Written by Pastor Lee Hock Chin
In the third week of January,
we were all busy happily preparing for family reunions. So unaware that a silent invisible virus had invaded our shores. It felt like 2003 SARS all over again. Even people with no recent travel history to China were infected with the novel-coronavirus – indicating it had spread to the local community. Three churches had been infected. One had the largest cluster of 22 cases (20 Feb), including its church senior pastor. One of its infected members happened to be my friend. In case you are wondering, you can breathe easy as I have
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
not had any face to face contact with him in the past year. The large number of cases involving churches does cause a bit of unease. We are concerned - will our church be next?
Amidst these growing fears, I was led to meditate on Psalm 46. A reassuring psalm that inspired Martin Luther to write the battle hymn of the Reformation, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. I learnt that the way to battle our fears and storms is to keep trusting God, our Protector and our Help. He who has saved us from sin and eternal hell will keep us safe in the arms of Jesus.
1. God is our refuge and help (v.1-3).
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1). God is our refuge, protector, and help. Therefore, we need not fear earthquakes and storms (vv.2-3).
a. Our Refuge – our unchanging God shelters us from the changing storms of life.
b. Our Protector – our caring God protects us from danger and enemies. That does not mean we will never fall sick, lose a loved one or a job, or face failure. But it does mean that when God sends trials, it was for our good. He is for us, not against us.
c. Our Help. Our Almighty God is able to help us and heal us from sickness (v.6; Ps 103:3). He is also our ‘present’ help because we can pray to Him anytime, 24/7.
2. God is still on the throne (vv. 4-5)
God's Presence brings peace
a. God is with us. God dwells with His people, in the holy city of God, Jerusalem. Jesus tabernacled (or dwelt) among us (Jn 1:14). God dwells in the Holy of Holies, from His throne commanding peace and security for His people. God is still in charge. Why then did He allow this outbreak? To remind us of our mortality and the greater enemy that He has conquered for us.
b. God’s presence brings peace. When we come into the presence of God, when we worship Him in His sanctuary, we experience the peace of the river and quietness of the tabernacle in the city of God (vv.4-5). Even in the midst of storms, we can have peace and calm because God is with us to give us victory over our enemies.
3. God is victor (v.9)
a. Our greatest enemy is not covid-19. This viral outbreak reminds us that we are mere mortals. We are mortals in a fallen world that is infected with sin, and accursed with sickness and death. Our greatest enemy is sin. While covid-19 only infects less than a hundred in Singapore, sin has infected every human being in the world and condemns every one of us to death, eternal hell and separation from God. The mortality rate from sin is 100%. After death is judgment. If your sins are not forgiven, it would be terrifying to be indicted before a Holy God. My friend, have your sins been washed away? Get right with God today!
Victory in the blood of Jesus
b. God’s victory over our greatest enemy. God who commands the heavenly armies (“hosts”) has fought the battle against our greatest enemy (v.9). He has broken the bows and spears of our enemies and burnt their chariots. Likewise, Christ has defeated our greatest enemies - sin and Satan. How did Christ do that?
c. Victory through the blood of Jesus. Jesus shed His precious blood for us on the cross. Only the blood of Jesus can save us from sin. The best mask will not cure an infected patient. He requires a vaccine. While research laboratories race to develop a vaccine for covid-19, God has provided a perfect vaccine for deadly sin. Chinese doctors had extracted antibodies from the blood plasma of cured patients that appeared to be effective in killing the virus in critically-ill patients. Likewise, the blood of Jesus is God’s vaccine for the deadly disease of sin. Jesus’ blood completely cures, covers and cleanses us from every sin. It appeased God’s wrath and reconciled sinners to a Holy God. Cry out to Jesus to save you today.
Only Jesus saves
d. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s video on 5 Feb showed a group of Christians braving the cold and the risk of being infected, on the streets of Wuhan, giving free masks to strangers and sharing the good news that only Jesus saves. Amidst the bleak winter of hopelessness when people all around are dying, much more valuable than the coveted masks was the priceless offer of Jesus - our only hope and vaccine against sin and death!
4. What should we do?
a. Fear not (v.2). We suffer from an epidemic of fear of the virus. But God says, do not fear for He is near; He is in charge, and He is our refuge, protection and help. Jesus who has defeated sin and death, will walk with us through our life’s journey.
b. Be still (v.10a) means relax and stay calm even when unbelievers are panicking, hoarding masks, sanitisers, toilet rolls and food.
c. Trust God. Know that He is God; He knows what He is doing. His timing is perfect (v.5). Our faith is in God, not in any human being or human government. No place on earth is safe from viruses, sickness and death. No place on earth is safe from sin and the wrath of God (Rom 8:22). Only by trusting and hiding in Jesus can we be safe from the coming judgment.
d. Exalt God (v.10b). Some suggest that we should cancel worship services. If we don’t suspend services, and we get one infected case, church leaders will get blamed. If we suspend, some say we lack faith. On 14 Feb, our Health Minister reassured pastors they can continue worship services if they take precautions. As the outbreak is expected to persist several more months, the most important activities in life must continue. For believers, nothing is more important than worship. Especially when we are afraid, worship God (v.10) and seek His help. Our church Session decided to continue weekly services. But we will live-stream services for members who are unable to attend church because they are unwell. They should stay home to worship God in a reverential manner as if they are worshipping in Life Church.
e. Pray for those who are unwell, that God will touch and heal them completely. For healthcare workers and others on the frontline battle, may the Lord grant good health, joy, strength and wisdom to cope with the stress and long working hours. As you care for your patients, take care that you don’t get infected.
For the rest of us, we pray that we may fear God more than we fear the virus. May God have mercy on us as we long to be free from covid-19 and dengue fever. We have a hope in Christ’s return, when we shall forever be delivered from sin and all pestilences, where we will bask in His presence and glory and enjoy pleasures forever more (Ps 16:11).
Updated: Dec 31, 2021