Plagues are signs. Signs of wrath. Signs of anger. Yet for one purpose, that is to bring everyone to repentance, to show the anger of God and to bring to faith in Christ. For us Christian’s, this is an excellent opportunity to preach the Gospel. Sickness is temporal, it can lead to death, and everyone should be ready for death. A Christians death is a comforting thing. For us, to die is gain as it is to be with Christ.
“46 They will be for a sign and for a wonder to you and to your offspring forever. 47 Because you didn’t serve Yahweh your God with joyfulness and with gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things;”Deuteronomy 28: 46-47
“22 For a fire is kindled in my anger,that burns to the lowest Sheol, devours the earth with its increase,and sets the foundations of the mountains on fire. 23 “I will heap evils on them.I will spend my arrows on them.24 They shall be wasted with hunger,and devoured with burning heatand bitter destruction. I will send the teeth of animals on them,with the venom of vipers that glide in the dust.”Deuteronomy 32: 22-24
Are plagues punishment for sin? Not necessarily. God isn’t always punishing you with sickness for sins you have committed. That would be a theology of glory. That would be to say that God blesses those who are righteous and damns those who aren’t. Yet we see that even the unrighteous live a life of prosperity and health. We shouldn’t identify any particular event as a punishment from God, as the book of Job is quite clear that the righteous suffer and often times it has nothing to do with punishment.
Instead we have the theology of the cross. We have a theology that explains and allows for human suffering, this is shown in most beautifully in that our God suffered for us, even to death on a cross. Even St. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, was whipped on numerous occasions, and eventually martyred. The righteous, by faith, still suffer in this life. Yet, the suffering we endure through trials and tribulations are always a call to repentance.
“1 Now there were some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.”6 He spoke this parable. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 He said to the vine dresser, ‘Behold, these three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and found none. Cut it down! Why does it waste the soil?’ 8 He answered, ‘Lord, leave it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit, fine; but if not, after that, you can cut it down.’ ”Luke 13: 1-9
“6 Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your offspring, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”Deuteronomy 30: 6
Interestingly, with this plague, churches have closed down. They sit empty as pastors are preaching online yet the sacraments are unable to be given online. Also, not everyone has access to the internet, or are unable to stream these services. This is especially true for those who don’t normally attend church. The world is going crazy and looking for comfort and nearly every church is shut down and remains empty. We are now in the midst of a famine of the Word. We are being reminded of what a blessing church is, of what a blessing it is to have faithful pastors proclaiming the Word and administering the Sacraments. We are being reminded by God of His spiritual care and blessing. God is using this plague to call the world to repentance, and us Christian’s also to a strengthened faith and reliance on God our Father.
“11 Behold, the days come,” says the Lord Yahweh,“that I will send a famine in the land,not a famine of bread,nor a thirst for water,but of hearing Yahweh’s words.12 They will wander from sea to sea,and from the north even to the east;they will run back and forth to seek Yahweh’s word,and will not find it.”Amos 8: 11-12
“For when the Word has been taken away, what else remains but the most terrible darkness of human reason which wants to be our mistress and which can teach nothing else than the doctrines of the demons?”Martin Luther; Luther’s Works Vol 18
Plagues are a consequence of sin but for the whole world, not just your individual sin, or any particular sin that a nation might commit. Sickness is the result of the fall and God uses sickness, suffering, and natural consequences of sin to draw us to Himself. To fear nothing else but Him, to have us love and trust Him completely. This is the first commandment. We cannot follow the first commandment apart from faith. This cannot be done without the Spirit in the Gospel of Christ and that is who all evil is to point us to. Whenever there is fear of wrath, it’s been poured out on Christ. Whenever there is fear of death, Christ conquered death.
“1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most Highwill rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress;my God, in whom I trust.”3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler,and from the deadly pestilence.4 He will cover you with his feathers.Under his wings you will take refuge.His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,nor of the arrow that flies by day,6 nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday.7 A thousand may fall at your side,and ten thousand at your right hand;but it will not come near you.8 You will only look with your eyes,and see the recompense of the wicked.9 Because you have made Yahweh your refuge,and the Most High your dwelling place,10 no evil shall happen to you,neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.11 For he will put his angels in charge of you,to guard you in all your ways.12 They will bear you up in their hands,so that you won’t dash your foot against a stone.13 You will tread on the lion and cobra.You will trample the young lion and the serpent underfoot.14 “Because he has set his love on me, therefore I will deliver him.I will set him on high, because he has known my name.15 He will call on me, and I will answer him.I will be with him in trouble.I will deliver him, and honor him.16 I will satisfy him with long life,and show him my salvation.””Psalm 91
The whole point of plagues is to point you to Christ. To bring you to repentant faith. To fear God and to Love God. To not fear the punishment for sin but to trust that God loves you. To understand that even in death, you win, because Christ was victorious for you. You need not fear, you need not worry, God is calling you closer to Himself not farther from Himself. Turn from your fear of the temporal and see the One who is Eternal. See His hands, His mighty arm and hand is outstretched, as they were on the Cross, not to smite you, but to embrace you. God is calling, repent, God is drawing you near, He is bringing you closer, He is loving you. He is in control, for He is the Almighty, and the Almighty who died for you also rose for you. Perfect love casts out fear, there is no punishment in love, there is no fear for those who are in Christ Jesus, because there is no condemnation for those in Christ Crucified. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, and may the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.