely disturbing.

Since ScriptureSolutions is concerned with how evangelicals react to various disasters, the focus of this article zeroes in on how the church is handling the coronavirus. To be clear, the majority of large and small evangelical congregations are heeding the state, city and federal orders to refrain from large group meetings to stave off the spread of the virus. Yet some churches and their leaders have a different take to this pandemic.

Those who diminish the seriousness of the virus outbreak

Some Southern Baptist congregations in Kentucky have scrapped their plans to close their doors despite the request from Gov. Andy Beshear. To set the record straight, the Kentucky governor handed down his request for churches to shutter and not to challenge the right of any church to assemble. His sole motive is to bridle the spread of the deadly disease. The Kentucky Baptist Convention has stated that despite the governor’s request, many of their churches will stay open while taking some steps to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Callers to WLOU radio station in Louisville, KY who are 60 years or older said they plan on attending services because they are “covered by their faith.” Krystal Goodner, St. Stephen Baptist Church media coordinator stated that in Kentucky, “you do not mess with church.” Senior Pastor Stephen Wills of First Baptist Ashland, Kentucky acknowledges the Scriptures admonish Christians to obey the government. Yet for now, his church plans on staying open with some limitations. In response, the Kentucky governor Beshear stated, “I believe God gives us wisdom to protect each other and we should do that.”

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Doesn’t the church have an obligation before God to operate in wisdom when it comes to health matters in the midst of a pandemic? To this writer these spiritual leaders are not operating in faith, but rather in selfishness and indifference to the health of the areas where their churches are planted. Locked church doors are not a sign of lack of faith, but an indicator of love for others.

Still other pastors are grabbing on tight to their refusal to have churchgoers stay at home. For example one contributor on my Facebook page shared her perspective on this issue,

I saw one post by The Passion (Bible) Translation author Brian Simmons a few weeks ago that shocked me — he wrote that he thought that the Coronavirus is over-rated, and asked what those ‘following’ him thought. Many wrote back in a way that seemed to me boastful [“I have faith, I’m not controlled by fear”] & being totally uncaring towards the suffering of others in less-well off /less-resourced countries such as China. Seemed to me their responses contradicted the Word where it tells us (Phillipians) to look out not only for our own interests but those of others…

In a similar bent Tony Spell, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana, planned on holding an outdoor service for his church of 1200 people. He claims Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive order to limit gatherings to fewer than 50 people does not apply to outdoor events. However, Spell plans to structure the event so attendees will not be in close proximity to each other.

Earlier that week the same church held another event that drew more than 300 people. The pastor claims he and his parishioners have the right to assemble and that the “virus is politically motivated.”

Spell insists worshipping together is an important part of his church’s beliefs and its financial well-being. Yet churches across the U.S. are still meeting online to worship together using live stream services and church members are still managing to send in their offerings.

Those who take advantage of the virus outbreak

On one hand, we have a segment of evangelicals who refuse to take the virus seriously. On the other hand, reports inform us several well-known Christian leaders are using this tragic situation as an opportunity to huckster their brand of miraculous healings and cures.

Several alleged faith healers claim to have the power to cure the coronavirus through prayer. Let’s be honest. Turning to God in sincere prayer is a necessity during the spread of this toxic virus. The Lord can heal individuals of this dreaded disease.

In contrast, a considerable number of charismatic faith healers have taken God’s goodness in healing us of our diseases not as a benefit of the redemption of Jesus. Rather, these leaders are making healing of the coronavirus a guaranteed blessing for all followers of Jesus.

Texas self-proclaimed miracle worker, Kenneth Copeland boasts he has the cure for the virus by granting healing through the television screen. Copeland claimed on March 12, 2020 on his church’s Victory Channel that he can heal coronavirus infected viewers who touch their TV screens.

There is great danger for any faith healer to tell individuals with the Coronavirus they are well and cleared of the virus. Copeland fails to inform his viewers to get tested to verify his claims of healing. In fact, he is indirectly encouraging his audience to go back into the world without any fear of giving the virus to others since they are now “healed”.

Even more serious is Copeland’s dubious claim the coronavirus will be gone March 29, 2020 at noon. That date has past and there are no signs the virus has disappeared. Once again, the Texas preacher offers no proof other than his unfounded, misleading declarations.

‘Apostle’ Guillermo Maldonado, pastor of El Rey Jesus church and a visitor to the Trump White House, in a recorded message from March 17, 2020, stated he ordered the virus to “dissolve, disintegrate, die in Jesus’ mighty name” and told those infected with the virus to be “healed in Jesus mighty name.” Once again, this so-called Apostle is telling potentially infected individuals that they are now well and recovered from the virus.

