Is Covid19 God’s judgment on the world? Luke 13:1-5

There are preachers today saying that the deaths and all the suffering associated with Covid19 are expressions of God’s judgment on human beings who have rejected his laws and wounded our planet. But is that correct?
It often happens when we see news from around the world that some Christians interpret events as signs of God’s judgment. Earthquakes and tsunami and floods and famines and wars. Are these God sending judgment on sinners today, either through natural disasters or through the actions of men and nations?
Does God still send judgment on sin in ways like that? We asked that question when we were looking at the story of the exile of the Israelites taken away from Jerusalem to Babylon. When the Babylonians invaded Israel and destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC the suffering was indescribable. The famine due to the blockade of Jerusalem killed thousands and when the soldiers broke through the defences many more were murdered. Then we read in Jeremiah 52
1 (Nebuchadnezzar) set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. ….. 15 He carried into exile some of the poorest people and those who remained in the city, along with the rest of the craftsmen and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.
The events of the exile were indeed terrible. The Old Testament is very clear that those atrocities were expressions of the judgment of God on the Israelites for turning away from him and worshipping foreign gods.
Nor was the Exile the only example which we find in the Old Testament of God sending judgment. The flood was God’s act of judgment on the corruption and wickedness and pollution and violence of mankind at that time. God sent punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. The Ten Plagues on Egypt were not so much events to make way for the Exodus of God’s people, but acts of judgment on the sins and the false gods of the Egyptians. The victories God gave to the Israelites wiping out the original inhabitants of Canaan were God’s acts of judgment on the evil practices of the Canaanites – including child sacrifices. And long before the Exile, even as they wandered in the wilderness, God brought punishment on his own chosen people Israel for their complaining and rebellion and lack of faith and worshipping false gods. The letter of Jude makes it clear that such events serve as warnings even to Christians of the righteous judgments of God. The God of the Old Testament is a Holy God and a God who sends judgment. And that Judgment fell on whole cities and nations and races. In one sense God’s judgment might have seemed to us indiscriminate – it fell on women and children and babies as well as those who were obviously more guilty of particular sins. Some preachers try to water down these things but the reality is that God we meet on page after page of the Old Testament is a God of judgment.
Of course we also need to say very, very loudly that human suffering is not always an expression of God’s judgment or a punishment for specific sins. Most suffering is not an expression of specific judgment. We have also thought about this before. People do get sick. Traffic accidents happen. None of us has divine protection for the evil actions of others. Most suffering is just a consequence of living in a fallen world where bad things happen even to good people.
Jesus made this clear when he talked about some Galileans who had been murdered by the Roman authorities, and others who had died in the collapse of a tower in Siloam.
LUKE 13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Jesus makes absolutely clear: By no means all human suffering is the consequence of the sins of particular individuals or a direct act of God’s judgment! Subsequence does not imply consequence. Coincidence does not imply Causality. Most examples of suffering in the world are not specific acts of judgment by the Holy God on sinners or the consequence of specific sins.
There are no examples in the New Testament of God acting in judgment on whole nations. Nevertheless there are at least two undisputed examples of God bringing judgment on specific individuals in obvious physical ways. Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 both died because they had lied to the apostles. For that couple, God’s punishment for sin was not reserved for the afterlife, but enacted here and now. And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11 about Christians who were bringing judgment on themselves at the Lord’s Table by taking the bread and the cup in an unworthy manner. Some of them became weak and sick, and some had died.
The important thing to say about all these incidents in the Bible is this. On every occasion God made very clear at the time that the events were indeed his acts of judgment on specific sins. Before the Exile, God had challenged his chosen people but they had repeatedly ignored his warnings. And after the terrible events we read in Lamentations.
4:11 The LORD has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger.
He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations….
13 But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed within her the blood of the righteous.
When God DOES send judgment, he makes very clear that the event is an act His of judgment. So we should never say that any particular event is an expression of God’s judgment without a very clear revelation or prophecy. And when preachers talk about God’s judgment when that isn’t the case, there is a real danger that people will not hear the vitally important message about God’s love.
So are Coronavirus and Covid19 God’s judgment on human beings? I don’t believe so. This terrible disease and so much of the suffering it is producing are not expressions of God’s anger and judgment. They are consequences of living in a fallen world. God created the world perfect. Harmful viruses, bacteria and parasites entered into the world as a consequence of human sin, and have afflicted human beings with all kinds of illnesses ever since. As for all diseases, it is one of the injustices in the world that those who are materially poor are much less able to protect themselves from infection than those who are rich. And they are also much less likely to be able to receive the medical care which could save their lives.
But this is not evidence of God’s judgment. Those who are catching Coronavirus and those who are dying are no more sinful and no less sinful than all the rest of us. Everybody needs our support and our prayers and our love just as much as everybody else, just as much as ever.

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