This past Wednesday, in my house in the Jerusalem hills, I had the privilege to join Jewish people around the world in an ancient tradition called Passover. There is no doubt that this year’s Pesach (Passover) was different and will be remembered for a long time due to the reality of the Coronavirus.
This pandemic has given me pause to think about how fragile life is, and how much we think we are in control, when in reality, only God is in control! It’s also incredible how a small virus can change the reality of the entire world in a moment, touching us all — young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Jew and Gentile, believer and non-believer; we are all affected by this new reality that has changed our lives.
During the past 22 years in which I have been a disciple of Yeshua the Messiah, I have met many well-meaning believers who refuse to believe that we, His followers, will suffer on this earth. Yet, the truth is, we are all suffering due to this pandemic! Followers of Messiah are not immune from suffering, and it is false doctrine to believe or teach otherwise.
In last week’s blog, Passover: A New Meaning for Our Time, I wrote about a new understanding of Passover that I had this year. A key part of telling the story in the Passover is recounting God’s ten acts of wonders (“plagues”) in Egypt. With the new reality of the Coronavirus, which blindsided us and caused much fear, I have a new appreciation of how people in Egypt must have felt when God displayed His might through the acts of wonder! Not only that, but according to the Scripture, it is very likely that the children of Israel were not immune from the first three wonders (plagues) — blood, frogs, and gnats — which means that they most likely experienced the same reality as the Egyptians! It is only in the fourth wonder that we find a separation between the people of Israel and of Egypt:
Then ADONAI said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh. As he comes to the water say to him, ‘This is what ADONAI says: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. Or else, if you do not let My people go, I will send the swarm of flies on you and on your servants, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of the swarm of flies including the ground that they stand on. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are dwelling—except no swarm of flies will be there—so that you may know that I, ADONAI, am in the midst of the earth. I will make a distinction (pedut) between My people and your people. By tomorrow this sign will happen.”’”
Exodus 8:20–23 TLV
My dear brothers and sisters, this Scripture shows that the realities of this world will affect us — we can’t escape or ignore them. However, even though we are in the world, we need to be reminded that we are not of this world and, therefore, we have hope. Yet, despite our hope in the LORD, we still need to be real about what we're going through. There’s nothing spiritual about lying about our fears, worries, anxieties, sadness, grief, or any other emotion. We are real people, with real feelings, which we shouldn’t ignore.
The key is what we do with those feelings. Where do we turn when we’re fearful or anxious? Do we put our hopes in a vaccine, or the government, or the medical establishment? Are we simply waiting for when things will “return to normal”? May I suggest that if after this, everything will simply “return to normal”, we will have missed an amazing opportunity that God has given us in this crisis to refocus and recalibrate our hearts, minds, and everyday lives? He has stripped away the noise and busyness of our everyday lives so that we may do a deep soul search, to rid ourselves from the many idols in our lives, to seek Him for what we are to be busy with, and to learn to live from a place of rest in Him.
After the final wonder, the death of the first born, Pharaoh finally released the children of Israel. If I were an Israelite during that time, I would probably have felt that the crisis was over, and we could move forward with our lives in our newfound freedom. Israel even had the pillar of smoke and fire to guide them during the day and night — how amazing that must have been! Yet, as they were going, they suddenly saw the Egyptians chasing them, took their eyes off of God, and began to panic:
As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so, the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
I love how Moses replied to the children of Israel, which is what I would like to encourage each of us with today: But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent” (Exodus 14:13–14).
Even after the last act of redemption from Egypt, which God performed at the End Sea (Red Sea), Israel still had many real challenges to face as God led them to the Land of Promise. Sadly, again and again, they took their eyes off the LORD.
My dear brothers and sisters, God’s redemption of the children of Israel was not the end of the story but rather the beginning of their journey to the Land of Promise. The same is true for us, His followers: His redemption in our lives is just the beginning of our journey to the eternal land of promise. We are promised many challenges, trials, and tests on this journey - we cannot ignore them or resist them. However, with these difficulties come amazing opportunities to seek the Lord, trust Him, and hope in Him. He is our great, everlasting hope!
Did you know? — Israel the start up nation
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