Once again, if infected people are not truly healed, then they will continue to circulate among the general population because a spiritual leader told them they are recovered from the coronavirus.

Finally, we take a look at Pastor Rodney Howard Browne, leader of River Church in Tampa, Florida. According to an article in The Daily Beast, Browne vowed to cure the entire state of Florida of the virus. At a March 15th church service Browne encouraged worshippers to shake hands, declaring “this has to be the safest place . . . this place will never close.”

As of this writing Browne has been arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and violating Hillsborough County’s stay-at-home order. He was freed 40 minutes later after being arrested om $500 bail. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the church was warned on Friday March 27th they are fostering a dangerous environment for their members and the community. Browne went ahead and held two services on Sunday and went on with the church’s plans to bus people to the services.

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

Commenting on the arrest of Rodney Howard Browne, State Attorney Andrew Warren said, “Our goal here is not to stop anyone from worshipping, but the safety and well-being of our community must always come first.”

The Apostle Paul clarified in Romans 13 that followers of Jesus are obey secular governing powers. Why? Because God instituted the government to punish criminal behavior. In addition, the governing powers are established for the good of those ruled,

“for he is God’s servant for your good (italics mine). But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience”.

Romans 13:4-5 ESV

So what can be learned from these reactions to the coronavirus epidemic? When evangelical teachers misapply the Word of God in the midst of a worldwide crisis something corrective must be said. It is not a time to dig in our heels and resist the government nor is it a time to make questionable promises without the ability to back up what can be perceived as very dangerous claims.

Those who have a correct response to crisis

Noah provides a balanced spiritual perspective in the midst of chaos and impending doom. This man of God lived during a time when people shunned the Creator’s involvement in their lives. They had bought into the serpent’s false promise in the Garden of Eden which states, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5).

In essence, the serpent was baiting Eve to evict God and become her own source of spiritual wisdom. In Martin Lloyd-Jones’ book, Why Does God Allow War, the prolific author describes man’s refusal to include God in His life:

We have such confidence in ourselves, and in our own minds and understandings and opinions, that we question and query God’s actions in precisely the same way as we question the actions of fellow human beings. We feel, and we believe, that we know what is right and what is best. Our self-confidence is endless and boundless, and we refuse to believe that anything can possibly be beyond the reach and the grasp of our minds and intellects. . . God is to conform to our ideas, and He is to do what we believe He should do. But the arrogance does not stop at that point.

Martin Lloyd-Jones, Why Does God Allow War, Crossway Books 2003, pg. 65)

Thus, Noah’s generation bought into the serpent’s deception and rejected God, yet their sin multiplied until the Creator decided to expel them “from the Garden” or the enjoyment of life on this earth by destroying all of mankind by a worldwide Flood.

In contrast, God provided Noah a confidence to withstand the coming storm and continue his walk with God “to the other side.” What needed to survive the Flood was not only Noah and his family, but Noah’s ongoing trust in the Lord. Has your faith undergone any changes since the onset of COVID-19? Are you only trying to survive this pandemic physically or are you seeking God for the spiritual growth He has for you during this time?

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Noah can teach us much about how to walk by faith in the face of a worldwide catastrophe.

Noah trusted God’s promise about a post-Flood future.

Noah did not ignore the guidance that came from the Lord. The Creator said to the patriarch, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth (Genesis 6:3 ESV). But then the LORD God stated to Noah, “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. (Genesis 6:17-18).

The Lord made it clear Noah and his family would survive the Flood since He promised to establish a covenant between Himself and Noah after the great deluge. In light of this promise, the patriarch began work on building the ark. He knew the ark was the key to staying above the flood waters. However, more important than this wooden vessel of salvation was Noah’s trust in God. After the Flood, the ark had served its purpose. Yet it was Noah’s confidence in God-imperfect as it was- that endured afterwards.

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

God could not start a new world without having at least one person committed to obey Him. Like a flower that blooms in an arid desert, God causes us to flourish spiritually in our trying times. What He is looking for is that confidence in Him that allows Him to bring forth life in the midst of despair and death. Many passages from Scripture encourage us to know the Lord is committed to cause us to not merely to ride out our storms, but to grow closer to Him.

One such text is found in Philippians 1:6 (ESV), “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” This scripture includes not only God’s commitment to continue His work in our lives, but the text also indicates the time element when this work will be completed: the return of the Messiah Yeshua.

Jesus will not return to a dead planet void of humans killed off by a plague. Our hope is that we will not only outlast this present cataclysmic health problem; we also have the Lord’s commitment to continue to work in our hearts to bring us to full spiritual maturity in the Messiah Yeshua.

We will survive!

Noah faithfully warned others how to escape the upcoming Flood

We really do not know much about Noah’s activities other than he spent his time building an ark to help him and his family get through the Flood. However, we do know from Genesis 6:9 that Noah was a “righteous man, blameless in his generation.” This man of God had a reputation among his peers. In other words, he had the attention of his contemporaries because of the kind of person he was.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

It would be a safe assumption to believe Noah warned his neighbors about the coming flood during the 120 years required to complete the ark. 2 Peter 2:5 states, “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly . . . ” By calling Noah a herald or preacher of righteousness, Peter is implying that as a blameless man, Noah showed concern for others. This man of righteousness warned his fellow humans about the impending liquid avalanche and implored them to repent and get right with God, which would have stayed the Flood had they repented.

Noah was not the kind of person who merely thought about himself. Though God instructed him to bring two of every kind of living creature on the ark, he only “packed” what was necessary. Noah did not hoard all the animals. Noah probably hoped people would repent and ward off the Flood. Sadly, even though Noah preached a warning message about the deluge, he was ignored. When the Flood came, the inhabitants on the earth were surprised rather than prepared.

Matthew 24 records Jesus providing a warning of another coming judgment, His Second Coming. Nevertheless, Jesus says the world will be caught off guard when He returns:

“For  the  coming of the Son of Man will be  just like the days of Noah.
“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,  marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that  Noah entered the ark, and they did not  understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the  coming of the Son of Man be.

Matthew 24:37-39

Rather than getting caught up in the politics connected to the curtailing of the coronavirus, we are called to be like Noah. We are to be prepared rather than surprised.

To those fearful of the brevity of life, we are called to warn them to seek the Lord. To those who have lost hope, we can point them to a God who has all things under His control. We can lead these fearful souls to the comfort of a God who will never forsake us.

The coronavirus is not the end of humanity, but rather a time when we can evaluate what we are truly living for. In the days of Noah people ignored the warning and were eating and drinking and carrying on as though nothing was going to happen.

In recent times we have witnessed party-goers on beaches acting as though they are privileged to ignore the measures being taken to stave off the virus. By ignoring the order to stay at home, those seeking entertainment end up harming others as well as themselves. Rather than being prepared to stave off the virus, these fun-seekers will be stunned if they contract the virus through their own stubbornness.

Noah refused to offer alternatives to repentance

Unlike several of today’s pastors who have refused to heed the governing authorities in sheltering at home, Noah did not argue. He was given a chance to save himself and his family and was committed to follow God’s directions. However, Noah was given a clear understanding of what the people of his day needed to do: repent!

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Noah was not the kind of person who misrepresented God by promising deliverance from the Flood apart from repentance. He knew people’s lives were at stake. Noah had no need to draw attention to himself by offering a way of escape from the Flood that puts the spotlight on him. Noah had no desire to mislead anyone, but to bring them closer to a redeeming Creator.

Moses wrote in the Flood account in Genesis that in contrast to those who grieved God by their sin (Genesis 6:5-6),  “Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” The patriarch was far from perfect, but he obeyed the Lord according to what knowledge he had. His simple obedience to the Lord gratified the Creator.

What pleases God in the face of impending or present doom is a heart that remains faithful to God. There are those today who are claiming the Coronavirus is over because they decreed the pandemic to be dissolved. Others claimed their state will be immune from the virus. This is nothing but deception.

Can you imagine Noah declaring the Flood will not crash down on civilization because he decreed it? If he truly believed that, he would’ve ceased from building the ark. Yet Noah was a man of true faith. He remained faithful to the warning of God and did not offer false hope. 

Conclusion

David Yarborough recounts the story from one of Max Lucado’s books of a lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the century. This woman was quite wealthy, but also very frugal.

house near beach
Image by Виктория Бородинова from Pixabay

The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home. Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door. He asked if her electricity was working well, and she assured him it was. “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. Are you using your power?” “Certainly,” she answered. “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”

Yarborough goes on to say, “She tapped into the power but did not use it. Her house is connected but not altered.”

We, too-with our souls saved, but our hearts unchanged – are connected but not altered. We claim to know the Lord, but our focus is mainly on ourselves and our needs. Instead of tapping into God’s power, we operate in the darkness of self-centeredness. During times of crisis, we lack the contact with our Lord to handle the pressure with a view towards spiritual advancement.

Noah provides us an example of a person able to confront a major devastation. His focus remained on his walk with God, his concern for others not connected to God and the steps he needed to take to prepare and survive this worldwide downpour.

Occasionally we flip the switch to communicate with the Lord, but most of the time we live in the shadows of our own selfishness. When the tsunamis come into our lives, are we going to remain plugged into the Lord or try to weather the torrent by living in self-imposed darkness?

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